By Jason Reid and Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, February 27, 2009
The Washington Redskins accomplished their primary offseason objective late last night, agreeing to terms on a six-year contract worth up to $55 million with cornerback DeAngelo Hall before he could join the free agent market that opened today, according to NFL sources. The team also continued its pursuit of defensive linemen Albert Haynesworth and Chris Canty, as well as guard Derrick Dockery.
Hall is scheduled to receive roughly $23 million guaranteed -- with $30 million to be paid out of the first three years of the deal -- according to sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment on the Redskins' negotiations with Hall's representatives.
Retaining Hall, whom the team signed to a one-year deal in November after he was released by the Oakland Raiders, was the centerpiece to owner Dan Snyder's most recent ambitious plan to attempt to upgrade the Redskins through the free agent market, which opened at 12:01 a.m. With an agreement in place with Hall, Snyder and Vinny Cerrato, Washington's executive vice president of football operations, focused on the next phase of their process: attempting to bolster the Redskins' defensive and offensive lines.
Haynesworth, of the Tennessee Titans, and Dockery, a former Redskins draft choice, have emerged among their top outside targets on defense and offense, respectively, NFL sources said. Canty, who played for the Dallas Cowboys, also is one of Washington's 'A'-list choices, sources said, and the team contacted his agent just after the midnight signing period began. A versatile defensive end who can play the run and pass rush from the interior on third downs, Canty, 26, has been observed closely by the Redskins for some time, and they expressed their interest within the first five minutes teams could contact players' representatives, league sources said.
Haynesworth, 27, could command a package that eclipses the contract of Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, the current top-paid defensive player, who received $32 million guaranteed as part of a six-year deal that averages $12.2 million per season.
At the direction of Snyder and Cerrato, Eric Schaffer, the Redskins' vice president of football administration, improved the team's salary cap position over two weeks leading to the market opening, trying to position the team to make competitive offers for several players Snyder and Cerrato would like to bring to Redskins Park.
Dockery could visit Redskins officials as early as today. The Buffalo Bills' unexpected release of Dockery, who started for the Redskins for four seasons, prompted team officials to consider re-signing the unrestricted free agent as part of their plan to bolster a unit considered among the team's weakest. Washington also expressed significant interest in Seattle Seahawks tackle Ray Willis, who was drafted and developed while Redskins Coach Jim Zorn and running backs coach Stump Mitchell were assistant coaches in Seattle.
After releasing linebacker Marcus Washington and restructuring the contracts of defensive end Andre Carter, wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin and left tackle Chris Samuels, Washington is about $8 million under the 2009 salary cap of $127 million, said a longtime league official who studied the numbers yesterday. The Redskins could create about $14 million in cap room by releasing cornerback Shawn Springs and clear even more space by restructuring the contract of defensive end Jason Taylor, though the team supposedly has no plans to do that, Taylor's agent said recently.
All the maneuvering, and potential cap moves to come soon, were necessitated by Snyder's desire to keep Hall and also add top free agents to a team that collapsed after an unexpectedly impressive 6-2 start, going 2-6 in the second half of its schedule and missing the playoffs in Zorn's first year as a head coach. The Redskins intensified their efforts to complete a deal with Hall's agents as the clock ticked toward the start of free agency, league sources said, with the sides making late progress. Some league executives speculated Hall could command upwards of $15 million guaranteed on the open market, but the Redskins never let things get to that point, making Hall a huge offer that his agents, Joel Segal and Alvin Keels, gladly accepted.
Dockery was a late addition to the Redskins' long free agent wish list. Dockery, 28, represents one of Washington's rare linemen draft picks to pan out this decade, and he was a starter from his rookie season. He has never missed a game in his six-year career, with a streak of 93 consecutive starts dating from 1993.
The Redskins selected Dockery in the third round of the 2003 draft and he peaked with the club during the 2006 season, becoming more adept at pulling, getting in the best shape of his career to that point, and helping to anchor one of the game's better running attacks even in the absence of Pro Bowl back Clinton Portis. He performed well in Buffalo, according to league sources who had evaluated him on tape, but the club opted to release him rather than pay him $4.4 million in salary and bonuses for the upcoming season.
The Redskins were one of several clubs to express interest in signing Dockery shortly after he was let go, according to league sources. Dockery is close to Samuels and was very popular within the locker room, remaining close with many Redskins players even after leaving the team. Many players bemoaned his loss after the Bills made the surprising move of giving Dockery a deal worth a maximum of $49 million over seven years, including $18.5 million guaranteed. After Dockery was released, several Redskins players expressed hope that he would return.
Washington is eager to get younger on the offensive line, and with 2008 third-round pick Chad Rinehart showing no signs of being ready to play, according to team sources, Dockery would fill a gaping hole. Pete Kendall, the starting guard the past two seasons who will turn 36 in July, has an arthritic knee condition that precluded him from practicing on Wednesdays, and right guard Randy Thomas's play has declined in recent years amid continued injury woes. Because of concerns about depth at the position, Kendall, who is also a free agent, could be re-signed by the Redskins.
Willis, 26, did not play much in his first three years in Seattle, but when injuries hit the Seahawks' line last year, he started 10 games and fared well. He is still a bit raw, an NFL talent evaluator said, but has great size at 6 feet 6, 315 pounds. Some league executives believe him to be Washington's top tackle option, and he could be relatively cost-effective. With Willis and Dockery available, the Redskins have some viable options to improve their line, a league source said.