By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 11, 2006
The Washington Redskins began pursuing several free agents last night as the market officially opened at 12:01 a.m., and also were working to acquire restricted free agent wide receiver Brandon Lloyd from the San Francisco 49ers, according to several league sources.
The Redskins were poised to begin talks with free agent defensive linemen, linebackers, defensive backs, tight ends and backup quarterbacks, sources said, and also have been working toward dealing backup quarterback Patrick Ramsey for draft picks.
Several agents and league executives said they anticipated the Redskins would be quite active on the free agent market, and numerous league sources, including some who have contacted the Redskins or 49ers, said the clubs were working on parameters for a deal, but had yet to agree on compensation.
Defensive end Andre Carter (San Francisco), defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu (Baltimore), safety Adam Archuleta (St. Louis), quarterback Todd Collins (Kansas City) and wide receiver Antwaan Randle El (Pittsburgh) were expected to draw strong interest from Washington as soon as the market opened.
The Redskins got under the mandated $102 million salary cap yesterday after releasing five veterans, and still could generate millions more in cap space by executing several routine contract restructurings in the immediate future. The would help fuel the team's free agent spending. Punter Tom Tupa and defensive lineman Brandon Noble, who missed all of last season because of injuries, were let go, as were depth players Walt Harris (cornerback), Matt Bowen (safety) and Cory Raymer (center), moves that were long anticipated. Washington issued qualifying offers to starting guard Derrick Dockery, reserve linebacker Chris Clemons and reserve cornerback Ade Jimoh, making them restricted free agents, and Dockery's offer was high enough that it would require a first-round pick as compensation should he sign with another team.
The team also announced the signing of running back Rock Cartwright, a deal that essentially was completed days ago. Cartwright, a special teams standout, is signed for 2007 and 2008, and the remaining years on the deal can be voided, according to a league source.
Redskins starting safety Ryan Clark received interest from five teams shortly after midnight and is planning several visits, according to his agent, Joel Turner. Turner said he would grant Washington's wish for the opportunity to match any contract offer to Clark, but added "at this time there seems to be a much stronger chance that we'll be signing with another organization."
The Redskins have had no recent discussions with starting tight end Robert Royal, another free agent, and two league sources said Washington is pursuing blocking tight ends to fill his role. Royal has received significant interest from Buffalo, according to league sources, and he said last night that he is leaving all options open. The Redskins have contacted the agent for unrestricted free agent tight end Dan Campbell, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. Justin Peelle (San Diego) and Marcellus Rivers (Houston) are other tight ends league sources suspect could interest Washington.
A replacement must also be located for departed linebacker LaVar Arrington, and Will Witherspoon (Carolina) is considered by many to be the best available, although at a steep price. Arrington visited with the Dolphins yesterday and will visit other teams today, according to a source close to the player.
The Redskins were not poised to be a major player for linebackers Ben Leber (San Diego), Julian Peterson (San Francisco) or Nick Greisen (New York Giants), according to representatives for players on the linebacker market. Defensive ends John Abraham (New York Jets) and Anthony Weaver (Baltimore) did not appear to be in the team's plans, either.
The Redskins could add a veteran punter in the coming weeks as well, and are seeking insurance behind starting quarterback Mark Brunell and rookie backup Jason Campbell. Collins worked with Al Saunders, the Redskins' associate head coach-offense, with the Chiefs, and is already well versed running this offensive system. Washington aims to improve its offensive line depth this offseason, too, but those moves are not as pressing at the start of the free agency.
Staff writer Howard Bryant contributed to this report.