- The Washington Times - Friday, June 30, 2000

The Washington Redskins are set to wrap up their free-agent signing spree, with veteran tight end Irv Smith in line for a minimum-wage deal after satisfactorily slimming down for team officials.

Smith, 28, weighed 265 pounds in the middle of last week, just five off the 260 the Redskins wanted him to weigh by Saturday. No contract has been finalized, and Smith is not scheduled to come back to Washington for a weigh-in, but team and league sources say the deal will happen.

"I am confident it will happen," one league source said. "There is a very strong mutual interest, and if everything goes according to plan it should work out."

The deal is expected to be a one-year contract for $440,000, the league minimum for veterans of five or more years, sources said.

The signing of Smith, a seven-year veteran, likely marks the final acquisition this offseason for the Redskins, team sources said. Earlier, they signed name veterans Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith, Mark Carrier, Jeff George and Adrian Murrell, as well as role players Nolan Harrison, Jay Leeuwenburg and Tyronne Drakeford.

Now the Redskins' biggest challenge is to sign three key in-house players rookies LaVar Arrington and Chris Samuels, plus running back Stephen Davis, their franchise player before training camp begins July 20.

Talks have continued with Arrington and Samuels. The Redskins appear willing to pay high bonuses to each approaching $10 million for Samuels, and a bit more than $10 million for Arrington. Such a bonus for Arrington would top the $10 million Courtney Brown, the No. 1 overall pick, received from Cleveland. No deal is imminent for either Redskins rookie.

Meanwhile, talks remain stalled with Davis. The featured back, who rushed for a team-record 1,405 yards last season, can play for the one-year tender offer of $3.532 million but wants a long-term deal with a big bonus. Such a contract would help the Redskins lower the cap impact of Davis' contract, but Davis is seeking a bonus ($10 million) that is double the Redskins' most recent offer, league sources have said.

The Redskins already have paid bonuses of $8 million to Sanders, $4.25 million to Bruce Smith, $3 million to Carrier, $3 million to Marco Coleman and $2 million to George. Longtime Redskin Darrell Green also received a $2 million bonus in a contract restructuring that lowered his cap impact $500,000. Davis, a league source said, considers the $8 million bonus to Sanders a "benchmark for what he can get."

The stalemate between Davis' agent, Steve Weinberg, and the Redskins' new negotiators on the contract, owner Dan Snyder and player personnel director Vinny Cerrato, is expected to continue until almost July 15 the date when the Redskins can sign Davis and then use the franchise tag on another player next season, perhaps quarterback Brad Johnson. Johnson is in the last season of a contract and would like a multiyear extension.

If the Redskins were to sign Davis to a multiyear deal before July 15, they would lose the franchise tag for the remainder of his contract. Player development director Joe Mendes, who negotiates most Redskins contracts and is working on the Arrington and Samuels deals, is no longer negotiating the Davis contract, sources said.

Irv Smith likely will replace nine-year veteran James Jenkins, though Jenkins may make the 80-man training camp roster. Rookie free agent Kevin Pesak split time with Jenkins, a block-first tight end, on the second string during this month's quarterback schools.

Pesak would save the Redskins approximately $380,000 over Jenkins against the salary cap. The release of Jenkins would leave the Redskins with just one holdover, Green, from the Joe Gibbs era.

This is not Irv Smith's first experience with an weight-loss mandate. He came to San Francisco's minicamp in 1998 weighing 280, sources said, but got himself down to 253 by the start of training camp. This month, after working out for the Redskins on June 6, he lost eight pounds the following week.

Smith started and played in 13 games for Cleveland last season, catching 24 passes for 222 yards. The 6-foot-3 player was taken 20th overall out of Notre Dame in the first round of the 1993 draft. He played his first five years for the team that drafted him, New Orleans.

Note Martina McBride; Blood, Sweat & Tears; and Montell Jordan will perform at a concert after the Redskins' July 28 scrimmage with Baltimore at FedEx Field. Admission to the scrimmage and concert is $20.

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