The only mammoth contract that the Washington Redskins have handed out thus far in their frantic race to bolster their roster in recent days went to a player at one of the least glamorous positions on the field. But the new starting right guard, Randy Thomas, made no apologies yesterday for his new seven-year, $28 million deal.
"I'm going to be worth all of it," Thomas said at his introductory news conference at Redskins Park.
The Redskins have acquired five players since the NFL's trading and free agent signing period began Friday. They added speed to Coach Steve Spurrier's offense by trading for running back Trung Canidate, and they got two starters for their defensive line by signing end Regan Upshaw and tackle Brandon Noble as free agents. But the signings of Thomas and left guard Dave Fiore could end up being the more significant moves.
A year ago, the Redskins bypassed their glaring needs at guard to address other deficiencies, and the two guard spots were major problem areas all season. Now the Redskins believe they have assembled one of the better offensive lines in the league to protect young quarterback Patrick Ramsey.
"Certainly the two guards we've been able to sign are considered two of the best in the league," Spurrier said. "I really believe they're going to help us tremendously. This could help solidify our offensive team a lot. . . . I hope it means we're going to have a very good offensive line. It looks like we're going to. Of course, they have to stay healthy and play well."
Thomas, a starter the past four seasons for the New York Jets, was regarded by many scouts as the top guard available in the unrestricted free agent market. At least six other teams were interested in signing him. But Redskins owner Daniel Snyder made Thomas's first free agent visit his last free agent visit by agreeing to a deal that includes a $7 million signing bonus.
"There was a lot of love and attention," Thomas said. "I just felt the vibe that this is the place. . . . They made the right deal. I didn't have to go anywhere else. That's what I love about the guy running this place."
Thomas said he wants to be a leader on an offensive line that also includes Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels and steady right tackle Jon Jansen, who was signed to a six-year, $25 million contract extension late last season.
"I want to lead this offensive line to be the best it's going to be," Thomas said. "I've got to do my job, and the people around me have to do their jobs to make me better. . . . You're going to see a guy who's very dedicated to his job and his team, and has a commitment to winning."
Thomas, like the other free agents courted by the Redskins, was brought to the Washington area on Snyder's personal jet, and Snyder and other club officials left the training facility last night looking weary after a string of late nights working the phones.
"We were organized," said Vinny Cerrato, the Redskins' director of player personnel. "We knew what we wanted. We've known what we wanted for about 21/2 weeks. The names were familiar to everyone. There were no surprises. . . . Last year, we waited on the guards until June. This year, our motto was identify and attack. If you sit back and wait, you're not going to get the Randy Thomases. You're not going to get the guys you want. Our goal is to win here. We want to win big."