By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Unexpectedly released last week, guard Derrick Dockery was eager to hear from his first NFL team, the Washington Redskins. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall could have been among the most highly pursued free agents, but he hoped Washington would persuade him not to test the market.
The Redskins provided what each wanted, bringing back Dockery to the organization after he spent the last two seasons with Buffalo and re-signing Hall, who joined the team in November and impressed coaches in his brief audition. Dockery and Hall, who spoke with reporters yesterday in the auditorium at Redskins Park, said they were pleased to be back in familiar surroundings.
"Being released was, I guess you could say, a humbling experience," said Dockery, a former Redskins draft pick and four-year starter at left guard who makes his year-round home near the complex. "That was my first time not being wanted as a player, going up from high school to college, even in the National Football League. But you live and you learn. You learn from the mistakes that you've made, and hopefully, you can grow from your experiences. I'm just glad to be back, man."
Said Hall: "These guys just embraced me full tilt when I came in, from the coaching staff on down, and I just had fun. I had fun."
Late last Friday, Dockery, whom the Redskins selected in the third round (81st overall) of the 2003 draft, agreed to a five-year contract worth almost $27 million, including $8.5 million guaranteed, a league source said. He is scheduled to be paid $11.5 million in the first two years of the deal. Dockery chose to return to Washington over joining Detroit, which made a bigger overall offer to the durable six-year veteran, who has never missed a game in his NFL career.
About 22 hours before completing Dockery's deal, the Redskins reached an agreement with Hall shortly before he could have considered offers from other teams. Hall got a six-year contract that could be worth as much as $55 million. He is scheduled to receive about $23 million guaranteed -- with $30 million to be paid out during the first three years of the package -- according to NFL sources. Dockery and Hall have signed their contracts, the Redskins said.
Hall signed with the Redskins in November after Oakland released him and he cleared waivers, just months after the Raiders traded second- and fifth-round draft picks to Atlanta for him. The Raiders signed Hall to a seven-year, $70 million contract that was voided when he cleared waivers.
A Chesapeake, Va., native and former all-American at Virginia Tech, Hall was drafted eighth overall by Atlanta in 2004. He made the Pro Bowl in 2005 and 2006, but alienated some teammates and coaches with his outspoken nature while with the Falcons. Oakland waived Hall after only half a season. But the Redskins liked what they saw in Hall, who had two interceptions in seven games with them and five overall in 2008.
"It's not only the right situation, per se, it's also the right scheme, a right feel," Hall said. "A lot of people asked me why did I go to Virginia Tech. I had offers to go to Florida State and all these other shiny places, but it just felt right. Those coaches felt like family. I still talk to those coaches to this day.
"I'm part of their family, they're part of my family, and that's how it feels here. It just feels right. These coaches feel like family to me. That's kind of funny to say, being that I've only been here such a short period, but I knew once I stepped in this place, I didn't want to leave."
The gathering for Dockery, 28, and Hall, 25, capped a whirlwind five-day period for the organization in which owner Daniel Snyder and Vinny Cerrato, Washington's executive vice president of football operations, accomplished many of their top offseason goals. Snyder and Cerrato retained Hall, lured Pro Bowl defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth to Washington from Tennessee by making him the game's highest-paid defensive player and brought back Dockery, after the Bills released him in a cap-savings move, in an attempt to bolster the offensive line.
Washington also released former Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Taylor on Monday after he declined to participate in most of the team's offseason conditioning program, scheduled to begin March 16.
"Jason Taylor was going to play [strong-side] linebacker, we were still going to have to fill the left end spot," said Cerrato, who confirmed the team has only "a little flexibility" to sign additional players.
The Redskins preferred to focus on players currently on the roster on the day Dockery came back to Ashburn. He left after the 2006 season, bolting to Buffalo for a seven-year, $49 million contract. But in a strange twist, Dockery wound up becoming a free agent last Friday, the first day players were permitted to sign with any team.
"Once Derrick Dockery got released from Buffalo, when I found out I was excited, and the Redskins were excited as well," Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels said. "They got aggressive after Dock and worked everything out, and I think it's definitely going to help us."
The Bills and Lions had agreed to a trade last Thursday, with the Lions willing to pick up the remainder of the deal Dockery signed with the Bills and guarantee the 2009 and 2010 portions of that deal. But Buffalo failed to file the necessary paperwork with the NFL Management Council by the 4 p.m. deadline, according to a league source. Rather than pay Dockery $4.5 million for the 2009 season, the Bills released him.
"This is where we want to live when football is over with," Dockery said. "This is where I wanted to play. My heart's here."