The Washington Redskins are again considering signing free agent wide receiver Raghib Ismail, who might reverse his decision to retire.
Ismail has reemerged as a candidate to serve as the team's No. 3 wideout after contacting club officials recently to say he might play next season, sources close to the situation said. The Redskins made a strong push to sign Ismail, 33, in the opening days of the free agent signing period, just after he was released by the Dallas Cowboys, but turned to other options after he told the team he would retire. He sat out all of last season after undergoing surgery in August for a neck injury.
Redskins officials are trying to decide whether Ismail still fits into their plans even as he mulls his future. The matter likely will be resolved early next week, sources said. The team has signed wide receiver Laveranues Coles, a restricted free agent from the New York Jets, to a seven-year, $35 million offer sheet. The Redskins signed wideout Patrick Johnson as an unrestricted free agent and have been negotiating with Kevin Dyson.
The Redskins brought Ismail to town on Feb. 27 on owner Daniel Snyder's private jet and met with him over dinner late that night. Vinny Cerrato, the Redskins' director of player personnel who recruited Ismail at Notre Dame, tried to sell him on remaining in the NFC East and serving as a mentor to some of the club's younger receivers.
But the Redskins were unable to convince him to sign, and Ismail informed the team 11 days ago of his retirement plans. The Redskins brought Dyson, an unrestricted free agent from the Tennessee Titans, to town that night, but were unable to sign him immediately. They turned last weekend to Coles. The Jets have until Wednesday to exercise their right to match the offer and retain Coles. The Jets would receive the Redskins' first-round draft selection in April if they let Coles go.
Coles said this week he expects the Jets to permit him to sign with the Redskins. The Jets continued a visit with Darrell Jackson, a restricted free agent from the Seattle Seahawks, yesterday and might sign him to an offer sheet. That would be a signal that they are planning to let Coles go.
Dyson is scheduled to meet with the Jets this weekend. He also has visited the Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills. It is unclear whether he would be willing to accept a role as the third receiver with the Redskins, behind Coles and Rod Gardner. Redskins wide receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. said this week that the club would be content with Johnson as its No. 3 receiver despite the former sprinter's lack of production in recent seasons.
The Redskins apparently have delayed plans to try to sign kick returner Jermaine Lewis, an unrestricted free agent, until Washington-based arbitrator Richard Bloch determines the fate of Chad Morton, the Jets' kick returner who was signed to a five-year, $8 million offer sheet by the Redskins. The Jets announced Thursday that they were matching the Redskins' offer and keeping Morton, but the NFL Players Association has filed a grievance contending that Morton should be awarded to the Redskins. No hearing had been scheduled as of yesterday.
The Jets, after receiving an interpretation from the league office, did not match a provision in the Redskins' offer to Morton that could have voided the final two seasons of the contract. The union maintains that the provision needed to be matched if the Jets wanted to retain Morton. But sources said yesterday it is unlikely that Morton will be awarded to the Redskins. The arbitrator probably will let the Jets' contract stand as is or force them to include the voidable-years clause, sources said.
The skirmishing between the Jets and Redskins continued yesterday. Sources confirmed a CBS Sportsline report that the Jets have asked the league to look into the Redskins' signing of Coles and determine whether it violated an NFL rule that all contract agreements must be reported to the league office immediately. One attorney familiar with the league's collective bargaining agreement said yesterday, however, that the rule applies only to final contracts, not offer sheets.