The Washington Redskins signed Irving Fryar yesterday, bringing the seventh-leading wide receiver in NFL history out of a brief retirement. Fryar, who turns 37 next month, signed a three-year contract for salary cap purposes, but both sides said it only is a one-year commitment.
Meanwhile, Vinny Cerrato, the Redskins' director of player personnel, said the team won't sign Chris Doleman unless the defensive end lowers his salary demands. Doleman's Washington-based agent, David Falk, said Wednesday it would take a one-year contract worth $3 million to $4 million to coax Doleman, 37, out of retirement.
Fryar passed a physical yesterday and met with Cerrato, Coach Norv Turner and owner Daniel Snyder after arriving at Redskin Park early in the evening.
"They expect me to come in and help," said Fryar, whose 48 receptions for the Philadelphia Eagles last season brought his career total to 784. "Last year was the worst year of my life. I intend to come in and have some fun. . . . I'm not coming here to start. I'm coming here to help. I'm not coming here to make any trouble or make any waves."
Fryar signed a contract that includes a $600,000 signing bonus and a $400,000 salary for the upcoming season, plus incentives. The total package is worth $6 million, with salaries of $2 million next season and $3 million in 2001. But Redskins officials said they consider it a one-year arrangement. Fryar's agent, Michael George, said Fryar is leaving open the possibility of playing the 2000 season but does not intend to fulfill the third year of the contract.
Fryar said: "I don't really see it going beyond this season."
Because his signing bonus is spread over three seasons, under the league's accounting procedures, Fryar will count only $600,000 against the salary cap this year.
The Redskins plan to play Fryar in their third preseason game Aug. 28 at Pittsburgh. Fryar likely will be third on the depth chart behind starters Michael Westbrook and Albert Connell. Turner talked about using more formations with three wide receivers and didn't rule out the possibility of Fryar becoming a starter.
"I hope these decisions are made over the next three weeks based on how guys perform," Turner said. "I've said all along I like our receivers. They've been making plays throughout [training] camp, and I think they will continue to make plays. . . . If you have Albert, Irving Fryar and Michael Westbrook on the field together, that's even better."
Connell, who said earlier in training camp he was upset the Redskins were attempting to trade for a wide receiver, left Redskin Park today without speaking to reporters. Other members of the receiving corps took Fryar's arrival in stride.
"Any time you have a good receiver, that's going to help the team win," backup wideout James Thrash said. "I'm going to compete hard regardless. I'm sure anybody with that type of experience can help the rest of us."
Said Terry Robiskie, the passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach: "Like I told my guys, `You can't sit around saying Irving Fryar is going to take your job. You've got to say it's your job.' He's always had heart, and he's always had desire. He probably still has enough ability to have a Pro Bowl year. But he's not coming in to be the show. He's coming in to be part of the show."
Fryar's production slipped during a turbulent 1998 season in Philadelphia, but in '97 he had 86 catches and was selected to the Pro Bowl for the fifth time. He's 30 catches behind Henry Ellard for sixth place and 35 behind Steve Largent for fifth on the NFL's all-time list.
"He commands respect," Redskins quarterback Brad Johnson said. "It's earned. He gives us one more weapon."
The Patriots and Oakland Raiders also attempted to lure Fryar back for a 16th NFL season.
"There is no other team I would have gone to," Fryar said. "I was not going to shop myself around the league and move my family again. . . . It's an opportunity to be with a team that is going to make a difference this year."
According to Fryar, the Eagles had threatened to release him if he didn't retire following last season. He had starting doing some work for a Philadelphia television station, and he said he had begun to accept life away from football.
"I didn't retire because I wanted to," Fryar said. "I retired because I had to make a choice. . . . I had gotten to the point where I thought it was over, and things weren't bothering me. I was fine."
The Redskins also would love to sign Doleman, who had 15 sacks for the San Francisco 49ers last season. But Falk refused to budge on his salary demands when negotiations resumed this week, and Cerrato said Doleman and Falk must lower their salary demands for negotiations to proceed.
Asked whether a deal can get done, Cerrato said: "Not at the current numbers. Unless something changes, it will have a hard time getting done. . . . We're not going to negotiate in public."