The agent for Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien said yesterday that negotiations toward a new contract have broken off and that Rypien will play out his option and become a free agent after this season.

The agent, Ken Staninger of Missoula, Mt., said he had told the Redskins as much, but emphasized he wasn't making a threat.

"We're not mad," he said. "We just don't understand. We'd just like to think that Mark would have a productive year and someone would want him. The bottom line is we think Mark is worth more than they're offering."

Threats don't mean much in the NFL anyway since front-line players have only restricted free agency, and no matter what Rypien is offered by other teams the Redskins have the right of first refusal.

They would most certainly exercise that right if he has another big season. Instead, Staninger's statements are a rare public criticism of a team that historically has rewarded its players very well.

Rypien downplayed the problem, saying, "I certainly wouldn't want to leave here. I like it here. My family likes it here. This is where I want to finish my career. At the same time, business is business . . . "

He said the negotiations boiled down "to a package of incentives. They didn't want to reach our base salary and we wanted them to put {the rest of the money} in as incentives. We just didn't agree on what the incentives should be."

He also emphasized he didn't think having a problem with a contract would carry over onto the field this season.

"That will be the incentive," he said. "You go out, play hard and have a good year, and the ball's in their court. That in itself is great incentive to play well. Listen, we're not bitter. This is a business and you have to approach that side of it as exactly that."

Rypien, 27, is in the option year of a contract that will pay him a base salary of $275,000 with enough reachable options to bring him to around $600,000.

That base salary makes him the NFL's lowest-paid starting quarterback. The average salary for a starter probably will be around $1.5 million, and the Redskins, admitting that Rypien, in his fourth season in the league, was underpaid, have said they want to tear up his contract and write a new deal.

Rypien started the Redskins' first eight games last season, was benched in weeks nine and 10 for fumbling, and returned to lead them to five straight victories down the stretch. He was the NFC's third-highest rated quarterback (behind Joe Montana and Jim Everett) and his 3,768 passing yards were the second-highest total ever for a Washington quarterback.

All kinds of numbers have bounced back and forth, with Rypien a year ago seeking a five-year, $18-million contract that would have bounced him above Montana.

The recent discussions have been more realistic, but the two sides are still so far apart that Staninger and Redskins General Manager Charley Casserly have agreed they have nothing else to talk about.

"We thought the long-term proposal was realistic," Staninger said. "It would give Mark financial security and it would allow the Redskins to tie up a young player for a long time, a player they've made clear they'll build their future around."

Rypien's most recent request was for a two-year deal worth $3 million. The Redskins have offered a three-year contract with base salaries of $700,000 in 1990, $800,000 in 1991 and $900,000 in 1992. In addition, they're offering a package of reachable incentives that would add between $150,000 and $200,000 to the annual salary.

Casserly declined to comment on the matter, but team sources had a two-fold reaction. First, they pointed out the Redskins traditionally have rewritten contracts after their quarterbacks have had big years. They pointed to Doug Williams, Joe Theismann and Jay Schroeder, all of whom got new deals after playing well.

Second, they wondered about the wisdom of criticizing Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke's organization, which prides itself on paying players fairly.

"It's hard for us to understand," Staninger said. "The Redskins have been fair to people. They rewarded Jim Lachey and Charles Mann and others. Why wouldn't the guy who has to take the heat be rewarded? Mark has been a good solider. He has never pointed a finger at anyone and never will. He just wants to be paid what he's worth. . . . Charley and I didn't scream, but we agreed that there was nowhere else to go."