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Albert Haynesworth would like trade from Redskins, will skip minicamp
In a phone conversation during the early hours of free agency and during a face-to-face meeting at the complex before Haynesworth signed, Snyder told Haynesworth he would be granted the freedom to play his way, according to people familiar with the conversations. Snyder told Haynesworth he wanted him to be the same dominant force he had been during the 2007-08 seasons with the Tennessee Titans, they said.
But Haynesworth quickly clashed with former defensive coordinator Greg Blache over Blache's reluctance to give Haynesworth the freedom he wanted in Washington's 4-3 as Snyder promised.
In a meeting with former head coach Jim Zorn last season, Haynesworth voiced concerns about his role and Blache's overall handling of the defense. Zorn agreed that Haynesworth should have more freedom but said he did not have the authority to make that type of change, current and former team employees said. When asked late last season about the meeting, Zorn declined to comment.
The Redskins had hoped to trade Haynesworth before they paid his $21 million bonus -- believed to be the largest in NFL history -- on April 1, according to people familiar with the situation. They continued their efforts to move him during the three-day April draft, multiple league sources said, but did not receive the offers they sought in exchange for a player who already has been paid $32 million of the then-record $41 million he was guaranteed.
That money was part of the seven-year, $100-million contract Haynesworth signed in February of 2009. Haynesworth is guaranteed another $9 million in base salary over the next two seasons.
Haynesworth missed all but one day of Shanahan's 47-day voluntary program, including six days of minicamps, 13 organized team activities and 28 days designated for lifting, according to a copy of the team's offseason schedule. Haynesworth in March attended Shanahan's introductory session to inform him he planned to train individually.
Shanahan, who shortly after his hiring stressed the importance of his offseason program, acknowledged he was disappointed in Haynesworth's decision, but the NFL's collective bargaining agreement prohibits teams from fining players for skipping voluntary activities. The two-day minicamp is Washington's only mandatory event, and Haynesworth is aware of the potential consequences of his actions, Speck said.
Haynesworth, who at 6 feet 6 would be the league's tallest full-time nose tackle, has never played nose tackle or any position in a base 3-4 front during eight seasons in the NFL and three at the University of Tennessee.
Haynesworth was hopeful things would improve for him when Shanahan became the team's head coach in January. Shanahan, however, directed new coordinator Jim Haslett to install a version of the Pittsburgh Steelers' 3-4 defense with Haynesworth at nose tackle.
Throughout his career, Haynesworth has excelled at disrupting offenses and making plays in the backfield as part of base 4-3 defenses. So Haynesworth was stunned, team sources said, when Shanahan during a meeting in March told Haynesworth he did not want him to penetrate the backfield and did not expect him to pressure the quarterback or produce many sacks.
In fact, Shanahan told Haynesworth he would be displeased if Haynesworth had more than two sacks this season, according to people familiar with the situation. While commenting on the decision to pay Haynesworth so much more than the league's other defensive tackles, a former top Redskins official cited Haynesworth's total of 14.5 sacks combined in the 2007-08 seasons -- a large number for an interior lineman.
"The meeting [with Shanahan] was private and I'm not going to discuss the details of what was said, but whoever you're getting your information from knows what's going on," Speck said. "Obviously, the Redskins have the right to do whatever they want with their team. But Albert does not trust the organization and his frustration is deeper than just a scheme change.
"He feels if he stays in Washington then the best years of his career are in the past. Coaches throughout the NFL independently told me last year that after watching film of the Redskins it was clear their coaches did not know what they had in Albert. Coaches and NFL personnel people have told me that relegating Albert to any base position in a 3-4 scheme makes no sense."
At one point, the Redskins and Haynesworth were at such odds over their plans for him that both parties discussed the possibility of walking away from the remainder of the contract before the bonus payment was due.
"Albert was so frustrated that he gave it a lot of thought," Speck said. "But due to the timing and the current economic climate in the NFL, I advised against that."
Haynesworth appeared in just 12 games last season, but he participated in the second-largest number of plays among Redskins defensive linemen, (defensive end Andre Carter led the group). Haynesworth had four sacks -- his lowest total since the 2006 season -- but Carter and defensive end/outside linebacker Brian Orakpo each had 11 sacks, benefiting from Haynesworth's presence along the line, former Redskins coaches said. Carter had just four sacks in 2008. The team improved from 28th in the league with only 24 sacks in 2008 to eighth with 40 sacks last season.
Washington has stockpiled defensive linemen, and Haslett recently said the Redskins would "be fine" regardless of Haynesworth's availability. Players, however, have privately expressed concern that Haynesworth's status could become a season-long distraction.
"This is not a good situation for anyone involved," Speck said. "We understand that Mike and Bruce are going to do what they feel is best for the team, but this is not the organization that Albert was promised he'd be joining."