The Washington Redskins took what they hope was a significant step toward ensuring improvement on their offensive line by signing their second-round draft pick, University of Michigan right tackle Jon Jansen. He agreed yesterday to a five-year, $3.5 million contract that includes a $1 million signing bonus.
The team also signed its fourth-round selection in April's college draft, with Georgia Tech linebacker Nate Stimson agreeing to a four-year deal worth $1.1 million. Only one draft choice, first-rounder Champ Bailey, is unsigned, and team officials remained hopeful they will complete a deal with the Georgia cornerback before training camp begins on July 25 in Frostburg, Md.
Meanwhile, Redskins officials conceded yesterday that they had fallen behind in the scramble to sign running back Lawrence Phillips. They also were left wondering about their chances of signing another free agent, defensive end Charles Haley, although they said they were receptive to continuing negotiations with both players.
The Redskins have had to be creative in negotiations with draft picks because of what club officials say is a shortfall in their rookie salary-cap figure. Jansen's deal includes a provision that voids the fifth year of the contract if he plays in at least 15 percent of the team's offensive plays in any of the first four seasons of the agreement.
The most important thing to the Redskins and to Jansen, though, was getting the deal completed so that he wouldn't be a training camp holdout. The Redskins would like Jansen to start immediately on an offensive line that yielded a franchise-record 61 sacks last season, and they didn't want to make the learning process any more difficult.
"He's ecstatic," said Rick Smith, one of Jansen's representatives. "Jon is thrilled to be a Washington Redskin. He's looking forward to getting to training camp and competing for the starting right tackle job.
"My view is, every day you miss of training camp, you fall behind by two days. It was extremely important to Jon and to me from the outset to get him to camp on time."
Stimson's contract almost certainly will end up being voided to three years and includes a $260,000 signing bonus and annual salaries of $175,000, $250,000 and $325,000. The Redskins hope that Stimson will be a major force on special teams this season, then work his way into the club's defensive plans.
Negotiations with Bailey's agent, Jack Reale, appear to be progressing but both sides say no deal is imminent, and it may take the urgency of the final few days before training camp to spur an agreement.
The Redskins would like Bailey to start at cornerback opposite Darrell Green by early in the regular season, if not at the outset. Getting him to camp on time is a top priority.
Redskins officials have discussed the possibility of signing Phillips and have had preliminary talks with agent Mitch Frankel. But team officials indicated they still hadn't scheduled a meeting for Coach Norv Turner with Phillips as of late yesterday, and they said they assumed they had dropped behind the group of front-runners that includes the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens.
Phillips and his representatives are moving forward with those teams and others, and the Redskins don't have a starting job to guarantee him. Most of their running duties now are slated to be divided between Skip Hicks and Stephen Davis.
Likewise, negotiations with Haley have stalled. Some club officials said they suspect they're being used by Haley's camp to drive up the price tag for the 49ers and Carolina Panthers.
CAPTION: The Redskins expect No. 2 draft choice Jon Jansen (76) to compete for the starting job at right tackle.