By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 11, 2010; D01
By locking up a new nose tackle, the Washington Redskins brought smiles to at least two players Wednesday.
Less than eight months after tearing his Achilles' tendon, Maake Kemoeatu agreed to a two-year contract worth as much as $7 million and apparently will have a shot to start on the Redskins' revamped defensive line.
If Kemoeatu is healthy enough to play in the fall, Albert Haynesworth could find himself moving from nose tackle to defensive end, a position that might allow him more freedom to chase quarterbacks.
Kemoeatu, who stands 6 feet 5 and weighs 345 pounds, has anchored the Carolina Panthers' line since 2006, but he missed all of last season after tearing his Achilles' tendon in training camp. He has had two surgeries to repair the injury and is still undergoing rehabilitation. His agent says he should be ready to play when training camp opens in five months.
Kemoeatu visited with the Redskins on Tuesday, and the two sides reached an agreement Wednesday morning. Though an exact breakdown of the deal wasn't available, it's believed relatively little of the money is guaranteed. Because he's recovering from a severe injury, the contract is loaded with workout and roster bonuses.
Kemoeatu's agent, Kenneth Vierra, said Kemoeatu wouldn't have agreed to such a deal if he wasn't confident that he would fully recover and meet those incentives.
"For a guy coming off an Achilles' [injury], this is a huge opportunity for him to rehab and play in a pretty exciting situation with Mike Shanahan, Jim Haslett and Jacob Burney," Vierra said, noting that Kemoeatu enjoyed his meetings with the Redskins' new coach, defensive coordinator and defensive line coach.
Kemoeatu is the second player from another team the Redskins have added since free agency began last Friday, joining offensive lineman Artis Hicks, who signed last Saturday. Kemoeatu canceled visits with the Saints and Seahawks, and Vierra said he also had received interest from the Jets, Vikings, Ravens and Dolphins.
Kemoeatu has been a regular starter in the NFL since 2005, when he was with Baltimore. The questions surrounding him have more to do with his health than his skill level. Vierra said the possibility of him starting for the Redskins came up while Kemoeatu was meeting with coaches Tuesday.
"There's no guarantees on that," Vierra said. "I guarantee you, though, Jim Haslett is going to play the best player."
Vierra said Kemoeatu passed a physical, which means that his Achilles' tendon is structurally fine, but he remains several months from being in football shape. Kemoeatu is expected to resume his rehabilitation work in the Washington area very soon.
"I know right now, he's doing very aggressive treadmill work," Vierra said. "I can tell you if everything goes well, he should be ready by training camp."
If that's the case, it could be a huge relief for Haynesworth. One of the reasons Haynesworth signed with the Redskins last year was because he thought he could make plays in a 4-3 defense. Since Shanahan and Haslett took over and it became apparent the team would be relying more heavily on a 3-4 base in 2010, Haynesworth's exact role has been up in the air.
In a 3-4, the nose tackle doesn't make plays or get to the quarterback as much as he clogs holes and takes on double teams.
If Kemoeatu is ready to handle those duties by August, Haynesworth could slide over to the defensive end position where he'd have a better chance of enjoying the kind of success he experienced as a defensive tackle.