- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Washington Redskins cornerback Champ Bailey has decided to report to training camp on time this weekend despite concerns about entering the final year of his contract.

Bailey gave brief consideration to using a camp holdout to spark talk for a long-term extension, which to date has been nonexistent. Instead, he will report with the rest of the Redskins veterans and rookies on Sunday, in anticipation of Monday’s start of practices at Redskin Park.

Holdouts are most common among high draft picks, but veterans also can employ such leverage. This offseason, for example, there was discussion in Philadelphia about possible holdouts by running back Duce Staley and cornerback Bobby Taylor (though neither now seems likely). And it isn’t uncommon for a player with the franchise tag, like St. Louis tackle Orlando Pace or Seattle tackle Walter Jones this year, to hold out.

Bailey, after several conversations with agent Jack Reale in recent weeks, decided against the tactic. He reasoned that, at least right now, it doesn’t fit with the image he is trying to maintain.

“Players have to do what they feel is best for themselves,” Reale said yesterday by phone. “Champ likes to conduct himself in a certain way. He viewed staying away from camp as counterproductive, as not consistent with how he wants to be viewed by the Washington Redskins fans. So he’s going to be in camp.”

Bailey and Reale have been waiting all offseason for the Redskins to signal that they are ready to discuss a new deal. But there has been no movement, even though the Redskins’ roster has been more or less set for two months.

Back in mid-May, when Washington was in offseason practices and it was clear Bailey’s future was the next item of business, the cornerback put the onus on the club to make the next move.

“I signed [for] five [years], and whether [the Redskins] talk to me before or after [the deal expires], that’s up to [them],” Bailey said at the time. “You run your business like you want to. I know what I signed, and I know I’m here for five years. If you want it to be longer, come talk to me. But if you don’t, I’ll be gone after five years.”

It wouldn’t make sense to sign Bailey after he hits the market, when he could command a signing bonus of $15million to $20million. However, there is increasing speculation that the Redskins won’t seriously discuss an extension and instead plan to use the franchise tag to keep Bailey from becoming a free agent.

But it would be costly — in more ways than one — to use the tag. To start, franchising Bailey would require about $6million of salary cap space. The move might be possible, but the typically aggressive Redskins would be very limited in what else they could do in free agency. Also hurting them in a franchise situation would be Bailey’s frustration and a potentially damaging or distracting holdout.

Asked whether he believed the Redskins would use the tag, Reale replied, “I think it’s a tool that a team may have under the system, but whether they use it depends on a number of factors. It depends on their cap situation, and it depends on whether it’s the best use of their cap space. The franchise tag is not the most cost-efficient cap mechanism. A team has to make that decision.”

Reale added that negotiations probably would have to come in the next few weeks or after the season. Bailey apparently does not want talks distracting him during the season, as they did at times last year with Redskins tackle Jon Jansen.

Asked when it would be appropriate to discuss an extension, Reale replied, “Before the season begins or after it ends. I think it has the potential to be a distraction during the season. There’s no justification for not being able to get it done before [the season].”

Meanwhile, the Redskins have opened negotiations with this year’s draft class and remain in line to have all three players signed before Sunday’s reporting date, NFL sources said.

Second-round pick Taylor Jacobs is expected to get a five-year contract with similar numbers to fellow wide receiver Bethel Johnson, who was drafted one spot below him and signed this weekend with New England for $3.8million with a $1.75million bonus.

With Jacobs’ agent, David Ware, busy trying to get top client Terrence Newman signed before Dallas opens camp Thursday, serious talks with Washington probably won’t take place until later this week.

The Redskins’ two other draft picks, offensive lineman Derrick Dockery and quarterback Gibran Hamdan, are more likely to complete deals in coming days. Dockery, Washington’s third-round selection, should get a signing bonus in the neighborhood of $500,000, while seventh-round pick Hamdan figures to be offered a bonus of about $30,000.

A potential issue with Dockery and Hamdan could be the length of their contracts. Mid-to-late-round draft picks traditionally get three-year deals, but sources said the Redskins are considering four-year offers to both players in an effort to keep them from becoming restricted free agents after only three seasons.

Ironically, it was Washington’s raiding of the restricted market this year (picking up four restricted free agents, including star wide receiver Laveranues Coles) that has prompted a number of clubs league-wide to push for four-year deals.

Staff writer Mark Zuckerman contributed to this report.

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