Veteran defensive end Dexter Manley and rookie wide receiver Walter Murray are embroiled in bitter contract disputes with the Washington Redskins in which talks apparently have broken off with no agreements in sight.
Manley, who tied a club record with 15 sacks last season, wants about $150,000 more this season than the Redskins are offering, according to sources close to the negotiations. The Redskins are believed to be offering a four-year contract that begins at about $325,000 for 1986 and reaches more than $400,000 by 1988; Manley wants between $450,000 and $500,000 a year.
"I don't think they've shown much of an interest in making an agreement," said Richard Bennett, Manley's Washington-based agent.
"If they don't want to play him, they should simply trade him. I sure would not like to see that happen. Dexter belongs in Washington. But I'm very interested to find out why the Redskins are treating Dexter this way."
Murray, the 45th player chosen in the 1986 National Football League draft, is angry that the Redskins are restructuring a $210,000 signing bonus offer and questioning his playing ability, said Frank Yip, Murray's agent. The Redskins have offered Murray, whom they obtained in a trade for their 1987 first-round draft choice, a three-year deal believed to be worth $695,000 in base salary.
"I was asked by General Manager Bobby Beathard if Walter is a self-motivator," Yip said. "There now seem to be questions about his ability. I call it buyer's remorse. That's what I read loud and clear when I talk to Bobby. It's like, 'Gee, they want me, then they don't.' "
Beathard declined comment. Assistant General Manager Charles Casserly would only say that the Redskins are waiting to hear from Yip.
"I'm not going to call," Yip said from San Jose, Calif. "The Redskins have to decide what they want to do, not me."
It's difficult to separate negotiating tactics from facts as the disputes wear on. Both agents have mentioned trades as some sort of "final option." The Redskins have put different players in Manley's and Murray's spots and are carrying on as usual. Casserly said the next move in both disputes is up to the agent involved. The agents say they're not calling. And there is talk around the Dickinson College training camp that the team is prepared to go through the season without either player.
As one team official said, "This is a matter of principle. If they want to play, they'll come in. If they don't, we'll go on without them."
Any way you look at it, the disputes have become a strain early in the preseason. Coach Joe Gibbs -- who spoke with Yip and Murray Sunday night, Yip said, to encourage an agreement -- said this morning: "I'm over talking about those two guys Manley and Murray ."
While Manley and Murray stayed away, quarterback Jim Kelly of the U.S. Football League's New Jersey Generals said the Redskins are one of four National Football League teams he would like to join if the USFL folds.
"Jim was asked several times yesterday who he would like to play for, and he said Washington, the Los Angeles Raiders, Pittsburgh and Dallas, not in any particular order," said Greg Lustig, Kelly's agent.
"He likes Pittsburgh and Washington because he can be close to his family, and Dallas and the Raiders because of the national appeal of those teams," Lustig said by phone from his Akron, Ohio, office.
Kelly is from East Brady, Pa., near Pittsburgh, and two of his brothers live in Richmond, Lustig said.
The Buffalo Bills hold the NFL rights to Kelly until next April. If the Bills haven't signed him by then, Kelly becomes a free agent, Lustig said.
The Redskins and Lustig have not talked, the agent said, adding he doesn't expect to hear anything from any NFL club until at least Monday, when USFL owners are scheduled to meet in New York to discuss the league's future.
It's considered highly unlikely the Redskins would want to trade for Kelly's rights because of their seemingly strong commitment to Jay Schroeder.
There are various twists and turns in the contract disputes. Each day Manley stays out of camp, the Redskins decrease their offer by about $1,500, Bennett said.
"We'll hit the minimum wage shortly," he said.
Manley, a five-year veteran, is "an impact player with a hell of a personality," Bennett said, adding that the Redskins' offer "doesn't make any sense."
Top draft choice Markus Koch, who plays Manley's position, just signed a three-year deal worth about $780,000, plus a $220,000 signing bonus for a $1 million package.
Manley's four-year offer from the Redskins apparently is in the $1.6 million range. At least 20 defensive linemen are expected to earn more than $325,000 this season, according to a list of NFL salaries; Mark Gastineau and Joe Klecko of the New York Jets reportedly will make $675,000 each this season.
"We cannot accept an unacceptable offer," Bennett said.
Former University of Hawaii player Murray, who flew from the Washington area to San Jose Tuesday to stay with Yip, is upset about a new wrinkle in the Redskins' offer of a signing bonus, Yip said.
The Redskins want to give Murray $100,000 up front and spread the other $110,000 over the first eight games of the season, Yip said.
"They're afraid they've got another Tory Nixon," Yip said, referring to the Redskins' top draft choice in 1985 who missed two weeks in a contract dispute, then did not perform well and was traded to San Francisco, taking a $200,000 signing bonus with him.
"It shows a lack of confidence in the player," Yip said. "Then, what I'd like to know is, why do they want him?"