The Washington Redskins were back at it on the final day of the NFL's restricted free agent market, albeit on a much smaller scale, signing Miami Dolphins reserve defensive tackle Jermaine Haley yesterday to a four-year contract offer sheet worth nearly $4 million.
The Dolphins have until next Friday, the day before the draft, to keep Haley by matching the Redskins' offer, which includes a signing bonus of $650,000. The Redskins would owe Miami a seventh-round draft choice next weekend as compensation if they acquire Haley, 30. The league's deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets was last night.
Haley traveled to the Washington area yesterday morning after his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, agreed to the deal. Haley underwent a physical and met with team officials at Redskins Park.
He would serve as the Redskins' third tackle, sharing playing time with starters Dan Wilkinson and Brandon Noble. He was a backup for Miami last season behind starters Tim Bowens and Larry Chester, and became expendable when the Dolphins signed defensive tackle Jeff Zgonina as an unrestricted free agent. Haley said the opportunity for playing time and the chance to reunite with Redskins defensive line coach Robert Nunn, a Dolphins assistant the past three seasons, were the major factors in his decision.
"What I wanted from Miami the last two years I was there, I didn't get," Haley said. "I thought I busted my butt and worked hard for them, and didn't play as much as I wanted to play and thought I should play."
Dolphins officials said they will make a decision next week. Miami retained its right to keep Haley by matching any offer from another club -- and to receive a draft pick as compensation if he signs elsewhere -- by making him a one-year, $605,000 contract tender for next season.
The Dolphins apparently would like to receive a fifth- or sixth-round draft choice in exchange for agreeing not to match the offer. The pick likely would have to be in the 2004 draft, since the Redskins have only four selections remaining next weekend -- one pick each in the second and third rounds and a pair of seventh-round choices. Rosenhaus said it was not clear whether a trade would be worked out, or whether the Dolphins would match the offer. "I think the Redskins and Dolphins are talking," he said.
Haley said: "I don't know what they're going to do. They've done a lot of strange things already. . . . I hope they don't match the offer."
The Redskins' offer is worth $3.95 million and includes a $450,000 salary for the 2003 season, meaning that Haley would count $612,500 against next season's salary cap. The Dolphins have slightly more than $2.5 million in available salary cap space, and Haley's 2003 cap charge under this contract is only $7,500 more than it would have been under his contract tender.
Haley has spent three seasons with the Dolphins after two seasons with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. He was a seventh-round draft choice by the Dolphins in 1999.
He would be the fourth restricted free agent acquired by the Redskins this offseason. If the Redskins don't get Haley, they could sign an unrestricted free agent defensive tackle. They already have auditioned one, Darius Holland, and are scheduled to have another, Michael Myers, in for a workout next week.
Redskins Notes: The Redskins retained their lone restricted free agent, safety David Terrell, when he abandoned talks with the San Diego Chargers on a prospective offer sheet a few hours before the midnight deadline. He is scheduled to have contract discussions with the Redskins next week and probably will sign their one-year, $605,000 tender offer. The Redskins, meantime, were close to re-signing reserve linebacker Kevin Mitchell, an unrestricted free agent.