- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 24, 2001

The Washington Redskins are close to signing wide receiver Darnerian McCants, their fifth-round draft pick.

Agent Harold Lewis and the club agreed on two workable deals yesterday, and Lewis was preparing last night to let McCants decide between them. An announcement could come today.

"It's up to Darnerian now," Lewis said by phone. "He has to make up his mind."

McCants, an athletic 6-foot-3 wideout out of Delaware State, would become the second of five Redskins picks to sign. Already under contract is sixth-round defensive tackle Mario Monds.

Meanwhile, Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer sounded less than optimistic that all four unsigned picks would participate Thursday in the first of three days of pre-training camp practices.

Asked how confident he is that each rookie will be signed tomorrow, when rookies, quarterbacks and selected veterans report to Redskin Park, Schottenheimer replied, "I don't know, and I guess that would indicate that I'm not real confident, because there's a lot of things that have to fall in place.

"We'd like to have everybody here so we can get off on the same foot," he added. "But on the other hand, we have to make sure we make decisions that are in the best interest of the Redskins."

Washington's other unsigned picks are first-round wide receiver Rod Gardner, second-round cornerback Fred Smoot and fourth-round quarterback Sage Rosenfels.

Negotiations with Rosenfels and McCants have gone on for several weeks, and Rosenfels should come to an agreement in the next few days. But it is unclear whether Gardner and Smoot will report tomorrow, and whether they will become holdouts when full-squad camp opens Monday in Carlisle, Pa.

Talks with Smoot, in particular, could be difficult because agent Zach Hirsch has said his client is seeking first-round money. However, Hirsch said yesterday that he has exchanged verbal proposals with the club and that he is "80 percent confident" Smoot will report tomorrow.

Schottenheimer, for his part, wouldn't engage in such predictions.

"You know, I don't ever get bogged down or worried about what might be," Schottenheimer said. "You just keep working each day to resolve issues and solve problems. They either get done and you put them behind you, or they're not done and you keep working on them… . We'd like to get them all signed, but I can't stand here today and tell you that it'll happen."

Schottenheimer, speaking on his first day back at Redskin Park following 5* weeks mostly out of town and on vacation, also said he would not be making a move with cornerback Deion Sanders, who must report to Carlisle with the rest of the veterans Sunday.

"I don't know anything more [about Sanders' situation] now than I did before," Schottenheimer said. "We're planning on going in on the 29th, and we'll see what happens."

Schottenheimer said he has received one phone call from Sanders' agent, Eugene Parker, but the coach did not divulge what was said. Schottenheimer added that he has not spoken to Sanders.

The trigger in Sanders' situation could be the need to sign Gardner and Smoot. Washington has only about $550,000 of cap room, and it will need about $1.1 million more than that to sign its picks. To get that space the club must release Sanders or renegotiate the contracts of several veterans.

The Redskins seem to have been playing a waiting game, trying to see whether Sanders would breach his contract by failing to report to camp or surrender part of his bonus to be cut. But league sources say Sanders is fully prepared to report in order to protect the prorated portion of his signing bonus, $6.857 million.

If Sanders is late to camp, the Redskins could file a grievance and ask for the entire prorated share. The club also could fine him for each day he is late. However, one league source said Sanders will report on time to eliminate the possibility of a grievance.

Schottenheimer sounded content to hold off on signing another running back until after camp starts. The Redskins have shown interest in NFL Europe standout Madre Hill, but Hill last night was traveling to work out for the Jacksonville Jaguars. A signing no longer appeared likely.

"I'm not sure [the Redskins are] no longer interested [in Hill] because of the trade [last week for Robert Arnaud]," agent Rich De Luca said by phone. "But there appears to be less interest."

Note The Redskins released receiver Tyrone Goodson.

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