Washington Redskins director of player personnel Vinny Cerrato said today that the team will continue to try to negotiate a multiyear contract with running back Stephen Davis before its Feb. 10 deadline to name Davis the club's franchise player.
But, according to team sources, most Redskins officials are pessimistic that they can complete an agreement with Davis and agent Steve Weinberg, and believe the club probably will make Davis the franchise player. Weinberg said today his response to Davis being named the Redskins' franchise player would be to try to find another NFL team willing to sign him as a free agent.
Meanwhile, NFL Players Association Executive Director Gene Upshaw said he hopes the league will reduce Redskins guard Tre Johnson's $50,000 fine and one-game suspension. Upshaw called the penalty "probably the most severe fine" that an NFL player has received for on-the-field conduct.
Also, the Redskins completed their coaching staff by hiring defensive backs coach Ron Meeks and defensive line coach Mike Trgovac. Each signed a two-year contract.
The contract negotiations with Davis have been postponed until after the Super Bowl. That will give the sides only 11 days to complete a long-term deal before the Redskins would name Davis--who is eligible for unrestricted free agency--their franchise player. The NFL free agent signing period begins on Feb. 11.
"I think there are two people that want to get a deal done," Cerrato said. "Any time there are two sides that want to get a deal done, there's a chance it will get done."
Davis and Weinberg reiterated today they were disappointed and upset by the five-year, approximately $16 million contract proposal that the Redskins made on Monday. Davis said he remains hopeful that Weinberg will complete a deal with the Redskins, but added: "If we don't get anything done, they will franchise me. I know that. There's nothing I can do about it. We'll see what our options are."
Weinberg and Davis stopped short of threatening a training camp holdout if the Redskins make Davis their franchise player.
As the franchise player, Davis would have a salary of about $3.7 million next season. The Redskins would have the right to retain him by matching any contract offer by another team, and any other club signing Davis would have to surrender two first-round draft choices as compensation. Davis, 25, had a salary of $934,000 this season and won the NFC rushing title.
"The ball's in their court," Weinberg said. ". . . He's a free agent come the 11th. I'll go out and find a team that will sign him. The Redskins have three first-round draft picks. I don't know why they would need two more. We thought they were going to make us an offer on Monday to make Stephen a lifelong Redskin. It didn't happen."
Weinberg said he made offers to the Redskins on Monday for a six- or 10-year deal. According to sources, Redskins officials also were unhappy about how far apart the sides were during Monday's negotiating session.
Johnson has appealed the fine and suspension from the opening game of next season imposed upon him by the NFL for his part in the fight between Redskins and Detroit Lions players during a first-round playoff game on Jan. 8. Johnson was punished for fighting and for striking an official inadvertently during the fracas.
Upshaw said during a news conference today: "We will be in there trying to get that fine reduced. That fine is probably the most severe fine that any player has ever gotten as far as the conduct there."
Johnson's suspension will cost him about $135,000 in lost salary. It is among the highest penalties in NFL history for an on-field incident. The league will conduct a hearing before Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, or an NFL official assigned by Tagliabue, on Johnson's appeal.
Meeks, the Atlanta Falcons' defensive backs coach the past three seasons, said the Redskins likely will replace free safety Leomont Evans, a restricted free agent.
"Obviously, they think he has not been a guy that is going to get them to the next level," Meeks said.
Trgovac had been on the coaching staffs of new Redskins defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes in Philadelphia and Green Bay.
Staff writer Liz Clarke contributed to this report.