Veteran linebacker Ken Harvey yesterday accepted the Washington Redskins' offer to play this season for a reduced salary, according to General Manager Charley Casserly. But free agent defensive end Charles Haley has all but eliminated the Redskins from the list of teams he is considering, his representative said.
Meanwhile, the Redskins received salary goals from Champ Bailey's agent designed to get the first-round draft pick a deal worth more than $2 million per season if he agrees to a five-year contract.
Also, team officials say they no longer are in serious pursuit of free agent running back Lawrence Phillips, because, according to sources, the Redskins became increasingly concerned about Phillips's off-field behavior.
It appears that Harvey, not Haley, will fill the role of a third-down pass-rush specialist for the Redskins, provided Harvey proves in training camp that he still can be effective at 34.
Barring a last-minute complication, the Redskins and Harvey will complete a deal next week that likely will pay him between $400,000 and $500,000. That's down from the $2 million Harvey was to count against the salary cap before agreeing to renegotiate. Before the deal can be completed, the team must terminate Harvey's contract, then re-sign him.
Harvey thus will be a free agent temporarily, and could entertain offers from other teams. But he has said he doesn't want to play elsewhere, and his agent Steve Baker said yesterday: "I don't foresee any problems getting a deal done with the Redskins."
Casserly said he spoke to Harvey yesterday, and both sides expressed a desire for Harvey to play this season. Earlier in the offseason, Redskins officials told Harvey it might be best if he retired or accepted a financial settlement that would accompany his being waived by the team. But Harvey indicated he would like to play one more season.
"I expressed we want him back," Casserly said. "He said he wants to be back. We'll work through some salary cap issues next week."
Harvey was not available to comment yesterday, but said last week he thinks he is healthy and still can be productive. On the heels of four straight Pro Bowl years for the Redskins, he had a disappointing, injury-filled 1998, with two sacks. His season ended early because of a knee injury.
The Redskins plan to start three younger players -- Shawn Barber, Derek Smith and Greg Jones -- at linebacker this season. Harvey will have to show the team's coaches in training camp he belongs on the season-opening roster.
Haley plans to choose a team next week and likely will sign with the San Francisco 49ers or Carolina Panthers, agent Kurt Robinson said yesterday. According to Robinson, only a last-minute increase in the Redskins' contract offer would lead Haley to reconsider them.
"The Redskins really didn't show the same level of interest that San Francisco and Carolina have shown," Robinson said.
Robinson refused to reveal specifics of any of Haley's offers, and Casserly declined to comment.
The signing of Bailey may be the team's final bit of offseason business before opening training camp next Sunday in Frostburg, Md. Both sides would like to avoid a holdout by Bailey, a likely starter at cornerback opposite Darrell Green. But differences remain in the negotiations between the Redskins and Bailey's agent, Jack Reale.
A set of contract proposals from Reale arrived at Redskin Park yesterday. According to sources, the Redskins want Bailey to sign a five-year deal worth approximately $9.5 million and take a signing bonus significantly lower than $7.5 million. Reale and Bailey have proposed several scenarios -- including one with a signing bonus of about $7.5 million and NFL minimum yearly salaries bringing the total package to approximately $9 million, and one with no signing bonus and guaranteed annual salaries totaling about $12 million. Reale and Bailey apparently would be willing to make salary concessions to get a four-year deal, which would make Bailey eligible for free agency a year earlier.
Wide receiver Torry Holt, the player taken immediately before Bailey in the draft by St. Louis, signed a five-year, $10 million deal with a $5.4 million signing bonus.