The Washington Redskins do not expect first-round draft pick Sean Taylor to be present for the start of a three-day passing camp today but were continuing negotiations with the safety through last night. Team officials made it clear to Taylor's agents at the start of negotiations last week that they hoped to have a deal completed by the start of this camp, but the sides were unable to complete a deal in that span.
Taylor, the fifth overall pick out of the University of Miami, is expected to remain at his Florida home while contract talks continue. He will likely command a $13 million to $15 million signing bonus and salary package worth about $20 million, figures that continue to be hashed out. The Redskins begin their full training camp Saturday, with players reporting on Friday, and are aiming to have Taylor signed by then. Vinny Cerrato, the team's vice president of football operations, declined to comment on the matter last night, but sources said talks between the team and Taylor's agents, Jeffrey Moorad and Eugene Mato, were ongoing.
While this three-day camp is geared primarily for quarterbacks and wide receivers, other team personnel will be used as well.
However, the full roster is not required to attend and all of passing camp is closed to the media and public. Coach Joe Gibbs, who took the team to three Super Bowl wins in his first tenure as coach, is preparing for his first training camp since retiring from coaching 11 years ago and will begin two-a-day sessions Saturday. Washington opens its preseason schedule on Aug. 9, and the staff expects to push the players hard after giving them about four weeks off for vacation.
Gibbs and the coaches began trickling back into town over the weekend.
Players not participating in the passing camp could also begin workouts and training sessions at Redskins Park this week, although full team activities do not begin until Friday. Sessions will be open to the public beginning Saturday and Gibbs's return has sparked renewed optimism for the upcoming season after Washington posted a disappointing 5-11 mark last season under coach Steve Spurrier.
Training camp will provide the final evaluation period for the coaches, and there are several important decisions that must be made. Incumbent quarterback Patrick Ramsey faces a stiff challenge from veteran Mark Brunell, a former all-pro performer in Jacksonville who was signed to a seven-year, $43 million contract in the offseason. Gibbs has a deep group of wide receivers and tight ends to sort through before settling on a 53-man roster, while the defensive players are getting acclimated to Greg Williams, the team's assistant head coach-defense, who was the head coach in Buffalo last season.
Key players such as wide receiver Laveranues Coles, defensive tackle Brandon Noble and defensive backs Shawn Springs and Walt Harris are among those battling injuries. Harris, for example, was unable to participate in any of the previous mini camps since being signed from Indianapolis because of a knee injury.
Many of the players will be participating in their first training camp with the Redskins, as about a third of the roster was overhauled since last season.
Taylor is the only unsigned player. Third-round pick Chris Cooley, a tight end, signed a four-year deal over the weekend and offensive lineman Mark Wilson, a fifth-round pick, signed his three-year deal earlier last week. Taylor is also the only of Washington's draft picks projected as an immediate starter, although missing the start of passing camp will not help his cause with Gibbs.
The coach has been adamant about getting players in camp on time.
Should Taylor fail to agree to contract terms by Saturday the situation would become more serious. The Redskins do not have much time to prepare for their preseason opener -- against Denver in the annual Hall of Fame game -- and it is imperative for young players to be on the field for all training sessions and in attendance for all team meetings.
The coaches are continuing to teach the players their system and will move at a much swifter pace installing game plans. The basics are already in place after three mini-camps and 12 days of "organized team activities," which amount to practices.