On the eve of the deadline for informing free agents if they want to keep them, the Redskins confirmed yesterday that they have offered new contracts to linebacker Harold McLinton and offensive lineman Tim Stokes.

A Redskin spokesman said that the new offers actually were made a few weeks ago and that negotiations have been under way since. "We want them to come back," the spokesman said.

Stokes could not be reached for comment yesterday, but McLinton said, "I want to sign with them. I'm negotiating with them now. We're starting from scratch and begaining everything new."

McLinton would not say what he is seeking in the new contract, but indicated he wanted a pact of more than one year. "I'm hopeful we won't have to go through this again next year," he said.

Under the terms of the new agreement between the National Football League owners and players, signed March 1, the clubs had to make a qualifying offer to their free agents by March 15 if they wanted to keep them.

The players had from then until April 15 to negoiate with other clubs for a better offer and see if their own club would match it. If the player's original club did not want to match an opposing team's offer, the player could sign with the other team. The original club would then be compensated by predeterminted number of draft choices established by a formula based on salary in the new agreement.

If a player did not get an offer from another club during that period, his old club would have exclusive negotiating rights with him through June 1, if a qualifying offer had been made.

The club then could offer him a contract at the last best written offer or at 110 per cent of his last salary and the player chooses which to take.

The Redskins made qualifying offers to McLinton, Stokes and Paul Laaveg, who signed a new contract with the club last week. They did not make an offer to Roy Jefferson, who said last night that he is still talking to other clubs through his lawyer.