Redskins Are Pursuing C. Johnson

Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, April 23, 2008; Page E01

The Washington Redskins, who repeatedly have said they want to emphasize the draft over acquiring high-profile stars, continue to pursue trading their first-round pick for Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson, sources said yesterday.

Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis confirmed yesterday to ESPN and the Associated Press that his team turned down the Redskins' most recent offer: a first-round pick and a conditional third-round pick for Johnson.

Vinny Cerrato, Washington's executive vice president of football operations, said only: "We'll just leave it with what Marvin Lewis said. I really don't think there's anything to add to that."

The deal remains unlikely because the Bengals have refused to budge on their stance on Johnson's availability and would take an $8 million salary cap hit if he is traded before June. After the Redskins approached Cincinnati, Bengals owner Mike Brown reiterated he would not trade Johnson, who has publicly lashed out at team officials and teammates while trying to force a trade, said NFL executives who have spoken with Cincinnati.

Washington's pursuit of Johnson or another top wide receiver who might be dealt before the draft is expected to continue up until the Redskins make their first-round pick, the 21st overall, on Saturday. Acquiring Johnson has been the Redskins' No. 1 offseason objective and they are prepared to guarantee him about $21 million as part of a new contract, according to league sources.

Washington hopes to provide developing quarterback Jason Campbell with a bigger target as the team transitions to new coach Jim Zorn's version of the West Coast offense. As reported in January, owner Daniel Snyder and Cerrato told several of their head coaching candidates that they were seeking Johnson, who is 6 feet 1, 192 pounds, to be the primary target for Campbell.

Zorn, while meeting with reporters after the Redskins' pre-draft news conference at Redskins Park yesterday, was asked whether he could handle Johnson, who is among the league's most outspoken and animated players. "I really don't know Chad all that well and I haven't spoken to him, obviously," said Zorn, alluding to league rules that prohibit teams from contacting players under contract with other clubs.

"You'd really like to get to know a guy before you jump in. In this kind of situation, I don't know yet. You'd hate to comment or speculate on something that's really not there. . . . He's a great, great football player. No question about it."

Johnson, who is represented by Drew Rosenhaus, has been lobbying for a trade since the end of last season, when the Bengals finished 7-9. Although he no longer speaks to Cincinnati reporters, he has given interviews nationally and told ESPN last Wednesday: "I want to be traded before the draft, and if that doesn't happen, I want to be traded as soon as possible," Johnson said. "I don't intend on reporting to anything."

Johnson, 30, had a typically productive season in 2007, with 93 receptions for 1,440 yards and eight touchdowns. In seven seasons, he has caught 559 passes for 8,365 yards and 49 touchdowns.

Yesterday, Lewis was adamant about what Johnson should do.

"I've stated our case with Chad," Lewis said. "He has a contract through 2011. He's stated without an opportunity to go to a different team and a new contract, he wasn't going to play. I think he's a man of his word and says he's not going to play, so don't play."

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