The Washington Times - April 8, 2009, 12:00PM

With five-year starting linebacker Marcus Washington balking at returning for their low-budget offer after being cut in February, the Redskins signed former Rams and Raiders linebacker Robert Thomas this morning.

The 6-foot, 235-pound Thomas wasn’t on the official free agent list because he was cut off injured reserve by Oakland last December. Eeerily, the player the Raiders signed to replace Thomas with, Marquis Cooper, was one of those who recently drowned on a fishing trip.

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Thomas was defending NFC champion St. Louis’ first-round pick in the 2002 draft and his struggles mirrored those of the Rams, who have never recaptured that championship form. Thomas started 30 games during his three years in St. Louis but didn’t make much of an impact.

The former UCLA star moved on to Green Bay in 2005 and then to Oakland in 2006. He started 10 games for the sad-sack Raiders in 2007 but got into just two games last season before suffering a season-ending injury against Atlanta on Nov. 2.

Still, Thomas, who’ll be 29 in July, has a chance to start for the Redskins at Washington’s former strong side spot. His only current competition is 5-foot-10 H.B. Blades, career special-teamer Alfred Fincher and the untested Tyson Smith.

Thomas made the news off the field last year for suing a breeder because she sold him a deaf bulldog for $2,500. The breeder refused to give Thomas a refund when he returned the dog, claiming the dog was healthy when it was sold and that the contract had a no-refund clause. She in turn said Thomas mistreated the dog.

- David Elfin