Wide receiver Albert Connell has played his way off the trading block. Washington Redskins officials remain interested in holdout Joey Galloway of Seattle but, after Connell's fine performance in Sunday's overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys, no longer are willing to include Connell in their trade offer, sources close to the situation said yesterday.
The Redskins would part with first- and third-round draft choices if the Seahawks make Galloway available next week, sources said. The Redskins, according to sources, also remain interested in running back Barry Sanders but think there's little or no chance the Detroit Lions will trade him.
Even with the regular season under way, Redskins officials still are attempting to upgrade the team. The Redskins made a contract offer worth up to $1 million to veteran safety Merton Hanks last week after he was released by the San Francisco 49ers, sources said yesterday, but Hanks signed with the Seahawks for a deal that could be worth about $1.5 million with incentives.
Seahawks coach and general manager Mike Holmgren repeatedly has said publicly he doesn't intend to trade Galloway. But the Redskins haven't given up hope of adding Galloway to a wide receiver corps that includes Michael Westbrook, Connell and Irving Fryar. The Redskins were told the Seahawks would make a final decision regarding Galloway following their second game of the season.
The Redskins had hoped the Seahawks would win their first two games, believing that would increase the chances of Seattle trading Galloway. But the Seahawks opened the season Sunday with a loss to the Lions. They play at Chicago this weekend.
Connell declined to comment yesterday. But his play against the Cowboys spoke volumes. He had four receptions for 137 yards, his single-game best in the NFL. He made an acrobatic catch between two defenders for a 50-yard touchdown that increased the Redskins' lead to 35-14 entering the fourth quarter. The Cowboys won, 41-35, in overtime, but the Redskins at least could be encouraged by the performances of Connell, Westbrook and quarterback Brad Johnson.
"We had a good mix in the passing game Sunday," Coach Norv Turner said yesterday. "I think we're getting more balance in the passing game. It was nice to see the capability of making big plays up the field."
The Redskins entered the season confident they would have an effective short passing game with Johnson dumping the ball to tight end Stephen Alexander and running backs Larry Centers and Brian Mitchell. But while Centers had six catches Sunday, Alexander had only one and Mitchell didn't have any.
Club officials were more concerned about Connell and Westbrook entering the season, not because of their talent but because neither had proven to be a consistent NFL pass catcher. Westbrook was every bit as good as Connell Sunday, with five receptions for 159 yards and a touchdown.
"It meant nothing because we lost," Westbrook said yesterday. "It wasn't a surprise to me. I've been saying all along we have a good offense. We have a much better offensive line. We have a solid quarterback, and we have two very good receivers. There's no question we're going to keep it up."
The Redskins faced a Cowboys team missing its best lineman, tackle Leon Lett, and both starting cornerbacks, Deion Sanders and Kevin Smith. Sunday, the Redskins will face a New York Giants defense that, even without injured cornerback Jason Sehorn, scored two touchdowns in a season-opening win at Tampa Bay. Turner and Johnson hope to get contributions again from Westbrook and Connell.
"I see a lot of talent in those guys," Johnson said. "I think they're ready for breakout-type years. [But] you don't get carried away with one game, whether it's good or bad. The key is consistency."
The Redskins have offered the Seahawks a first-round pick for Galloway, and had left open the possibility of adding Connell to that proposal. Now, however, sources say the Redskins plan to add a third-round draft selection to their offer. They have three first-round choices in next April's college draft.
They offered a first-round pick to the Lions for Sanders. But the Lions indicated they wouldn't trade him, and Sanders, even with the NFL's career rushing record in sight, retired rather than playing another season in Detroit.
He reportedly has offered to return $5.4 million of an $11 million signing bonus to the Lions if they trade or release him. But Lions officials say they don't intend to accommodate Sanders's request, and sources said Redskins officials aren't optimistic Sanders will be available. The Redskins started Stephen Davis at tailback against the Cowboys, and he provided a career-high 109 rushing yards and two touchdowns.