The Washington Redskins traded two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Charlie Brown yesterday to the Atlanta Falcons for three-time Pro Bowl guard R.C. Thielemann. They then traded their second-round draft pick in 1986 to the Los Angeles Raiders for wide receiver Malcolm Barnwell.
The Redskins must release or move 10 players by 4 p.m. today to reach a 50-man roster, and the addition of two veterans yesterday clouds the immediate futures of veteran offensive tackle George Starke and rookie wide receiver Joe Phillips, among others.
"In Charlie's case, we gave up a Pro Bowl player to get a Pro Bowl player," said Coach Joe Gibbs, who hugged Brown after telling him about the trade. "It was a smart decision, getting a guy (Thielemann) at a position where we are thin. It gives us a Pro Bowl guard."
Gibbs is hoping the addition of Barnwell works as well for the Redskins as last year's trade with the Raiders for Calvin Muhammad, who has played his way into the starting lineup, making Brown expendable.
General Manager Bobby Beathard said the Redskins negotiated both trades yesterday simultaneously. "We had both set, just in case one worked," he said.
Thielemann (pronounced TEEL-munn), an eight-year veteran who has started 73 consecutive games for the Falcons, had been holding out in a contract dispute until signed by Atlanta yesterday. The trade hinged on his being signed. He is expected to be platooned with guards Russ Grimm and Ken Huff.
Brown said he and Gibbs parted on good terms, but acknowledged the past 12 months, full of injuries, disagreements and a holdout, was difficult.
"I would think they're not losing much," Brown said of the Redskins, smiling.
He missed the equivalent of 10 games last season with various injuries to his hamstring, ankle, fibula and knee, then skipped the team's May minicamp in a "misunderstanding" with Gibbs over his status as a starter. He has been bothered all summer by hamstring injuries.
Gibbs said yesterday that he and Brown "were pretty much nose-to-nose at that point (in May)."
The Redskins tried to trade Brown then, but found no takers, Beathard said. Brown's agent, Craig Kelly, charged that the Redskins did not "appreciate" Brown and accused them of "shopping him around" since the Super Bowl.
The Redskins offered Brown to the Falcons only when Coach Dan Henning, a former assistant to Gibbs here, would not trade Thielemann for a draft choice. The Redskins desperately wanted Thielemann to add depth now that center Jeff Bostic is on injured reserve and ineligible to play until Oct. 15.
"He wanted a player, and it was Charlie," Gibbs said.
Brown knew he was trade bait. "My name was like a hot potato around the NFL," he said. "But that's okay. You have to expect anything."
Brown missed most of the practices this summer with injuries to both hamstrings, and played only in the first preseason game at Atlanta, catching two passes for 18 yards.
When asked if the constant injuries figured into the decision to trade Brown, Gibbs said, "The missed time does."
When Muhammad came back from a finger injury to catch four passes for 83 yards Friday against New England, Brown said he knew he was gone. He, Muhammad and Art Monk officially had been sharing starting time this summer.
"Ever since minicamp, I was expecting it," Brown said. "I knew this was going to happen two or three days ago. I was just waiting. Coach Gibbs told me this would make the Redskins a better team because of the weaknesses at offensive line and the strength (with Muhammad) at wide receiver."
At Redskin Park yesterday, Brown wore a red T-shirt that said, "Atlanta -- Love It!"
"I'm excited," Brown said. "It's like being a rookie again. I'm only 26 and Atlanta's rebuilding. I'm not concerned about being a starter. I think I'm going there at the right time of the rebuilding stage."
He added that he wished he "could have been traded earlier" to get used to a new system.
Thielemann -- whom Gibbs recruited to the University of Arkansas when he was an assistant coach there -- played most of the 1984 season with a cast to protect a fractured finger. It was the first time he didn't make the Pro Bowl in four years.
Since Thielemann has not practiced, he gives the Redskins a special exemption: he will not be counted on the roster until he plays in a game, Beathard said.
The Redskins are not concerned about his lack of work. "He's been in the same system (Atlanta's offense is similar to the Redskins')," Gibbs said.
The Redskins plan to use him Friday at Tampa Bay, which means another roster move will have to be made then. Barnwell will take Brown's spot on the roster.
Assistant head coach-offense Joe Bugel said he expects both Thielemann and tackle Dan McQuaid, obtained Saturday in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams, to make the team.
"Both those guys will make a definite impact," he said. "When you make trades like that, hopefully they fit into your system. It's too late now for tryouts. They better be good or you've made a bad, bad mistake."
Since the Redskins plan to keep eight offensive linemen, this doesn't help the chances of Starke, at 37, the oldest tackle in the league.
"You can't forget about an old guy like that," said Bugel. "That's still on the drawing board, which direction we'll go there."
There's no question which way Barnwell, a four-year veteran from Virginia Union who lives near Richmond, will go. Straight down the field.
"He has sprinter's speed," said Beathard of Barnwell, 27, a starter with the Raiders for the last three seasons. He caught 45 passes for 851 yards and two touchdowns last year, but became expendable with the development of third-year receiver Dokie Williams. The Raiders had been using Barnwell mostly on short routes. The Redskins will try him everywhere, Beathard said.
"It's going to be a lot of fun there," said Barnwell, who, like Thielemann, is expected at practice today.
"I really don't see that I'll have to make a lot of adjustments," he said, then, considering the Redskins' running game, added, "I guess I'm just going to have to be a better blocker."