- The Washington Times - Friday, February 27, 2004

Washington Redskins cornerback Champ Bailey has agreed in principle to a contract with the Denver Broncos, all but guaranteeing a blockbuster trade between the two teams Wednesday.

The Redskins will trade Bailey and a second-round pick to Denver for running back Clinton Portis now that Bailey and the Broncos have come to terms on a six-year deal worth more than $50million.

Agent Jack Reale said the sides are “still working on the language and documentation” but he acknowledged that terms essentially are in place. Denver sent Reale a rough written proposal yesterday, and the final version will come this weekend.

“We’re pretty close,” Reale said. “Again, you can never be sure until you see the [final] deal in writing.”

Reale disputed a Boston Globe report that the contract was for six years, and $53million, with $18million of guaranteed money and $27million of scheduled compensation over the first three years.

“Bits and pieces of that are correct, but the overall description is wrong,” Reale said.

An NFL source familiar with negotiations said those details were accurate earlier in the week but could have changed slightly in recent days.

A contract agreement hasn’t been considered a major hurdle because the Broncos made it clear from the start they were prepared to meet Bailey’s financial expectations. The last big obstacle to the trade was cleared Wednesday when Bailey had a positive visit to Denver.

The contract differs considerably from the proposal Washington made last preseason. That offer was for nine years and $55million, with $14.7million in guaranteed money though the latter included $1.3million Bailey was guaranteed to make anyway in his rookie contract.

In terms of average annual value, Bailey’s new deal will approach $9million a year, easily making him the NFL’s highest paid cornerback. Washington’s proposal was for $6.1million annually, well below the top-paid corners, and included superfluous eighth and ninth seasons that couldn’t be used for signing bonus proration and were in place only to inflate the average annual value.

In essence, Denver’s figures demonstrate how differently the two clubs view the four-time Pro Bowl player. While the Broncos are happy to make Bailey the NFL’s best-paid corner, Redskins sources say Washington soured on Bailey after talks stalled in the preseason and he became increasingly ambivalent about staying.

Having a trade for Bailey in place is important for the Redskins as they prepare for a free agent binge to start the signing and trading period Wednesday. The club’s exact salary cap space won’t be clear until it issues tender offers for its restricted free agents and exclusive rights players next week, but four cuts this week and the departure of Bailey should leave Washington with more than $15million of spending room.

The first acquisitions will be quarterback Mark Brunell and Portis. The Redskins have negotiated a seven-year, $43million deal with Brunell and will acquire him by sending a third-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The club also is expected to discuss a new deal with Portis this offseason, but one isn’t necessary to complete the Bailey trade.

Defense will be the Redskins’ focus as free agency starts at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. Washington is targeting Tennessee Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse, but sources say there is some concern about Kearse’s price tag.

Elsewhere on the defensive line, the Redskins are interested in New York Giants tackle Cornelius Griffin and Chicago Bears end Phillip Daniels, the latter of whom will be a cap cut. The Redskins also appear interested in the Oakland Raiders’ Rod Coleman.

At linebacker, Washington will pursue the Bears’ Warrick Holdman, assuming he is a cap casualty. In the secondary, the Redskins want Seattle Seahawks cornerback Shawn Springs and appear ready to pursue Carolina Panthers safety Deon Grant.

On offense, tight end Jim Kleinsasser is a key target. Sources familiar with Washington’s deliberations said tight end Byron Chamberlain will not be cut. The former Pro Bowl target will receive a $50,000 roster bonus Monday and be given a chance to get in shape and stretch the field next season.

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