By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
The Washington Redskins yesterday released former Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Taylor after he declined to participate in the offseason workout program at Redskins Park, team and league sources said, ending a brief and unproductive union that cost the team a second-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft and a sixth-round pick in 2010.
The Redskins released the high-priced Taylor, 34, three days after making several major moves at the outset of free agency -- including luring Pro Bowl defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth from Tennessee with the most lucrative contract ever for a defensive player -- creating more salary cap room and another hole.
Taylor rejected owner Daniel Snyder's request to have a workout clause added to his contract, which would have resulted in the three-time all-pro receiving a bonus, believed to be $500,000, if he took part in most of the conditioning program scheduled to begin March 16 at the complex.
Taylor, who makes his year-round home in Miami, would have made $8 million during the final year of his contract next season, not including a $500,000 roster bonus he was scheduled to receive this week. Snyder's insistence about the proposed new contract language surprised Taylor, sources said, especially considering the Redskins and Taylor's agent, Gary Wichard, had agreed both sides would honor the final two years of the deal, without any restructuring, before Taylor was traded from Miami to Washington on the first day of training camp last July.
"Jason Taylor was a real professional during his time with the Redskins," Coach Jim Zorn said in a statement released by the team. "He played hurt, but still gave his best effort to be prepared and play hard every week. We wish him and his family the very best."
Taylor was hobbled by injuries, uncomfortable in defensive coordinator's Greg Blache's disciplined scheme and unhappy being away from his wife and children during the 2008 season, but Wichard recently said Taylor was "ready to roll" and eager to rebound with the Redskins. His outlook apparently changed, however, when the Redskins asked him to make another concession after everything he had done to fit in with the organization.
"They didn't ask him to take a pay cut, they didn't want to take a nickel off the table, but Jason made a decision to where he just wanted to be with his family," Wichard said. "He has three young kids, and he wants to be around them.
"He is really dedicated to spending time with them at home, and he just felt very strongly about that. He had a conversation with Dan, and he told Dan his feelings about the situation. Jason really respects Dan, but this was very important to Jason."
Taylor, whose weight during the season drops to about 240 pounds, was never considered an elite run-stopper, and the successful scheme Blache and his predecessor, Gregg Williams, brought to Washington emphasizes stopping the run. Taylor lacked the freedom simply to blitz upfield and attack any gap he pleased, as he did with abandon in Miami.
Also, the Redskins' 4-3 defense mandates players exercise discipline in executing assignments. Washington's approach does not allow for the type of freedom Taylor, who at times operated as a de facto outside linebacker in Miami's 3-4 alignments, had with the Dolphins.
Also, Taylor did not mesh well with Blache, who apparently was not in favor of acquiring the six-time Pro Bowl pick, team sources said. During a 24-10 loss to Baltimore in December, Taylor was disciplined and pulled from the game because he deviated from the scheme.
Wichard, a longtime friend of Vinny Cerrato's, Washington's executive vice president of football operations, declined to comment on whether other teams had contacted him about signing Taylor, who became an unrestricted free agent, "but I will say he can definitely still play this game," Wichard said.
Among the league's premier defensive players in an 11-year career with the Dolphins, Taylor, a potential Hall of Famer, rarely resembled the former defensive player of the year for whom the Redskins paid the costly price of two draft picks (they have only four picks in April's draft) to have on their roster for one season. Taylor sprained his right knee in a preseason game and twice underwent surgery on his left calf to relieve acute compartment syndrome, a buildup of pressure on muscle groups.
Predominantly playing left end for the first time in his career, Taylor had only 3 1/2 sacks -- his lowest total since 1999. The 12-year veteran's lack of production prompted speculation the Redskins would ask Taylor to take a pay cut from his salary and release him if he declined. Although Wichard recently said Taylor would come back to the Redskins with his contract unaltered, and Cerrato intimated as much in an Internet report about Taylor's status, speculation continued throughout the league that the team might ask Taylor to rework his deal for salary cap purposes after Washington signed Haynesworth, cornerback DeAngelo Hall and guard Derrick Dockery on Friday.