Jim Hart, the Washington Redskins' $250,000 insurance policy at quarterback last season, announced yesterday he is retiring after 19 years in professional football.

Hart, 41 next month, played 18 seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals before signing with the Redskins as a free agent in 1984. He spent most of last season on the bench, completing three of seven passes.

His retirement leaves the Redskins with starter Joe Theismann and two young quarterbacks who have never thrown a pass in a regular-season NFL game -- Babe Laufenberg and Jay Schroeder. The Redskins probably will add a fourth quarterback to the roster, but General Manager Bobby Beathard said yesterday he expects the two young holdovers will be the 1985 backups.

Laufenberg, a sixth-round draft choice from Indiana in 1983, spent last season on injured reserve with a sore shoulder. Schroeder, a third-round pick last year, did not play. He had not played football since his sophomore season at UCLA in 1980, after which he signed with baseball's Toronto Blue Jays.

"Yeah, Jim kinda surprised us, but everybody likes the kids, everybody likes their chances," Beathard said. "They're going to get a lot of work in training camp and they'll play a lot in preseason. We don't think we'll have to get anyone else, unless they both fall on their faces. We'll still try to get a fourth quarterback; Joe (Gibbs, the coach) likes to go to camp with four."

Hart, who was not available to comment, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying "the chance of playing more than I did last year was just too remote . . . It's time to move in a new direction, time for me to feel secure about where I'm going with my life."

Hart spoke with Gibbs about his decision on Wednesday but did not announce his intentions until after closing a deal to join the Chicago Bears radio broadcasting team. He signed to do color for WGN Radio.

"I think Jim felt that he would have stayed if we had guaranteed his contract," Beathard said. "He felt that if the kids did well and he was not needed, he would miss out on this other opportunity. We would have liked for Jim to come to camp, but . . . we wish him well."

Hart retires as No. 3 on the all-time NFL list in passes completed (2,593) and yards gained (34,665).