By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Four days ago, as Andre Carter stepped into a limousine and headed for Dulles International Airport, Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Blache closed the door for him and offered a confident salutation: "Hope to see you back."
He sounded self-assured, but as the limo drove away the members of the Redskins' front office were sweating. Carter was heading to Denver to meet with the Broncos, a formidable playoff team with money to spend and a personal connection: Carter's father, Rubin, played 12 seasons for the Broncos, and the idea of the son following the father was an appeal the Redskins could not match.
Andre Carter, too, knew the risk of getting into that limo without a deal; he feared the Redskins might go in another direction. Indeed, while the Redskins primarily were interested in Carter, they also had engaged in discussions with John Abraham, the New York Jets' pass rusher.
But when Carter was introduced yesterday at Redskins Park after signing a six-year, $30 million contract, the panic subsided. "It was a definitely a risk," Carter said. "I know that the free agent market moves fast. You have to see what's on the other side, but you might lose out. I told [Broncos Coach] Mike Shanahan and their owner [Pat Bowlen] that they could go to the Super Bowl, that they were close, but I belonged in Washington."
For the Redskins, a week of success in the free agent market was complete, with the team signing all five of its top targets. The Redskins still may seek to add pieces to their team, but the introduction of Carter signaled the end of a nearly $125 million shopping spree in five days that has transformed the team offensiv ely and defensively.
Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs defended the team's free agency expenditures. "We haven't done one thing that anybody else can't do," he said. "We have certain rules in the league. Here's the [salary] cap, here's the numbers, here's what you can spend, so everybody in the league can do what we're doing, it's just that they choose not to, many of them."
Carter, 26, a defensive end who was chosen seventh overall in the 2001 draft by the San Francisco 49ers, was the Redskins' first choice as they sought to improve a defense that registered 35 sacks -- tied for 20th out of 32 NFL teams -- and did not produce the kind of pressure on the quarterback that satisfied the coaching staff until late in the season.
"The one thing we saw about this guy is that he has a motor," Gibbs said, referring to Carter's speed and ability to pressure. "We felt he could be a real impact player."
In the end, the 6-foot-4, 265-pound Carter chose the Redskins because of what he termed his "connection" with Blache, as well as the club's reiteration that he could be one of the better defensive ends in the league. It was a degree of reinforcement he did not have in San Francisco, which had converted him to a linebacker.
"Andre, to his credit, said, 'There was one other team I kind of semi-promised to visit, and I think I need to do that,' and we got nervous," Gibbs said. "At that point, we panicked. And we got into some late nights, about 3:30 in the morning with text messaging and phone calls to stay on top of everything. It was a tight time for us, and the next day, Andre decided to become a Redskin."
Carter is something of a Renaissance man. He is a classically trained pianist whose father, fearing his body would be worn down by years of youth football, did not allow him to play the game until the 10th grade. Instead, Carter was involved in music, tennis and martial arts.
He said he played out of position with the 49ers, and their desire to keep playing him at linebacker was a key reason he did not return, he said. Washington and Denver, meanwhile, both assured him he would be used as a defensive end.
"That was a big thing for me," he said. "I wanted to be a DE. They told me I could play at right end, and they saw my potential."
Carter's arrival will shuffle the defensive line. Carter will play right end, which would move Phillip Daniels from right to left end. Daniels ended the season strong, recording seven sacks over the final three regular season games and the playoff win over Tampa Bay. Left end Renaldo Wynn, who is recovering from surgery after breaking his forearm against the Buccaneers, likely will be moved to defensive tackle.
The Redskins have not replaced LaVar Arrington at weak-side linebacker, and Gibbs conceded he feels the Redskins are thin in that area, as well as at defensive back and on the offensive line.
Redskins Notes: Gibbs said the Redskins have agreed to terms with backup defensive lineman Cedric Killings, but did not release contract terms. Killings, 28, appeared in 10 games last season for Washington, recording 13 tackles, nine solo. . . .
Although Sean Taylor is preparing to go on trial on felony assault charges April 10 in Miami, Gibbs said he expected him to attend optional team workouts starting March 27. "I would think so. There will always be concerns," he said. "We've had numerous conversations with [agent Drew Rosenhaus]. It's a process you have to go through and hopefully it will work out for the best." . . .
Safety Ryan Clark signed a free agent contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Clark had 57 tackles, 3 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles in 13 games with the Redskins last season. Clark, who had negotiated for a year with the Redskins on a contract extension, is the second free agent to leave the Redskins. Tight end Robert Royal signed with the Buffalo Bills last weekend. "We hated to lose Ryan," Gibbs said. "But like Robert, he got a great deal." . . .
Gibbs said Patrick Ramsey had not yet been traded. The New York Jets and Miami Dolphins have been the most active in their pursuit, but no deal has been completed. "We're working real hard, but a lot of quarterback things have happened," Gibbs said. "Hopefully, something will be worked out. We have had ongoing discussions, so we'll continue to work real hard on that."