Redskins Target Broncos' Bly

By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Washington Redskins, after netting linebacker London Fletcher and cornerback Fred Smoot, their primary free agent targets, are poised to acquire cornerback Dre' Bly from the Denver Broncos.

The Redskins were $8.4 million under the cap yesterday before re-signing reserve cornerback Ade Jimoh, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

The Redskins completed another sweeping series of contract restructurings to create the cap room, according to sources -- only two new contracts have been announced by the team thus far -- and remain interested in Bly. Washington attempted to get him from Detroit before he was traded to the Broncos.

The Redskins offered Bly a lucrative contract extension during trade talks, numerous NFL sources said, while Denver has been unwilling to compensate him beyond the $4.2 million base salary he has for 2007.

Bly has told numerous past and present teammates of his desire to play for Washington, and several NFL sources believe the Broncos are willing to part with him. Denver was scheduled to have free agent cornerback David Macklin visit yesterday.

The Broncos and Redskins have been discussing trade possibilities since before the combine last month, according to sources with knowledge of the situation, with Denver coveting Washington's sixth overall pick and the Redskins looking to trade down and reacquire a second- and third- round pick, which were dealt away (the Broncos have the Redskins' third-round selection from the T.J. Duckett trade).

Denver tried to get running back Ladell Betts in the deal, according to sources, but Coach Joe Gibbs has been intent on pairing Betts and Clinton Portis in the backfield next season.

The Redskins were offering veteran cornerback Shawn Springs for Bly, but those talks stalled when Washington asked for additional cap relief to offset Spring's $7.5 million cap charge and Denver declined, sources said. Last month, the Broncos made a proposal involving middle linebacker Al Wilson, their first-round pick (21st overall), a third-round pick and perhaps a second-round pick to land Washington's sixth-overall pick, according to a source, but the Redskins preferred Fletcher, who was their prime objective in free agency.

Should Denver be willing to essentially replace Wilson with Bly in trade talks, the potential for a deal could be high. Also, the Broncos could still make a play for Springs, whom Washington asked to take a $2 million pay cut, or the Redskins could attempt to trade Springs for draft picks if they acquired Bly.

Given Washington's cap standing, and the fact the team could create an addition $4 million in space by cutting injured place kicker John Hall and reserve defensive lineman Renaldo Wynn, absorbing Spring's cap charge would not be prohibitive.

The Redskins began creating cap room by restructuring tackle Jon Jansen's deal last month, giving him a $10 million signing bonus but slashing his 2007 base salary. Backup quarterback Mark Brunell also agreed to a very cap-friendly new contract, with no guaranteed money. Over the weekend, the club also announced the extension of guard Randy Thomas's contract, and, sources said, in the process lowered his 2007 cap charge from $5.5 million to $3.3 million. Thomas's deal is nearly identical to Jansen's, according to a source with knowledge of the contract, including a $10 million bonus. Thomas, whose previous contract was voidable after 2007, thus making him eligible for unrestricted free agency next year, is now signed through 2011, the source said.

Also, the Redskins reworked the contracts of Portis and star wide receiver Santana Moss, converting large portions of their 2007 base salaries to bonuses, which become guaranteed but can also be prorated for cap purposes. The players lose no money in the transaction, and Portis's cap figure went from $7.1 million to $4 million, according to sources, while Moss's charge was lowered from $5 million to $3.2 million.

Owner Daniel Snyder has been willing to make a strong financial commitment every year to frontload contracts and provide additional bonuses to players in order to lower cap charges, which in turn keeps the team aggressive in the trade and free agent market.

Redskins Notes: Free agent offensive lineman Luke Petitgout, who visited Washington on Monday, agreed to a three-year deal with Tampa Bay yesterday.

The Redskins have been in contact with free agent guard Adam Timmerman, his agent said, and although some in the organization believe the 35-year-old may be beyond his productive stage, he remains a possibility to replace departed Derrick Dockery.

"We've had some discussions and we're waiting to hear back from them," said Timmerman's agent, Mark Bartelstein. The Redskins have also had limited discussions with free agent lineman Sean Mahan, his agent said, but no visits were planned and the player is traveling to other clubs. Veterans Ruben Brown and Cosey Coleman are other starting guards on the market . . .

Smoot's deal is actually worth a maximum of $21 million over five years and not $25 million, as previously reported, according to sources. Smoot received $7 million to sign and the deal is essentially worth $11.5 million over three years. . . . Safety Vernon Fox received a $300,000 signing bonus as part of the three-year deal he received over the weekend, sources said, and will earn the veteran minimum in base salary.

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