By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 24, 2007
The Washington Redskins acquired veteran left guard Pete Kendall from the New York Jets yesterday for a draft pick, addressing what several NFL sources believed was a major deficiency. Kendall, 34, wanted out of New York after clashing with management, and received a $1 million boost in his 2007 salary from the Redskins as part of the deal, sources said.
Washington has been searching for stability at left guard after former starter Derrick Dockery departed in March via free agency. The Redskins' original plan, to convert Todd Wade from right tackle to left guard, faltered as Wade struggled and injured his shoulder in the preseason opener. They turned to reserve Mike Pucillo, another player without left guard experience, for the second preseason game. He was involved in a pass protection failure that led to a sack of quarterback Jason Campbell in which he injured his left knee.
After that game, three NFL executives who watched the contest suggested the Redskins had major problems on the left side of their line. Kendall provides a significant upgrade. Coach Joe Gibbs refused to say where the longtime guard would play, though players and coaches said they believe he would start at left guard.
"He's proven he can start in this league," Gibbs said. "When you watch film and everything, which we do before we would suggest doing something like this to [owner] Dan [Snyder] -- and we watched a lot of film -- and we think he's a legit player."
Should Kendall be on the field for at least 80 percent of Washington's offensive plays this season, the Redskins will send a 2009 fourth-round pick to the Jets, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. Otherwise, the Jets will get Washington's 2008 fifth-round pick; the Redskins do not have a fourth-round selection in that draft.
The compensation is steep -- on par with what teams have given up for veteran former Pro Bowl quarterbacks in recent years such as Steve McNair and Trent Green -- and it bucked Gibbs's recent trend of trying to retain as many draft picks as possible.
Kendall had been signed through 2009 -- with a base salary of $2 million in 2008 and $2.4 million in 2009 -- but sources said he signed a new two-year deal with Washington, worth $2.7 million this season and $2.3 million in 2008. Kendall, who was selected in the first round by Seattle in 1996, has started 156 games in the NFL, and is considered a smart and savvy veteran. He has the ability to play multiple positions, and had been working with New York's first-team offense.
Kendall claimed the Jets reneged on a pledge to add $1 million to his $1.7 salary, bristled at being made to play center and was miffed that the Jets would not meet his trade demand. He threatened to hold out of training camp and when he did arrive he was assigned a room in the dorm reserved for rookies. Despite all of that, as recently at this weekend New York officials informed personnel from other teams that they were not planning to trade Kendall.
But he struggled in a game over the weekend as a center, and the Redskins began pursuing him in earnest Wednesday.
"It's exciting for me and it's a relief, too, to have what was hanging over me over with now," Kendall said.
Kendall (6 feet 5, 292 pounds) did not arrive at Redskins Park in time for yesterday's practice -- the last of this week -- and is not expected to play Saturday against Baltimore, Gibbs said. Kendall, a Massachusetts native, has spent time with three teams -- Seattle, Arizona and New York -- and starred at Boston College.
Kendall's arrival should allow other offensive linemen to return to their natural positions and provide some stability. Pucillo can return to being a backup at center and guard, and can focus on his responsibilities on special teams and as the tackle eligible in the jumbo package. "He's a good player, and I'm glad to have him," Pucillo said of Kendall. "So I'm not surprised" by the trade.
Wade can go back to being a backup tackle, giving the Redskins much needed depth there, once he recovers from his shoulder injury. Wade said of a return to his natural position: "The writing is probably on the wall. I played tackle my whole career and I guess I did what I could do [at guard]. I was getting better at times, but I really wasn't consistent."
Undrafted rookie Stephon Heyer, who was being asked to protect the quarterback's blindside with Chris Samuels injured, will not have to be the third tackle with Wade no longer forced to compete as a starting guard, easing the pressure on him. The Redskins also now have two players capable of filling in for center Casey Rabach should he get hurt, Kendall and Pucillo.