The Washington Redskins have made progress in contract negotiations with quarterback Mark Brunell and could complete a restructured deal in the coming days. Brunell, who lost his starting job to Jason Campbell last season and is recovering from shoulder surgery, said he hopes to be with Washington for a fourth season.
"I'm optimistic about getting a deal done," Brunell said.
Coach Joe Gibbs has been a big supporter of Brunell, but with Campbell now the starter and Brunell carrying a $5.2 million salary (and $6.7 million salary cap figure), both sides were amenable to restructuring.
In such a deal, Brunell, 36, likely would end up with a considerably lower cap figure, with a portion of his salary converted into a bonus, and a base salary closer to $1 million. Although he would make much less than $5.2 million, he would have job security for next season and some guaranteed money from the new bonus. Base salaries are not guaranteed in the NFL, and each team must fit under the $109 million salary cap.
Brunell, who has reworked his contract repeatedly in the past, was acquired from Jacksonville shortly after Gibbs returned to coaching in 2004, lost his starting job to Patrick Ramsey midway through that season, became the starter again early in the opening game of the 2005 season and became Campbell's backup in November. Brunell has said previously that Washington was the only team for which he was interested in being a backup in 2007 and that his recovery from labrum surgery is going well.
Should Brunell complete a restructuring, third-string quarterback Todd Collins could opt out of his contract and compete for at least a second-string job elsewhere.
The Redskins are still trying to rework cornerback Shawn Springs's contract, but there has been no progress in that matter this month and Springs could be released in June to alleviate the salary cap hit. The Redskins are expected to make a push to sign free agent cornerback Nate Clements (Buffalo) and many in the organization would be open to bringing back former Redskins cornerback Fred Smoot if he is released by Minnesota this week as expected. The team also approached veteran defensive lineman Renaldo Wynn about taking a cut in his $2 million salary, sources said, and could release place kicker John Hall, wide receiver David Patten and tight end Christian Fauria this week, creating more room to pursue free agents when the signing period opens Friday.
Middle linebacker London Fletcher (Buffalo) is Washington's primary free agent target, team sources said, and a deal with him could be completed by the weekend. The Redskins are expected to pursue help at tight end and possibly defensive end, although they do not have as much available cap space as many other teams in the league at this point and are expected to focus on fewer players than in years past. The team also is attempting to re-sign starting guard Derrick Dockery before Friday -- when he could become an unrestricted free agent.
Redskins Notes: The agent for potential restricted free agent punter Derrick Frost said yesterday that the Redskins informed him the team will submit a qualifying offer this week, retaining Frost's rights. Robert Lattinville, Frost's agent, said the Redskins told him they would submit the low tender ($850,000), which would give Washington the right to match any other offer. Frost is not expected to generate much interest in the free agent market. The team's other restricted free agents -- defensive lineman Ryan Boschetti and offensive lineman Jim Molinaro -- have not received tenders and are not expected to get them by Thursday's deadline. That would allow them to become unrestricted free agents, although the Redskins could re-sign them later this offseason at the veteran minimum.