Three Washington Redskins, safety Ken Houston, running back Mike Thomas and wide receiver Danny Buggs, will become free agents Thursday and General Manager Bobby Beathard said yesterday he sees no problem in signing Houston to a new contract, but he is uncertain about Thomas and Buggs.
Beathard said the Redskins have made "qualifying" offers to all three. By making such an offer, the Redskins maintain the right to match the highest offer of the other teams bidding for a player or to receive compensation if the player signs with a new team.
"I've talked to Ken and I don't think we'll have a problem signing him," Beathard said. "I can almost say that he'll definitely be back. On Mike, I just don't know. I know he's sent letters to a lot of teams."
Thomas' agent, John Dickens, said Thomas wants to remain with the Redskins.
"I'm confident at least four teams will show real interest in Mike," Dickens said. "I would prefer he stayed in Washington, but from the way things have gone on, I'm under the impression tht they (the Redskins) don't want him.
"People are interested in Mike because he's proven he is a premier running back. This whole thing has been tough on him, though, because the Redskins all say they want him back, but haven't done much about it."
Of Buggs, Beathard said, "I haven't talked to him or his agent yet, so I don't know what they are thinking."
Houston and Thomas played out their options last season, while Buggs did not have an option clause in his contract, which expired at the end of the season.
The minimum qualifying offer a team hs to make to a player, if it wants to keep him or wants compensation if he plays elsewhere, is a fixed amount based on the player's experience.
The minumum offer in Thomas' case was $40,000. He earned $110,000 last season while playing out his option. Next season will be Thomas' fifth in the NFL.
Thursday is the date on which other teams can contact the free agents and the player has until April 15 to go to his old team with an offer from a new team.
The old team then has seven days in which to match the offer and keep the player, or let him go and accept the compensation, providing it has made a qualifying offer by Thursday.
If a player signs a contract with a new team, his old team is compensated with daft choices. If his new team pays him $50,000 to $65,000, the old team is awarded a third-round choice; $65,000 to $75,000 a second-round choice; $75,000 to $125,000, a first-round choice; $125,000 to $200,000, a first-and a second-round choice, and more than $200,000 two first-round choices.
All draft choices are for the upcoming May draft.
A team can talk to a player if it doesn't have the available draft choices, but it cannot make an offer to him until it has acquire the necessary picks.
Thomas rushed for 534 yards and caught 35 passes for 387 yards last season.
Buggs was the Redskins' leading receiver last season with 36 catches for 575 yards.
"We're still open to trades," Beathard said. "No one is untouchable There are definitely a number of good young Redskins that we plan to build onto for next season, but if we can better ourselves, we'll do whatever it takes."
The first pick the Redskins have in the upcoming draft is in the fourth round.
"We would like to have a better choice," Beathard said, "and if we feel we can improve the team by trading for choices, we'll do it."