By Howard Bryant and Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
The agent for Lance Briggs, a two-time Pro Bowl linebacker for the Chicago Bears, said yesterday that the Washington Redskins have made an offer for his client, but team officials dismissed the possibility as rumors.
"Right now, it's just a bunch of stuff that got thrown around" Monday, said Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs, interviewed yesterday at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix. "Just a bunch of rumors."
Said Vice President of Football Operations Vinny Cerrato, "We don't comment on rumors."
Briggs's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, confirmed published reports stating that the Redskins have offered to switch places with the Bears in the first round of next month's draft, exchanging the sixth pick for the 31st, to acquire Briggs.
"That's what I've been told," Rosenhaus said. "The two teams have talked and it's in their hands now."
Sources said members of the Redskins organization met with Briggs on Monday in Phoenix.
Acquiring Briggs would mean that the Redskins have abandoned their offseason strategy of resisting big-name signings in favor of building the team with young, cost-effective players. During the annual scouting combine in February, Gibbs said he believed the team was intent on keeping the sixth pick, but the Redskins would drop 25 spots if they were to make a deal with the Bears, who have the next-to-last first-round pick, for Briggs.
Consummating the deal would send the clearest signal yet that although the secondary took the brunt of the criticism last season, the Redskins -- who fired linebackers coach Dale Lindsey in January -- clearly have targeted their linebacker play as equally deficient.
Chiefly affected by a trade would be Rocky McIntosh and Lemar Marshall, the latter because when the Redskins acquired London Fletcher to take Marshall's spot, the organization suggested Marshall would see time at weak-side linebacker. Acquiring Briggs would push Marshall further down the depth chart.
The arrival of Briggs, 26, also would represent something of a repudiation of McIntosh, whom the Redskins selected in the second round last year after trading second- and sixth-round draft picks, plus a second-round pick in this year's draft, to the New York Jets on draft day. McIntosh did not play a great deal in 2006, and his lack of playing time even as starter Warrick Holdman struggled increased questions that the Redskins were not convinced of his readiness to start in 2007. Briggs, one of the more gifted players at his position in the league, would be a major upgrade.
According to statistics compiled by the league, Briggs has 359 solo tackles in four seasons. He never has missed a game, and last year notched a career-best 109 solo tackles and 130 total tackles.
Briggs is the type of impact player the Redskins did not have last season, but he is in a bitter clash with Bears management. After the Super Bowl, the Bears angered Briggs by naming him their franchise player, which meant Briggs could play under a one-year contract at an average of the top five salaries at his position, which was $7.2 million. Briggs said he would not play under the franchise designation, preferring to force a trade or a long-term contract.
Rosenhaus is extremely close to the Redskins, having three of the team's top players -- Sean Taylor, Santana Moss and Clinton Portis -- as clients and a fourth, Fletcher, who signed with the Redskins earlier this month.
Briggs, who was a third-round pick in the 2003 draft by Chicago, met with Monday with General Manager Jerry Angelo. "I wanted to clear the air and let him know that neither side is winning this," Angelo told the Chicago Tribune. "I told him: 'We're not happy and you're not happy. So where do we go from here?"
Staff writer Jason La Canfora contributed to this report.