Cooley Signs 6-Year Deal; Wynn Is Among Final Cuts

Chris Cooley, 25, will get $14 million in guaranteed money and a maximum of $30 million over the 6-year contract.
Chris Cooley, 25, will get $14 million in guaranteed money and a maximum of $30 million over the 6-year contract. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Washington Redskins signed tight end Chris Cooley to a six-year contract extension yesterday -- a rapid conclusion to what had been a lengthy negotiation -- and set their 53-man roster. The contract came as a great relief to both Cooley and the organization on what was an otherwise dour afternoon as the Redskins let go of 23 players -- including veteran leader Renaldo Wynn -- to reach the roster limit.

Most of the cuts were expected, and Wynn's departure continued a trend toward youth on the defensive line, though the timing caught him and his teammates by surprise. "I wish it could have happened sooner," Wynn said.

The Redskins kept three quarterbacks -- starter Jason Campbell and backups Mark Brunell and Todd Collins -- but Coach Joe Gibbs said he has not decided whether Brunell or Collins will be the No. 2 passer. Gibbs also said the team has no intention of dealing Brunell.

Several rookies made the roster despite long odds, including undrafted tackle Stephon Heyer (Maryland), undrafted running back Marcus Mason (Georgetown Prep) and undrafted defensive end Chris Wilson, from Division II Northwood University. The roster is at 52 players, with one open spot that seems to be earmarked for a wide receiver, and additional transactions are likely next week.

Cooley, 25, who will get $14 million in guaranteed money and a maximum of $30 million over the life of the contract, had been lamenting his contract situation for a while, entering the final season of his rookie deal.

"Even last year I thought about it a lot," Cooley said. Both sides were amenable to a deal and Cooley wanted to remain with the team, but he also worried about the threat of injury without a long-term contract. His agent, Gary Wichard, and the Redskins were far apart on a contract until very recently, when significant progress was made. Owner Daniel Snyder closed the deal Friday night and Cooley signed it yesterday afternoon.

"I kind of started talking to a couple of our coaches and stuff and saying, 'Look, I'd like this done,' and it was awesome," Cooley said. "I think Dan heard about it a day later and said: 'Look, we pay. We want to pay. All we want is you here.' And maybe three days later it was done."

Cooley, who was in the last year of a four-year deal worth about $2.4 million total, also capitulated in the past few days, and ultimately both sides seemed thrilled with the outcome.

The Redskins have been criticized in recent years for failing to re-sign key players as they approached free agency, but they worked hard to retain tailback Ladell Betts last season and wanted to finalize the Cooley deal before the regular season; similar situations with safety Sean Taylor and possibly quarterback Campbell loom in coming years.

Washington traded a third-round pick in order to move up and select Cooley in the third round of the 2004 draft -- Coach Joe Gibbs's first after his return to the NFL -- and he has flourished since.

"When we made that deal, Dan was the one pushing, pushing to do it," Gibbs said. "He's been a really productive guy for us and it's great to get this done and get it out of the way. He's somebody who you'd think has earned it, and we think he's going to be here for a long time."

Gibbs lauded Cooley for never missing a practice, and he has been a trusted target for quarterbacks since his rookie season. Cooley, whose route running has improved much this year, has 19 touchdowns in 48 games and thrives in picking up yards after the catch. He is adept whether blocking or heading downfield and is widely considered among the best young tight ends in the game.

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