Redskins Don't Seem Fazed By C. Johnson

By Jason Reid and Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, April 24, 2008

During a pre-draft news conference at Redskins Park on Tuesday, owner Daniel Snyder and Vinny Cerrato, the team's executive vice president of football operations, praised Washington's players for having high moral character.

"You win with quality people and quality guys," Cerrato said. "We have an outstanding locker room, and we don't want to bring bad guys into a good locker room. You want to add more good guys to a good locker room."

Washington has pursued trading its first-round pick in this weekend's draft (No. 21 overall) for Cincinnati's Chad Johnson, a Pro Bowl wide receiver who has lashed out at team officials and teammates while trying to force a trade and allegedly punched Cincinnati Coach Marvin Lewis in the eye during halftime of a playoff game in 2006.

The Redskins' pursuit of Johnson -- they also offered the Bengals a conditional third-round pick in their latest known proposal -- or another top wide receiver who might be dealt before the draft is expected to continue until they pick Saturday.

Washington was rebuffed in attempts to trade for Arizona's Anquan Boldin and still might try to acquire Roy Williams of Detroit, according to league sources.

With 20 teams selecting ahead of them, the Redskins have tried to trade down because the top players they have targeted could be off the board, and their efforts probably would continue if they don't get Johnson or the other wide receivers they want to help developing quarterback Jason Campbell.

Under Snyder, Washington has been among the league's most aggressive clubs at acquiring players, and the outspoken and animated Johnson would be welcomed by the Redskins, several team leaders said after working out at the complex yesterday.

"There's always more to it than you see on the surface," middle linebacker London Fletcher said. "Obviously, he feels strongly about wanting to leave and Cincinnati feels strongly about wanting him to stay, but I wouldn't classify Chad as a problem player, so to speak. There are a lot of other players on teams that have gotten into different situations with their teams, for whatever reasons, but he's not getting into trouble with the law and things like that.

"Obviously, if we've tried to trade for him then [management] feels like he would be a good fit for us. Some situations are not always the best for you. You've seen guys go to other organizations and have great success. And if it works out here, we would more than welcome him. I know Chad wants to win."

Acquiring Johnson has been the Redskins' top offseason objective, according to league and team sources, and they are prepared to guarantee him approximately $21 million as part of a new contract. Bengals owner Mike Brown has said he would not trade Johnson despite his antics, said NFL executives who have spoken with Cincinnati, and reaching a deal also remains unlikely because the Bengals would take an $8 million salary cap hit if Johnson is traded before June.

As reported in January, Snyder and Cerrato told several of their head coaching candidates they were seeking Johnson (6 feet 1, 192 pounds) to be the primary target for Campbell. And with the team transitioning to new coach Jim Zorn's version of the West Coast offense, Cerrato has said he would prefer to provide Campbell with another proven wide receiver.

Johnson, who is represented by Drew Rosenhaus, began lobbying for a trade after the Bengals finished 7-9 last season. Johnson no longer speaks with Cincinnati reporters, but he has given interviews to national media outlets and last week told ESPN he wanted "to be traded before the draft, and if that doesn't happen, I want to be traded as soon as possible. I don't intend on reporting to anything." Johnson is signed through the 2011 season.

In another typically productive season in 2007, Johnson, 30, had 93 receptions for 1,440 yards and 8 touchdowns. In seven seasons, he has caught 559 passes for 8,365 yards and 49 touchdowns.

"With Santana [Moss] and Antwaan [Randle El], we've already got great receivers," Campbell said. "We've got a great tight end in [Chris] Cooley, and we've got other [receivers] who are going to get a chance to go out there and make plays, but you can never have enough guys who can make plays."

Moss and Randle El are each 5-10. Moss was slowed last season because of groin and heel injuries, and Randle El had a nagging hamstring problem. The durable Johnson, who has not missed a game in the last six seasons, would provide Campbell with a big target, and he is a difference-maker, players said.

"I remember before I got here, I heard stuff about the late Sean Taylor," Randle El said. "I thought he was just going to be one of those guys who's a thug and that kind of thing, and he blew my mind when I got here. He was nothing like that, just a totally different guy than I thought he would be. That's why you shouldn't have preconceived ideas about guys."

Redskins Notes: The Redskins are expected to attend to workouts today as they put the finishing touches on their preparation for the April 26-27 draft. They are scheduled to evaluate former Oklahoma wide receiver Malcolm Kelly and former Clemson defensive end Phillip Merling at their college campuses.

If Washington fails to acquire a veteran wide receiver and retains the 21st pick, Kelly (6-4, 224 pounds) could be its top choice, team sources said. The Redskins brought him in for a visit recently and traveled to Oklahoma to attend one of his previous workouts.

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