Washington Redskins officials are increasingly interested in obtaining San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice, sources close to the front office said today.
The Redskins' interest in trading for another prominent wide receiver, Joey Galloway, has cooled because club officials believe the Seattle Seahawks want too much, sources said.
The NFL free agent signing period will begin Feb. 11, and teams are permitted to resume making trades the same day. The Redskins' primary offseason focus will be trying to re-sign most of their own free agents, including running back Stephen Davis, and using their three first-round picks in April's college draft to improve a team that won the NFC East title this season. But club officials apparently would like to make a major acquisition or two aside from the draft, and Rice now seems to be near the top of the Redskins' wish list.
He is the NFL's all-time leading receiver with 1,206 catches for 18,442 yards. But he's 37 and nearing the end of his career, and he might not fit into the 49ers' plans as they prepare to rebuild amid extreme salary cap problems.
Still, Rice had a team-leading 67 receptions for 830 yards and five touchdowns for San Francisco this season, and the Redskins believe he might fit nicely into their passing offense alongside wide receivers Michael Westbrook and Albert Connell.
Redskins officials declined to comment today, saying they didn't want to be guilty of tampering because Rice is under contract with the 49ers. Rice's agent, Jim Steiner, declined to comment this afternoon, and Rice was not available to comment.
Rice has said he wants to play next season. His 49ers tenure could end because of salary cap considerations, but Rice has told friends that he would be willing to play for another team.
League sources said it's unlikely that Rice will be released by the 49ers. The Redskins and 49ers have been discussing a trade of draft choices in which the Redskins would surrender the 12th and 24th selections--and possibly additional considerations, such as a player or a third-round pick--and receive the third overall choice from the 49ers. The Redskins apparently intend to select Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington with the second pick in the draft, and probably would use the third choice on Penn State defensive end Courtney Brown.
The Redskins got good production from Westbrook and Connell this season, and veteran wide receiver Irving Fryar played well late in the season after being signed out of retirement during training camp. But the Redskins apparently remain interested in adding to their receiving corps. They offered a first-round draft choice to the Seahawks for Galloway during the season.
According to sources, the Redskins are convinced that Seattle wants more than they're willing to surrender. Sources said the Redskins, at most, would part with the 24th pick for Galloway, and might not be willing to surrender a first-round selection at all.
The Seahawks and Galloway are in a dispute about whether Galloway fulfilled the final year on his contract this season and qualifies for free agency. The Seahawks maintain that, because of Galloway's holdout, he should have another season remaining on his contract. Galloway's side maintains he should be eligible for free agency. NFL Players Association officials say they expect a ruling on the dispute within a few weeks.
Even if Galloway is declared a free agent, the Seahawks likely would make Galloway their franchise player. That would require any team signing Galloway to surrender two first-round draft choices to the Seahawks, or lesser compensation if the clubs could work out a deal.
The Redskins completed next season's coaching staff today, meantime, by announcing the signing of defensive line coach Mike Trgovac to a two-year contract. Also, former Redskins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan interviewed with the New York Jets the past two days, and is scheduled to visit the Atlanta Falcons on Monday.
Trgovac played for Bo Schembechler at Michigan and spent the past five seasons on the coaching staffs of new Redskins defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes in Philadelphia and Green Bay. He said he foresees no problems working alongside the Redskins' other defensive line coach, Rubin Carter.
"I don't think either of us has an ego," Trgovac said.
One of his biggest tasks will be helping Rhodes find ways to get improved production out of tackles Dana Stubblefield and Dan Wilkinson.
"I think they have some outstanding qualities," Trgovac said. "We have some different things we might do for them, and hopefully it will be a plus."