Jack Kent Cooke, owner of the Redskins, admits he has been unsuccessful in his quest to purchase a No. 1 draft choice from another National Football League team, leaving Washington as a spectator during the opening round of Tuesday's draft.

"I haven't given up," Cooke said yesterday. "It doesn't look promising, but that doesn't mean it's impossible.

"The other teams simply don't want to give up their choice for cash. But the way it is, I haven't got anything else to offer. The days that we give away (high) draft choices are gone forever."

Cooke said he talked to a "half-dozen" teams. "I know now the ones I've talked to aren't interested. They've convinced me."

Two teams, New England and Baltimore, have claimed that they have received offers of $1.5 million to $2 million for their top selection. The Redskins have been linked to both reports, but Cooke vehemently denies that he has made specific offers to any clubs, much less for those large sums.

"I supposed everyone assumed the Redskins were involved because I had said we were trying to buy a No. 1," he said. "But we did not make those offers, period."

Since General Manager Bobby Beathard says the Redskins' chances of trading for a No. 1 are "just about nil," it appears the team will have to be content with its present collection of nine choices in the 12 rounds, including picks in the second, third and fourth rounds.

"I really don't see anything happening before draft day," said Beathard, usually one of the most active general managers in the league. "Then teams loosen up a bit when it gets time for them to pick. We have a few players we might be willing to trade for choices, but we aren't going to give them away."

Last year, the Redskins began the draft with seven choices and ended with 13 players, including Joe Washington, through five trades before the two-day session ended. Beathard stopped short of ruling out a repeat of that approach next week, but admitted "it would be unusual for it to happen again."

The Redskins lost their No. 1 the first day of last year's draft. It went to Los Angeles in exchange for a No. 3 and two No. 5s last year and a No. 2 this season (replacing the No. 2 traded to San Francisco for Wilbur Jackson).

So far, the Redskins have used those Ram selections to pick starting guard Russ Grimm (No. 3), starting defensive end Dexter Manley (No. 5) and guard Gary Sayre, who walked out of training camp but has told Beathard he will report again this year. Beathard hopes to obtain another starter with the still-remaining second-round pick, the 49th player to be chosen in the draft.

Washington also lost its fifth-round choice to St. Louis as compensation for signing Terry Metcalf and its No. 8 to Cleveland in a draft-day trade for other selections last season.

Still, if the Redskins wind up using their second, third and fourth picks, it would be the first time since 1966 that the club has selected players in those rounds during the same draft.

The team's priorities remain the same, according to Beathard: defensive linemen, cornerbacks, wide receivers and tight ends. A problem is that this is a weak draft for defensive linemen and cornerbacks, and Beathard said it will be "really unlikely" that the Redskins will be able to find a defensive lineman worthy of a second-round choice.

"We'll get a lineman, but probably he'll be a couple of years away," Beathard said. Washington probably will settle for a cornerback in the second round.