By Jason La Canfora and Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, March 3, 2007
The Washington Redskins lost starting left guard Derrick Dockery to the Buffalo Bills in free agency yesterday but signed one of the Bills' top defensive players, linebacker London Fletcher, to a long-term deal, NFL sources said.
Washington also was deep into negotiations with cornerback Fred Smoot and representatives of both parties said they believed a deal that would return the former Redskin to Washington was virtually inevitable.
The Redskins entertained Fletcher and Smoot at the Washington Wizards game at Verizon Center last night.
Free agent offensive lineman Leonard Davis, who played last season for the Arizona Cardinals, was to visit Redskins Park today, league sources said. Free agent cornerback Travis Fisher (St. Louis) also was scheduled to arrive in the Washington area today, as the Redskins aim to bolster what was the NFL's 31st-ranked defense in 2006.
Dockery's contract -- worth $49 million over seven years, according to sources -- will make him one of the highest-paid guards in league history. Dockery will earn $18.5 million in guaranteed money from the Bills, including a $16 million signing bonus, and will earn $18 million over the first three years of the deal, sources said. The Redskins had hoped to re-sign Dockery but began to focus elsewhere as yesterday's start of the NFL free agency period approached because the gulf between his demands and what they were willing to pay grew too wide.
Fletcher, 31, signed a five-year deal worth a maximum of around $25 million, sources said, but in reality the deal likely will amount to a three-year deal worth about $15 million given his age and the contract structure. Fletcher will receive approximately $10 million in bonuses. He was the Redskins' primary free agent target.
Davis, 28, spent yesterday visiting Dallas but left without reaching an agreement with the Cowboys, New York Giants and other teams interested in signing him, sources said, giving the Redskins an opportunity to strike a deal today.
The Redskins never got involved in the bidding for other top talent, such as cornerback Nate Clements and defensive end Patrick Kerney, as the cost of those players ballooned.
"Normally on the first day we knock a bunch of stuff out," Coach Joe Gibbs said last night before boarding a limousine to attend the Wizards game with coaches, team officials, linebacker Marcus Washington, Smoot and Fletcher.
Gibbs offered no predictions on the various negotiations but said, "You just work as hard as you can and try to get something done."
Fletcher has an outstanding grasp of the system used by Gregg Williams, assistant head coach-defense. Fletcher played for Williams when he was head coach in Buffalo. He has never missed a game in his career, is known for his sure tackling and is a respected leader, although some teams raised concerns given his age.
Smoot, 27, who remains close with several Redskins, was identified as an ideal third cornerback, with the ability to start should top corner Shawn Springs not return. Smoot lost his starting spot after signing a big free agent deal with the Vikings two years ago, and was a central figure in the team's infamous "Love Boat" incident, but knows the Redskins' system and was welcomed back yesterday.
Fisher, 27, who has suffered injury problems and does not have an interception since 2004, would add depth and would provide cover to a struggling pass defense that lacked capable reserves last season.
Davis was labeled an underachiever in Arizona after being taken second overall in 2001, but played the difficult left tackle position. He would move inside with the Redskins, where his 6-foot-6, 366-pound frame would be suited to Washington's power running game, although some scouts question his intensity.
Redskins Notes: The Redskins re-signed versatile fullback Mike Sellers yesterday. The four-year deal was worth about $4 million with a $700,000 signing bonus, sources said.
"My main objective was to be a Washington Redskin for the rest of my career," said Sellers, who could have become an unrestricted free agent next year but wanted to remain with a team and area that suits him.
The Redskins also re-signed free agent safety Vernon Fox to a deal believed to be worth around the veteran minimum per season, and extended the contract of starting guard Randy Thomas. . . .
Running back Ladell Betts, who has piqued the interest of several teams (the Jets and Broncos among them), has heard nothing of a possible trade and Gibbs has continued to espouse the importance of having Betts and Clinton Portis on the team next season. "I talk to my agent on a regular basis but they haven't mentioned anything like [a trade] to me," Betts said.