By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 5, 2009
The Washington Redskins yesterday confirmed a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report that backup quarterback Byron Leftwich worked out Friday for the team at Redskins Park. Leftwich, a Washington native and longtime starter with Jacksonville, spent last season as a backup in Pittsburgh.
Leftwich, 29, is seen solely as a possible younger and cheaper replacement for veteran No. 2 quarterback Todd Collins, 37, according to the team. The Redskins informed Leftwich that he would not be competing with starter Jason Campbell, according to NFL sources, and made it clear that if signed he would play only if Campbell, 27, was injured or ineffective during a start.
The Redskins are offering one-year, veteran-minimum contracts to free agents at this time and made no offer to Leftwich on Friday, according to a source. Leftwich, who was the seventh overall pick in 2003 and was once considered a potential franchise quarterback, has received little interest as a free agent. He shined in a second-half performance when the Steelers beat the Redskins last season.
The timing of his workout was odd, considering how long Leftwich has been available, and given that owner Daniel M. Snyder, executive vice president Vinny Cerrato and Coach Jim Zorn spent the day trying to smooth over relations with Campbell after the team solicited trade interest in him last week while trying to acquire Jay Cutler from Denver. But team officials said yesterday that the visit had been scheduled well in advance.
Campbell's agent, Joel Segal, said he and his client had no issues with Washington's interest in Leftwich or the timing of his arrival at Redskins Park. "That doesn't bother us at all," Segal said. "Zero. Not at all." Segal also said that the Redskins' pursuit of Cutler would have no impact on Campbell's desire to sign a long-term deal with Washington.
"It hasn't changed that desire, absolutely not," Segal said. "This past week had no effect. The NFL is, first and foremost, a business, and Jason loves playing for the Redskins and he loves the city of D.C., and this does not preclude him from signing a long-term deal here at any time from our side. From our perspective it will not have any effect on any negotiations."
A distinct pecking order among the current Redskins quarterbacks is well established, but the dynamic with Leftwich, a graduate of H.D. Woodson High School, might be more complicated, given he is much younger than Collins and has considerably more starting experience (46 NFL starts to Collins's 20; Campbell has 36). The Redskins operate in a hybrid West Coast offense; Leftwich struggled when Jacksonville implemented that system under Bill Musgrave, a former Washington assistant, and at 6 feet 5, 250 pounds, he is a less mobile, drop-back passer who has shined more in a downfield passing game.
However, if he did sign for the veteran minimum, it would allow Snyder to save more than $1 million this season, with Collins due a $1.9 million salary and a $100,000 workout bonus. He is due to make $3 million in 2010 and received a $3 million signing bonus in 2007. Releasing Collins would result in a nominal cap hit but would save money.
Collins also has limited experience in a West Coast offense. He made four starts late in 2007, helping the Redskins reach the playoffs, but did not take a snap in 2008. Collins's agent, Brad Blank, said he was unaware of Leftwich's visit and declined to comment.
The Redskins hope No. 3 quarterback Colt Brennan, a 2008 draft pick, will develop into an effective player and are pleased with his progress, according to a league source, but the preference is to have a veteran presence as the primary backup.
Leftwich's workout capped a bizarre week of quarterback machinations for the Redskins, and Segal believes that Washington's attempt to land Cutler will fuel Campbell's desire to be a franchise quarterback.
"Everyone has their own style, and way of leading," Segal said, "and Jason's leadership skills were really embodied by the way he handled everything this week. But it would be a huge mistake to view Jason's class and professionalism as a lack of fire. It would be completely wrong. Jason is as competitive as any client I've ever represented, and I believe that covert fire may become a lot more overt now."
Staff writer Jason Reid contributed to this report.