The Washington Redskins are attempting to sign speedy free agent wide receiver Raghib Ismail, who was released by the Dallas Cowboys. Ismail visited Redskins Park yesterday and left without signing, but team officials are hopeful of completing a deal.
The Redskins also have a pair of guards -- the New York Jets' Randy Thomas and Dave Fiore, who was released by the San Francisco 49ers -- high on their list of priorities as the NFL's free agent market opens today. Club officials are resigned to losing defensive tackle Daryl Gardener as an unrestricted free agent, perhaps by early next week.
The team will be looking to sign a free agent lineman or two and a safety. But the Redskins' top goal is to upgrade Coach Steve Spurrier's offense by adding wide receivers, guards and a veteran backup quarterback.
Ismail, 33, met with Redskins officials yesterday and underwent a physical. He sat out last season after undergoing neck surgery in August. The Cowboys released him to clear $2.1 million in salary cap space, but appear interested in re-signing him.
Ismail "will do his due diligence," said Lon Babby, his Washington attorney. Signing with the Redskins "is certainly an intriguing possibility."
If healthy, Ismail would give the Redskins more speed at wide receiver, which they lacked last season. In nine seasons for the Los Angeles and Oakland Raiders, Carolina Panthers and Cowboys, Ismail has 363 catches for 5,295 yards and 28 touchdowns. In 2001, his last season, he had 53 receptions for 834 yards and two touchdowns for Dallas. He had 80 catches for the Cowboys in 1999, including a 76-yard touchdown pass in overtime that beat the Redskins in Daniel Snyder's first game as owner. Vinny Cerrato, the Redskins' director of player personnel, recruited Ismail to Notre Dame.
The Redskins lost a prospective wide receiver when the Buffalo Bills placed their franchise-player tag on Peerless Price. The Arizona Cardinals did not place their franchise-player label on wideout David Boston. But he would be costly and is not the quick, shifty wide receiver that the Redskins seek. Sources say the Redskins are interested in New York Giants free agent Ike Hilliard, who played for Spurrier at the University of Florida. Another free agent possibility is the Tennessee Titans' Kevin Dyson.
The Redskins hope to move quickly to fill their needs at guard, and Thomas and the Oakland Raiders' Mo Collins are regarded as the best available. The 49ers released Fiore to save $2.5 million of salary cap room. He has been a starter for most of his seven-year NFL career and can play either guard spot.
At quarterback, Spurrier has said he would consider signing Kordell Stewart, who was cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers, but Stewart has said he wants to be a starter. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers starter Shaun King is interested in the Redskins.
The Redskins also could add a tailback if they don't trust Ladell Betts and Kenny Watson to split the running duties alone after the departure of Stephen Davis, who was released Wednesday. Denver's Olandis Gary could be a candidate. Gary (Riverdale Baptist High) had 1,159 rushing yards for the Broncos as a rookie in 1999 but has had only 455 rushing yards in three injury-filled seasons since then.
Redskins Notes: The club retained its right to keep safety David Terrell, a restricted free agent, by matching any contract offer from another team. The Redskins made Terrell the required one-year, $605,000 contract offer. They did not make an offer to their other restricted free agent, wide receiver Chris Doering, making it unlikely that Doering will be re-signed.