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Running Back Blaylock Agrees to Deal

By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 7, 2007

The Washington Redskins and free agent running back Derrick Blaylock agreed to a deal last night, following his participation in the weekend rookie minicamp, and the team offered a contract to free agent tight end Zach Hilton.

A veteran of 51 NFL games and a return specialist as well, Blaylock, 27,worked out this weekend without a contract, but reached a verbal agreement with the team last night, according to his agent Michael Huyghue. Terms of the deal were not available.

Hilton, a native of Silver Spring who attended Good Counsel, was offered a deal last night, according to his father, Thomas.

Blaylock, who missed most of last season with injuries, has been healthy since January. He played for associate head coach-offense Al Saunders for four years in Kansas City and Saunders recommended that the Redskins bring him in. In 2004, he started five games and scored eight touchdowns. He was with the New York Jets in 2005 and '06 .

"It's always a pleasure to catch back up with Coach Saunders," Blaylock said after minicamp yesterday.

Hilton, 26, has been in the NFL since 2003, playing regularly only in 2005, when he started six games for New Orleans. He also was on the Jets' roster last season, but did not appear in a game. At 6 feet 8, 268 pounds, Hilton is an intriguing prospect and, like Blaylock, plays a position at which the Redskins could use some depth. Hilton is scheduled to take a physical and finalize some paperwork at Redskins Park today, according to his father.

Overlooked Gem

The Redskins opted not to address their defensive line this offseason, and passed on the position entirely in the draft. Washington did sign one undrafted rookie end last week in Justin Hickman, a prospect who could benefit from the omission of other new talent.

Hickman, who suffered what the team believed was a minor hyperextension of his left knee in yesterday's final rookie camp practice, played last season under UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker, the Redskins' cornerbacks coach in 2004 and '05. Walker believes the youngster could fill a void in Washington, and has an intimate knowledge of the scheme run by Gregg Williams, Washington's assistant head coach-defense. Walker thought that Hickman would get drafted -- despite his size (6-1, 254) -- and thinks the Redskins may found an overlooked gem.

"I will be really interested to see how he holds up, and to see how he does," Walker said. "I don't know that they have any real legitimate pass rushers there now, and that's one thing Justin brings from the college level. It will be interesting to see if he can do it at that level"

Hickman emerged as a senior, with 42 tackles and 12 1/2 sacks in 13 games. Hickman's lack of size and his mediocre running times at the combine set him back, but there are ample reasons to take a shot on him. Walker said he did not receive a call from Washington's coaches or scouts checking out Hickman but said he did exchange text messages with Williams last week after Hickman was signed.

"Gregg asked if Justin could take getting . . . chewed out, and I said he expects it," Walker said. "I told him the kid can play, too."

Local Rookies

The list of rookie camp participants with local ties was long, and while the odds of most sticking around for training camp are long, too, they are not insurmountable. Coach Joe Gibbs said scouts worked hard to identify regional prospects and many of the players grew up rooting for the Redskins, choosing Washington's invitation over other teams'.

Two running backs signed as undrafted rookie free agents last week -- Marcus Mason and Terry Caulley -- were high school stars here, Mason at Georgetown Prep and Caulley at Patuxent. Mason played at Youngstown State and Caulley played at U-Conn.

"I wanted to go where I had the best chance to fit in and luckily the depth chart in Washington wasn't too, too deep," Caulley said.

Defensive end Alex Buzbee played college football at Georgetown, as did defensive back Derek Franks, both of whom took part. Maryland quarterback Sam Hollenbach, tackle Stephon Heyer and fullback J.P. Humber were here, as was Hampton tackle Nevin McCaskill, William and Mary linebacker Chris Ndubueze, Howard defensive tackle Edwin Piner, Virginia Tech punter Nic Schmitt, VMI quarterback Jonathan Wilson, Virginia wide receiver Deyon Williams and Salisbury cornerback Byron Westbrook, brother of Eagles star running back and D.C. native Brian Westbrook. The team brought in Maryland wide receiver Dan Melendez for yesterday's session as well.

Organized Team Activity

The Redskins will begin their first "Organized Team Activity" practices tomorrow, and will conduct weekly sessions culminating with a minicamp June 15-17. The OTAs are technically voluntary, but the team places a premium on them and after Gibbs allowed veterans to work out away from Redskins Park in March and April, the implicit expectation is that everyone will participate.

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