- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 13, 2003

Wide receiver Derrius Thompson appears increasingly likely to depart the Washington Redskins when free agency begins later this month.
The Redskins have had no conversations with Thompson about re-signing, NFL sources said yesterday. The club's lack of attention signals that the promising young wideout, a first-year starter who finished last season strong, probably will leave when he becomes an unrestricted free agent Feb.28.
Thompson caught 53 passes for 773 yards and four touchdowns. More than half his production came in the last five games as coach Steve Spurrier learned how to use bigger receivers, rookie quarterback Patrick Ramsey emerged as the starter and Thompson grew more comfortable.
Spurrier said late in the year that he wanted Thompson back, but the Redskins have ignored him this offseason while conducting on-and-off dialogue with defensive linemen Daryl Gardener and Carl Powell. Conversations with both Gardener and Powell have occurred in recent days.
Washington seems determined to reconstruct the receiving corps after an uneven first year under Spurrier. Rod Gardner (71 catches, 1,006 yards, eight touchdowns) was the only standout as Spurrier experimented with his former stars at Florida and searched for the right run-pass balance.
Thompson could get some interest on the market because of his age (25), size (6-foot-2, 216 pounds) and the relative lack of available players at the position. The only stars scheduled to become unrestricted free agents are Buffalo's Peerless Price and Arizona's David Boston, and each could be limited by a franchise or transition tag from his current team.
Price appears to be Washington's target, but a recent report said the Bills were leaning toward using the franchise tag. Even if he becomes available, he would command a huge contract thanks to the lack of available wideouts and his big numbers last year (94 catches for 1,252 yards and nine TDs).
If Price is unavailable, the Redskins could pursue the next tier of unrestricted free agents, which includes players like the New York Giants' Ike Hilliard (another former Gator) and Tennessee's Kevin Dyson. Also, the restricted free agent market should be particularly strong at wide receiver, though prying restricted free agents from their current clubs is costly.
The Redskins' other option is using their first-round draft pick, No.13 overall, on a wide receiver, though they will have to consider a defensive tackle at that spot if Gardener doesn't re-sign.
Meanwhile, Washington's preseason schedule is out. The club plays at Carolina, vs. New England, vs. Baltimore and at Jacksonville. For now, the games are scheduled by week; exact dates and times should be out in the spring.

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