- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 12, 2004

Washington Redskins quarterback Patrick Ramsey met with coach Joe Gibbs yesterday to address being “not frustrated, just surprised” about the team’s interest in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Mark Brunell.

With a potential quarterback controversy shaping up as the key impediment to Washington’s pursuit of Brunell, Gibbs did nothing to diminish the odds of one occurring. Gibbs told Ramsey precisely what he told reporters a day earlier: Ramsey will not be traded, and he will compete for the starting job against any quarterback the Redskins acquire.

Afterward Ramsey, in his first public comments on the matter, put a reasonably positive spin on his feelings as he exited Redskin Park.

“Coach says I have a bright future with the Redskins, and I look forward to fulfilling that,” Ramsey said. “[My concern was] just the combination of a lot of things that took me by surprise about [what] I heard. It was cleared up today.”

One way or the other, though, Ramsey apparently will face a stiff test for the starting job this offseason. A team source said Gibbs is committed to having two starting-quality quarterbacks on the roster, even though in the salary cap era many teams opt for clear delineation (and thus pay scales) between the starter and backup.

Tomorrow, according to a team source, Redskins coaches and scouts will meet to finalize their list of potential quarterback acquisitions. Gibbs is eyeing other trade targets like the San Francisco 49ers’ Jeff Garcia and Seattle Seahawks’ Trent Dilfer, but it remains unclear precisely how the final list, including unrestricted and restricted free agents, will read.

One passer the Redskins definitely are scrutinizing is Drew Henson, the former Michigan star who recently abandoned his baseball career with the New York Yankees. There has been talk that Henson would have commanded a high first-round pick if he had chosen football over baseball in 2001.

Henson, a sixth-round pick by the Houston Texans last spring, is scheduled to work out today in Houston. A Redskins source said Washington will be among a reported 13 to 16 teams expected to be on hand. The Texans hope one of the clubs will trade a draft pick to obtain Henson before April’s draft.

The Redskins’ top option, however, still appears to be Brunell, though several club sources denied an Internet report that contract specialist Eric Schaffer was sent to the Los Angeles area to open contract negotiations with agent Leigh Steinberg. Schaffer, sources said, was at Redskin Park yesterday.

A lingering question is whether Brunell can get a better situation with a team like the Miami Dolphins or Dallas Cowboys. In Washington, the presence of Ramsey (given the promise he has shown and respect he commands in the locker room) could create a quarterback controversy — something Steinberg said Brunell wants to avoid.

It remains unclear what Gibbs told Brunell privately when the two met in the St. Augustine, Fla., area Monday. But the coach publicly is standing by upbeat statements about Ramsey’s future in Washington, and he is asking the young incumbent to be understanding as he searches for the best possible players at all positions.

“We’re looking at Patrick as having a great future here,” Gibbs said. “Most football players can understand how things work. It’s important that most of them know it’s an intense competition and that we’re trying to do the best we can.”

Ramsey didn’t appear enthused as he spoke to reporters, but he said all the right things. Asked if he would seek a trade if Brunell were signed, he replied, “No. … I want to play, and [Gibbs] says it’s an open competition. I welcome that.”

Brunell’s team preference seems crucial with increasing talk around the NFL that he most likely will dictate where he wants to go. Several NFL sources believe Brunell will work out a deal with the team he likes best, then agree to delay a $2million roster bonus the Jaguars must pay if he is still on the roster when the market opens.

Here’s how the scenario might play out: If Brunell liked Washington best, he would work out a contract and the Redskins would agree to send the Jaguars, say, their third-round pick. If Jacksonville wanted more, it would cost the Jaguars $2million to see if another team would surrender a higher pick. But because Brunell could refuse to negotiate with another team, nothing else of high value probably would be offered.

Still, the leverage is tricky with Jacksonville, Brunell and perhaps five or more suitors involved. The Jaguars, for their part, are saying they will pay the $2million in order to obtain a high draft pick.

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