The Washington Redskins are eager to pursue a major trade before the season and are willing to part with at least one of their three first-round picks in next year's draft, Coach Norv Turner and General Manager Charley Casserly said yesterday.
The Redskins have been rebuffed in their initial trade overtures for Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders and their flirtation with veteran defensive end Charles Haley, who re-signed with San Francisco this week.
But team officials plan to monitor closely the situations of Sanders and other prominent players who may be unhappy with their current teams -- including Atlanta Falcons running back Jamal Anderson, wide receivers Carl Pickens of the Cincinnati Bengals and Antonio Freeman of the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings guard Randall McDaniel -- throughout training camp, according to sources close to the situation.
Meanwhile, Turner said yesterday he plans to have quarterback Brad Johnson participate in all the team's full-squad drills after training camp opens Sunday in Frostburg, Md. But Johnson, who underwent a pair of arthroscopic knee operations during the offseason, might have his practice-field participation limited in other, smaller-scale drills, Turner said.
Also, Turner said a training camp holdout by rookie cornerback Champ Bailey would threaten to prevent the first-round draft choice from getting any playing time this season as a wide receiver or kick returner.
New owner Daniel M. Snyder has said he believes the Redskins still have time to improve themselves before their regular season opener against the Dallas Cowboys Sept. 12.
"It's been made clear we're going to look into every opportunity we have to make our team better," Turner said after an afternoon news conference at Redskin Park. "If the opportunity presents itself in the next six weeks where a player becomes available who can make us better, Mr. Snyder has made it clear that's what we'll do. If you're not looking and researching every possibility, then there's no way you can make a deal."
Snyder said last night: "We're working on a lot of different things to improve the team."
Anderson, 26, has been negotiating a new contract with the Falcons. He's entering the final season of his current deal. He's only 26, five years younger than Sanders, but he likely would cost the Redskins more than one first-round pick, and the team would have to sign him to an expensive contract to make any such deal worthwhile.
The Redskins have been told the asking price for Freeman is two first-round selections, and the Packers aren't eager to trade him anyway. Pickens might be available for one first-round pick, but some members of the organization seem uncertain how much help he would be. McDaniel would strengthen the Redskins' offensive line and would be far less costly in a trade, but he turns 35 in December.
For now, the Redskins are in discussions with free agent cornerback Ryan McNeil, who visited Redskin Park on Wednesday. And they are negotiating with Bailey, trying to settle on a four- or five-year deal that probably would be worth approximately $2 million per season.
After meeting with Turner and Casserly late yesterday, Snyder indicated he was optimistic the team would get Bailey signed but said there are no guarantees that would happen by Sunday.
"We're trying to get it done," Snyder said. "Right now we're just continuing to negotiate."
Said Turner: "I think every day that Champ misses will affect him. I think he made dramatic improvement throughout minicamp. He's a guy that did so many different things in college; he hasn't had that day-to-day focus, that grind you get through a 30-day, intensive training camp. . . .
"If he's here and practicing as a corner . . . and we play five or six weeks and two or three preseason games and we feel good about him as a corner, then as the year goes on it raises the opportunity to maybe do some things with him on returns or do some things as a wide receiver. But there's no way we could ever think about doing those things with him if he's not here."
Turner said he is eager to get to work after an offseason in which the Redskins reworked their roster to get a younger and, they hope, better team.
"You get to this point, a couple days before we go, and I wish I could go there and get started," Turner said. "We've gotten a lot done in the offseason. We've added a number of players that I think will make a significant difference in our football team. . . .
"The thing I like about most positions on our football team is, I really believe there's great competition. There will be some positions where the depth chart changes. There will probably be some spots where it changes regularly until we make a final decision."