- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2003

Washington Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington agreed to restructure his contract last night, a move that freed up a significant chunk of cap space and allowed the club to sign New York Jets wide receiver Laveranues Coles to an offer sheet.

Arrington's restructuring created new cap space potentially in excess of $4 million, more than enough to sign Coles to the mammoth seven-year, $35 million offer sheet on which the two sides verbally agreed Monday. The Redskins were about $1.5 million short of making the formal offer to Coles yesterday before Arrington agreed to rework his deal.

Coles, a restricted free agent, signed the offer sheet (which includes a $13 million signing bonus) last night, but the act was considered a mere formality. He said earlier this week that he fully expects to join the team, and he walked out of Redskin Park on Tuesday carrying his new No. 80 jersey.

The offer sheet will be submitted to the league office today, meaning the Jets have until 4 p.m. next Thursday to match the contract or accept Washington's first-round pick in April's draft as compensation.

Arrington is the third Redskins veteran to restructure his contract in the last week, joining tackle Chris Samuels and linebacker Jeremiah Trotter. Those moves have helped make possible Washington's recent free agent splurge 10 players added in less than two weeks, counting Coles though in Arrington's case, it could lead to future problems.

The Pro Bowl linebacker was going to count $9.7 million against the salary cap this year. That number will now go down, but the restructuring will add even more money to his already hefty cap figures in 2004 ($8.8 million) and 2005 (more than $10 million).

Arrington said he isn't worried about the possibility of being a future salary cap casualty but rather wanted to make a gesture that would help the Redskins field a better team in 2003.

"I plan on being a Redskin for my whole career," he said last night. "I'm interested in the economics of the game, of course. But I'm equally interested in winning. I feel comfortable enough with this city, this team, that I can make moves like that."

The Jets are not expected to match the Redskins' offer for Coles, which means coach Steve Spurrier is likely to add yet another dangerous playmaker to his newly restocked offensive lineup.

"He's a proven player and had a big year," Spurrier said yesterday. "We believe he's a player on the way up. Certainly, he's got all the physical talent to be an outstanding player for many years."

A former adversary of Spurrier's at Florida State, Coles won over the former Florida coach last season when he caught 89 passes for 1,264 yards and helped lead the Jets to the AFC East title

"He's a young man who is just reaching his potential as an athlete in the NFL," Spurrier said. "We think he's a big-time wide receiver."

Coles, 25, would join returning starter Rod Gardner, recently signed speedster Patrick Johnson and returning backups Darnerien McCants and Cliff Russell to form a Washington receiving corps with no shortage of deep threats.

The Redskins also have signed a pair of starting guards (Randy Thomas and Dave Fiore), plus a backup lineman who could challenge for the starting center's job (Lennie Friedman), and have traded for one of the fastest running backs in the league (Trung Canidate) in less than two weeks.

The additions of all of those players plus the receivers should help take pressure off quarterback Patrick Ramsey, who will enter his second NFL season knowing he has the starting job.

"Our pass protection is going to be better," Spurrier said. "Patrick should be much improved from his first year. He will be able to take 80 percent of the snaps through minicamps. We'll have much more speed at wide receiver and at running back with Trung Canidate and Pat Johnson, two really fast players."

Though he is delighted about his revamped roster, Spurrier conceded that the Redskins still have much to accomplish.

"I think we've strengthened our team, but we've still got to go play," the second-year coach said. "Gathering the players is the first part. Then you've got to go coach well, play well and all those things."

Among the areas Spurrier said still needs to be addressed is special teams. The Redskins signed kicker John Hall last week but remain in the market for a punter and a return man.

The club signed Jets return specialist Chad Morton to a five-year, $8 million offer sheet last Thursday, but New York is expected to match it before today's 4 p.m. deadline, thereby retaining the restricted free agent.

With Morton remaining a Jet, veteran Jermaine Lewis becomes Washington's next target. The former Baltimore Ravens receiver and kick returner met with club officials Friday and expressed interest in signing with the Redskins.

Staff writer Jody Foldesy contributed to this report.

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