By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 29, 2007
PHOENIX, March 28 -- Washington Redskins officials left the NFL's annual meeting still pondering a trade for Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs. Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs said Wednesday he expected the teams to spend the coming days and perhaps weeks evaluating the proposed deal.
But Gibbs said the Redskins also were considering other possibilities after having trade discussions with two teams here this week about moving up in the first-round selection order in next month's draft.
Gibbs said the proposed trade with the Bears was not imminent. But members of the organization were having internal conversations about the prospect of obtaining Briggs, and Redskins officials remained in regular contact with Briggs's agent, Drew Rosenhaus. The Redskins likely would trade their first-round pick, the sixth overall choice in the draft, to the Bears for Briggs and the 31st overall selection. In addition, league sources said that the Bears would contemplate the Redskins' offer at least through the weekend.
"Obviously we discussed some things there," Gibbs said at the Arizona Biltmore resort on the final day of the three-day meeting. "But I think both teams would have to sit back and take a long, hard look at it and say, 'Does it really fit?' It's one thing to have a conversation and throw something out there, but it's another thing to actually get down to, 'Are you willing to do it?' . . . Obviously I don't think it's anything that's imminent. I think everybody's got to keep talking about it and say, 'Does it work?' "
Rosenhaus said Tuesday that the Redskins had proposed the trade to the Bears. Briggs is unhappy with his contract situation and has vowed never to play for the Bears again. Rosenhaus said this week that Briggs likely would sit out the first 10 games of the season if he remains with the Bears. The Bears placed their franchise player tag on Briggs to limit his mobility on the free agent market, and Coach Lovie Smith said Wednesday he doesn't expect Briggs to be traded.
"We franchised Lance," Smith said. "He's one of our players. That's all there is."
Asked if he expects Briggs to be with the Bears next season, Smith said, "Yes, I do."
Rosenhaus apparently is attempting to get other teams interested in Briggs as well. Briggs would have a salary of $7.2 million next season if he remains in Chicago as the franchise player. He wants a long-term deal with around $20 million in guaranteed money instead. He almost certainly would get it from the Redskins, although Rosenhaus said Wednesday he doesn't have a contract agreement with the Redskins in place yet.
"We've just had a general conversation," Rosenhaus said. "I don't think we'd have any problem, though."
Gibbs acknowledged the Redskins will have to factor in that they have two highly paid linebackers in Marcus Washington and recent free agent addition London Fletcher, and used a second-round draft choice last year on linebacker Rocky McIntosh.
Gibbs did not identify the other teams with which the Redskins discussed possible trades. The Detroit Lions, who have the second overall pick, are thought to be eager to trade down in the draft order. The other teams that draft ahead of the Redskins are the Oakland Raiders, who have the No. 1 selection, the Cleveland Browns (third), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (fourth) and the Arizona Cardinals (fifth).
"Here we've had three major discussions with people," Gibbs said. "Two are moving up. Then we had one serious discussion about moving back. Then that one [the talks with the Bears regarding Briggs] got thrown in there . . . but everybody jumped on that. I think probably everyone here is having discussions about doing something. Everybody is trying to figure out what they want."
Trading up would be difficult for the Redskins, given their dearth of other selections in this year's draft. Gibbs said the club would like to retain all of next year's draft choices, which would further limit the immediate options. Even so, Gibbs said a trade up in the draft order to get a top player would be wise if the Redskins thought the player they would get by staying put had significant flaws. He said the team was targeting "a couple" players if it were to trade up. He didn't identify them, but spoke glowingly of Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
"You certainly wouldn't want to be sitting there and feel like you paid all that money and took a shot at something you really, really feel like may have a hole in it," Gibbs said. "You don't want that. . . . Our preference would be probably to move back. But the odds may be that it's better for us to move up because it's easier to do and we can do it."
Gibbs also indicated that while he expects Clinton Portis to remain the starter at tailback next season, the workload probably will be divided more evenly between Portis and Ladell Betts. Betts thrived as the primary ballcarrier in the late stages of the season with Portis hurt, and re-signed before becoming a free agent.
"I think the load will probably be a little bit more balanced between the two," Gibbs said. "They really like each other, which is good. Clinton loves football, is one of the smarter football guys I've been around. He understands. He wants to win. He'll come right out of there and tell Ladell, 'Hey, get in there.' A lot of times it will kind of be in his hands but certainly down the stretch I don't know if anyone played much better than Ladell did."
Gibbs said he met this week with cornerback Shawn Springs and wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, who are training nearby.