The Phoenix Cardinals are expected to announce today they will claim former Washington Redskins defensive lineman Dexter Manley off waivers and subsequently sign him for the remainder of the season, sources close to the situation said yesterday.
While the Cardinals apparently are likely to sign Manley, they were checking yesterday with persons close to him to find out if he is in shape and able to play immediately, according to the sources.
Manley answered his car phone yesterday with the words: "Phoenix Cardinals -- Dexter Manley." When asked where he was driving, Manley said: "I'm driving to Phoenix."
Manley said he didn't want to comment further until he spoke with his attorney, Bob Woolf.
"I would like to wait until it is definite before I say anything," Woolf said. "I just know Dexter is happy to have the chance to play football again and to live a drug-free life. I know he would be happy to play in Phoenix, but he will miss Washington and the Redskins."
Woolf said Manley's nine years with the Redskins "meant an awful lot to Dexter. In the bottom of his heart, Dexter truly thought the Redskins were going to bring him back."
Manley, 32, was banned from the league last year after his third positive test for substance abuse. But NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue reinstated Manley on Monday, marking the first time a player has returned from banishment after only one year. Manley is the fourth player to return to the NFL after receiving three so-called "strikes" against him.
According to the conditions of Manley's reinstatement, he must wait until Dec. 9 to play his first game, although he is allowed to practice immediately. He also must remain in a structured support program as long as he's in the league.
Phoenix Vice President and General Manager Larry Wilson said he will not comment until today, but Coach Joe Bugel, a former assistant with the Redskins, has said he would like to see Manley in a Cardinals uniform. Bugel's statements make it difficult for Wilson to reject Manley.
"I know what he can do," Bugel said on Monday. "He's an impact player, and he made Charles Mann, believe me. I think highly of this guy. I've been around Dexter and I know the problems he has had. I've seen a lot of guys with problems worse than Dexter's, and they're still playing in this league."
Once Manley was waived, the team with the worst record -- the 1-9 New England Patriots -- had the first opportunity to get Manley off waivers. But the Patriots weren't interested and neither were the 2-8 Cleveland Browns. Phoenix, also 2-8, was next in line.
If the Cardinals sign Manley, they will pick up his $480,000 base salary, which is $120,000 for the final four games. League rules stipulate that if a player is signed after the midway point of the season he is paid on a game-by-game basis.
The Cardinals would use Manley primarily on third downs, to boost a weak pass rush and thin defensive line. Phoenix carries just five defensive linemen on its 47-man roster, and some of them are playing hurt. For instance, defensive end Freddie Joe Nunn has turf toe, an extremely painful injury.
If Phoenix does not claim Manley, several other teams, including the 3-7 Los Angeles Rams and 6-4 Philadelphia Eagles, have expressed interest.
On Monday, Miami Dolphins Coach Don Shula said his team no longer has an interest in Manley. "We feel our defensive line has done a good job and our sacks are up there," Shula said. "You could always use a good pass rusher, but at this time we'll pass."