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Rough Start, Big Finish
Daniels, Buzbee Suffer Season-Ending Injuries

By Jason La Canfora and Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, July 21, 2008

The Washington Redskins traded for Miami Dolphins Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Taylor last night, just hours after losing starting left end Phillip Daniels and reserve end Alex Buzbee to season-ending injuries on the first day of training camp.

Vinny Cerrato, Washington's executive vice president of football operations, dealt a second-round pick in 2009 and a sixth-round pick in 2010 to acquire Taylor, a perennial Pro Bowler and former defensive player of the year who was engaged in a public spat with the Dolphins after skipping offseason workouts to participate on "Dancing With the Stars."

The Redskins have lacked depth and a consistent pass rush from their defensive line for years, and Taylor, who will turn 34 in September, has been one of the game's elite sack specialists and premier all-around athletes.

The Redskins assume the final two years of Taylor's contract, Cerrato said, with no renegotiation. Taylor is set to make $8 million this season (about the cap space the Redskins had prior to the trade, Cerrato said), including a $500,000 roster bonus, and $8.5 million next season with the same bonus.

Taylor, who was not available for comment and is expected to take a physical today in Washington, has talked about playing just one more season before pursuing acting options, but Cerrato said he is "100 percent confident he'll play more than one year."

The trade capped a whirlwind series of events after Daniels and Buzbee were injured. Immediately after the second practice, Cerrato told the media, "We haven't talked with anyone yet on anything," and roughly an hour and a half later, the deal was announced.

Cerrato said the injuries to Daniels and Buzbee forced Washington to exhaust all options. He said Taylor (6 feet 6, 255 pounds) will move to the left side with Washington -- he played right end in Miami -- and Andre Carter will remain the starting right end.

"We're fortunate there is a guy of that caliber on the market when a guy gets hurt," Cerrato said.

Taylor has clashed with Bill Parcells, Miami's new executive vice president of football operations, about being away from the team for much of the offseason to pursue his Hollywood ambitions. Cerrato is close to Gary Wichard, Taylor's agent, and was confident the player was ready to make an impact and is focused on football. "He's excited for a new start," Cerrato said of Taylor.

Starting tackle Cornelius Griffin was sad to lose a teammate such as Daniels to injury, but was eager to welcome Taylor to town.

"I think he can really help us," Griffin said. "He's a great asset to our team -- he may be a future Hall of Famer -- and I think he's someone who would look forward to working with me and Andre and some of the younger guys we have on the line."

Informed of the trade by a reporter, young defensive lineman Lorenzo Alexander thought the Redskins made a great move. "We got him? Wow, that's awesome," Alexander said. "You're talking about a guy who can make a huge impact. He's a perennial Pro Bowler and a guy who was a defensive player of the year, so you know he can come in and really help you get after that quarterback.

"And from a leadership standpoint, he's someone who has been in this game a long time. He's seen a lot, and he's accomplished a lot. I don't know him, but hopefully he's the type of guy who's going to want to come in and help the young players, such as myself. Anyway you look at it, it's a great move."

Taylor had 11 sacks last season -- more than any Redskin -- and has had at least 8 1/2 sacks every season this decade. He has missed just four games since entering the NFL in 1997, and had spent his entire career with the Dolphins after being selected in the third round of the draft.

The loss of Daniels, in his 13th NFL season and starting his fifth with Washington, sent an emotional ripple through the locker room. Daniels, 35, is a key leader and had worked hard, with among other things a rigorous power-lifting regimen, this offseason to try to stave off nagging injuries. Role player Demetric Evans moved into Daniels's starting role during practice -- Evans has started 12 games for Washington since 2004 -- with the roster very thin beyond him and Carter, who is the only lineman with established pass rushing skills on the roster.

Daniels leaped awkwardly during the first snap of seven-on-seven drills in the morning practice -- the Redskins wore shells and shorts yesterday and were not in full-contact with pads -- and remained on the ground for several minutes before being carted off. He tore his left anterior cruciate ligament and will undergo career-threatening surgery Friday.

Buzbee, a Georgetown product who showed promise on the practice squad last season, ruptured his right Achilles' while backpedaling during drills early in the afternoon, capping a highly unusual start to Jim Zorn's first training camp as an NFL head coach. The Redskins plan to bring back recently cut rookie defensive end J.T. Mapu to fill Buzbee's roster spot, Cerrato said.

"It's hard to predict," Zorn said. "We'll have to deal with it. There's just nothing we could discuss to say, 'What if we'd done this [in practice] or done that?' "

Zorn and Cerrato said they had no regrets about not bolstering the defensive line more in the offseason, passing on a bevy of trade possibilities (including a call from Miami offering Taylor), and not taking a lineman in the draft until the seventh round -- Washington has not used a first- or second-round pick on a defensive lineman since 1997. Adding Carter has been the only notable improvement made to the unit since Coach Joe Gibbs overhauled the roster in 2004, though numerous NFL executives believe it to be an area of strong concern for the organization and thought the team would take a pass rusher early in April's draft.

"When you're picking, there's got to be somebody that you want to take there," Cerrato said. "You just don't take somebody to take somebody to fill a spot. We would have loved to have a defensive end been there at [pick] 21 that we loved." (Washington passed on Clemson end Phillip Merling in that spot and took pass catchers with all three second-round picks).

The Redskins traded a conditional seventh-round pick to Minnesota for former first-round pick Erasmus James in May, but he is recovering from major knee surgery and has a history of serious knee problems. James is working out individually with the team's athletic trainers and hopes to be able to practice early next month. "Everything feels good, it's just a matter of time," said James, whose status likely will remain murky for quite some time.

"He may not be ready to even get in a game until the last couple of preseason games," Zorn said, "and that's if his knee responds well."

Second-year speed rusher Chris Wilson is next on the depth chart behind Evans, but he is trying to add the heft and technique necessary to be an every-down end, bulking up in hopes of being able to play against the run.

"They want me to make sure I'm strong, but also make sure I keep my athleticism, and I did that," said Wilson, who is seven pounds heavier than a year ago.

The defensive linemen were particularly emotional about the loss of Daniels. Zorn spent some time with Daniels, who did not immediately return messages, and his wife between practices yesterday and said the veteran felt "miserable." Cerrato called the injury "a travesty."

"We're as close as anybody on this team," Griffin said of Daniels. "My heart goes out to him. It's a big loss, but now someone else has to step up."

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