Washington Redskins officials are considering trying to lure eight-time Pro Bowl defensive end Chris Doleman out of retirement to play for them this season.
"Any guy that is available, we're going to talk about among ourselves," Redskins Coach Norv Turner said today. "If a guy like Chris Doleman is available, we're going to find out what the situation is and find out if he can come in and help us."
Doleman, who turns 38 in October, retired after a 1998 season in which he had 15 sacks for the San Francisco 49ers, tying him for third in the league. His 142 1/2 career sacks place him behind only Reggie White, Bruce Smith and Kevin Greene on the all-time list.
Neither Doleman nor his D.C.-based agent, David Falk, was available to comment today. A spokesperson in Falk's office said Falk was on vacation and that no one else in the office would address Doleman's situation.
Redskins officials repeatedly have said they plan to be vigorous in their attempts to upgrade the team before its Sept. 12 regular season opener against the Dallas Cowboys. According to sources close to the situation, the team's top targets for prospective trades are Minnesota Vikings guard Randall McDaniel and Atlanta Falcons running back Jamal Anderson.
Redskins officials have said they would consider trading at least one of their three first-round selections in next year's college draft. They have been rebuffed in their initial overtures for Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders. But they are keeping an eye on Sanders and other prominent, disgruntled NFL players, including Anderson, McDaniel and wide receivers Carl Pickens of the Cincinnati Bengals and Antonio Freeman of the Green Bay Packers.
McDaniel may be the most realistic trade target. He is the most accomplished offensive lineman in the sport, having made 10 straight Pro Bowl starts. But the left guard turns 35 in December, and he is in a contract dispute with the Vikings.
Vikings General Manager Tim Connolly said today by telephone: "We love Randall McDaniel and we expect him to be with us."
Asked whether the Vikings would change that stance and consider trading McDaniel if his contract dispute is not resolved, Connolly said: "I never deal in speculation. It's a legitimate question."
Vinny Cerrato, the Redskins' director of player personnel, declined to comment on any specific trade scenarios.
For now, Brad Badger is slated to start at left guard and Tre Johnson at right guard. But the Redskins seem prepared to give veteran guard Keith Sims a legitimate opportunity to win a starting job in training camp, and if they trade for McDaniel they could enter the season with a mostly reworked offensive line. Rookie Jon Jansen is set to start at right tackle, and veteran free agent signee Andy Heck could win the left tackle job from holdovers Shar Pourdanesh and Joe Patton.
The Redskins allowed a franchise-record 61 sacks last season, and protecting new quarterback Brad Johnson is one of this year's top priorities.
Anderson has vowed to sit out the season if his contract dispute with the Falcons isn't resolved, and sources say the Redskins are eager to get Anderson. But Anderson would be costly, both in terms of what it would take to get him in a trade and how much money would be required to sign him to a new contract.
Pickens is available, but the Redskins' interest in him appears to be lukewarm. The Packers' asking price for Freeman is two first-round draft choices.
The Redskins would not have to surrender anything to get Doleman, who is free to sign with any NFL team if he wishes. The Redskins re-signed veteran linebacker Ken Harvey for a reduced salary to serve as a pass-rush specialist, but first he must prove he has recovered from last season's knee injury and that he is still capable of being an effective player. He had only two sacks last season. The Redskins negotiated with veteran defensive end Charles Haley, but he signed with the 49ers. The Redskins' starting defensive ends are Kenard Lang and Marco Coleman.
Doleman has earned Pro Bowl invitations with the Vikings, Falcons and 49ers during his 14-year NFL career, and was the NFC defensive player of the year in 1992 while with Minnesota.
Only the Seattle Seahawks' Michael Sinclair (16 1/2 sacks) and White (16) had more sacks than Doleman last season. Greene and the New York Giants' Michael Strahan tied Doleman with 15 sacks each. The Redskins had 33 sacks last season, the fifth-lowest team total in the NFL. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said Monday that he is installing a more aggressive, attacking system for this season.