The Washington Redskins might get a premier pass-rusher after all.
Nearly four months after bowing out of the chase for Jevon Kearse, the former Tennessee Titans star who signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Redskins are showing interest in another of the NFL’s top defensive ends — the Miami Dolphins’ Adewale Ogunleye.
A league source said yesterday Washington offered a first-round pick to Miami for Ogunleye, who is mired in a contract dispute and is threatening to skip the first half of the season. The source said the Dolphins rebuffed Washington but might change their minds as the regular season approaches.
Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, however, played down any interest in Ogunleye and specifically denied an offer was made.
“I think anybody in the league would have interest in him,” Gibbs said. “There’s nothing to it. They’re not going to let that guy go. I wouldn’t if I were them.”
Although a deal appears to be a long shot, Washington has a track record of ponying up draft picks and huge signing bonuses to make such swaps occur. Already this offseason, the Redskins have traded for two Pro Bowl players, quarterback Mark Brunell and running back Clinton Portis.
Ogunleye, 26, joined Portis at the Pro Bowl last season after leading the AFC in sacks (15). Previously overshadowed by teammate Jason Taylor, Ogunleye edged out Taylor (13 sacks) and contributed to the league’s third-best unit in terms of sacks.
Washington, meanwhile, struggled badly rushing the passer in 2003. Now-departed linebacker Jessie Armstead led the club with 6 sacks as the defense finished 25th in total yardage.
The Redskins believe they boosted their pass rush in March by signing defensive end Phillip Daniels and defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin. However, Daniels and Griffin combined for just 3 sacks last season with the Chicago Bears and New York Giants, respectively.
Currently, much of Washington’s pass rush is expected to come from outside linebackers LaVar Arrington and Marcus Washington. Arrington led all NFL linebackers with 11 sacks in 2002, though he didn’t relish playing from a three-point stance, while Washington recorded 18 sacks in four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts.
Word of the Redskins’ offer followed a report in yesterday’s South Florida Sun-Sentinel that the Redskins are “definitely” interested in Ogunleye.
Redskins officials, though, deny there have been any serious internal discussions about Ogunleye, saying the Dolphins haven’t even intimated he would be available via trade. But there is speculation Miami might be willing to deal if it becomes convinced Ogunleye is serious about sitting out much of this season.
At issue in Ogunleye’s squabble is his status as a restricted free agent. The Dolphins tendered him at the highest level — a one-year, $1.824 million offer that brings first- and third-round compensation if the player goes to another club — severely crimping his market activity. Ogunleye is seeking a long-term contract with a signing bonus on par with Kearse ($16 million) or the Green Bay Packers’ Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila ($11 million).
The period for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets with other NFL clubs ended in April. Last week Miami exercised its right under the collective bargaining agreement and reduced Ogunleye’s offer from $1.824 million to the fourth-year minimum of $455,000. Agent Drew Rosenhaus dismissed the move, saying Ogunleye never had any intention of signing a one-year deal.
Now Ogunleye intends to sit out the first half of this season, signing his offer sheet after seven games, just in time to accrue a year toward unrestricted free agency. He then would hit the market next spring, free to sign with any team.