By acquiring cornerback Jeris White yesterday, the Redskins now have the flexibility to use one of their two Pro Bowl starters (Lemar Parrish and Joe Lavender) at that position as trade bait if they do not get the running back they want when the NFL draft concludes today, team sources said.
White, a six-year pro who was entering the option year of his contract at Tampa Bay, told Buc management in January that he wanted to be traded or waived. He started every game in his four years there and is considered good enough to challenge Lavender and Parrish for starting jobs here.
He is well known to Redskin General Manager Bobby Beathard who, as Miami's personnel director, picked White out of Hawaii in the second round of the 1974 draft. He was known as an especially tough player against the run for Tampa's No. 1-rated NFL defense.
Beathard said last night he was uncertain whether he will be able to sign White to a new contract. "He has Howard Slusher as his attorney and he strikes a hard bargain," said Beathard. "But we're going to try very hard to do it."
If White doesn't sign, he would become a free agent after this season.
"I'm glad I'm going to Washington. I like Bobby Beathard. I'm glad I'm going to be back with him," White said. "I'm not going to come in and try to change anything . . . (But that would be funny -- coming from the No. 1 defense as a starter (to be a reserve). But that would be okay. I'm ready for anything."
No one in Redskin management was publicly saying that White, 27, would be in the starting lineup when the Redskins open against Dallas Sept. 8. But he could definitely be in the Redskins' nickel defense.
Parrish and Lavender are both over 30 and are valuable commodities for trade.
The Redskins now have a stockpile of defensive backs and a glaring weakness at running back.
Although he is an excellent pass defender, Lavender is suspect against the run and the Redskins substituted Tony Peters at right cornerback in running situations last season, until Ken Houston suffered a broken wrist, sending Peters to strong safety full time.
Coach Jack Pardee said the trade for White was made "to cover ourselves . . . We're not sure Ray (Waddy) is ready to step in . . . And, with Houston's age, there's some concern there, too. We fell comfortable White can step in and play immediately. We don't have to worry about covering for him."
White's style of play fits in perfectly with what Paradee likes: "I'm going to hit people; that's what I'm paid to do," White said. "That's what we've done in Tampa. It just took a few years for people to notice that. To play in Tampa, you have to force."
Buggs' style didn't. Even though he was the leading Redskin receiver the past two seasons, he was known primarily as an outside threat. In fact, none of the Redskins' three veteran receivers last season were big enough to run the inside patterns.
The addition of Art Monk, the team's No. 1 draft choice, gives the Redskins that threat and made Buggs expendable.
"We haven't had that kind of size around here since Charley Taylor and Roy Jefferson left," said Mike Allman, the team's director of college scouting and a Redskin personnel man for 16 years.
"You can throw different patterns, go inside," Allman added. "You can be the hitter, instead of the hittee."
Ironically, the Redskins acquired a starting wide receiver from the Bucs, Morris Owens, last month in a conditional trade. Owen's presence also made Buggs expendable.
Buggs, who played four seasons with the Redskins after being picked up as a free agent when the New York Giants cut him in 1976, caught 46 and 36 passes the past two seasons.
Buggs, 27, said the trade surprised him because he had spoken to Pardee on Monday while in Washington for a religious rally and that the coach gave him no indication a trade was imminent.
"I'm excited about it," Buggs said of the rade. "It's just one thing that happened. I'll miss the guys in Washington. We were like a family. But you can't let emotions get in the way.
"Everything is beautiful in my behalf. I've talked to the (Bucs) coaches.
They had a telephone press conference. It seems like everybody is excited. They think they need a veteran receiver who can step in and play. Doug Williams called me and he's excited. It makes you feel good when they're calling you.
"I feel if I can catch 46 passes alternating, I can catch 60-70 playing fulltime. It must be in God's plans for me to go down there."
Asked about Allman's statement, Buggs replied:
"A receiver is not a punisher. That's a tight end's job. I didn't have any trouble catching balls across the middle last year. I improved on my blocking last year.
"I'm not a devastating blocker, like Charley Taylor was. I didn't knock off linebackers' chins. He was a big guy and he could dish it out. I'm not a punisher."