- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 11, 2005

More than a year after opening their pursuit, the Washington Redskins finally landed former Chicago Bears standout linebacker Warrick Holdman.

Holdman, 29, agreed to terms with the Redskins yesterday, bolstering a linebacking corps that remains somewhat uncertain in the wake of Antonio Pierce’s departure.

Washington initially sought Holdman last spring after he was cut by the Bears in a salary-cap related move. He signed instead with the Cleveland Browns and started 14 games. The Browns, now coached by Romeo Crennel, didn’t re-sign him this offseason.

Holdman’s arrival seemingly boosts the likelihood that Mike Barrow will be a post-June 1 cut. Washington needs salary cap space to sign its draft picks. (About $1.2 million in room remained before Holdman’s signing; terms of his deal weren’t clear.) The club conspicuously hasn’t reworked Barrow’s deal, which calls for a $1.74 million base salary this season.

Holdman joins a motley crew from which Pierce’s replacement will be drawn. A weakside linebacker by trade, Holdman apparently has the versatility to battle Lemar Marshall, Brandon Barnes, Brian Allen and draft picks Robert McCune and Jared Newberry to start at middle linebacker.

Most middle linebackers are bigger than 6-foot-1, 235 pounds, but Pierce thrived in Gregg Williams’ scheme last year at 6-1, 240. And Marshall, the current odds-on starter, weighs just 225.

Coach Joe Gibbs didn’t specify where Holdman would play but noted, ?The good thing about him, he’s played almost every spot at linebacker. He’s somebody we liked last year. We thought he fit in good with us, so we jumped in on that.?

Redskins assistant coaches Greg Blache and Dale Lindsey worked with Holdman in Chicago, where he particularly thrived during the Bears’ 13-3 season of 2001. That year Holdman recorded a career-high 145 tackles and 11/2 sacks.

But a serious knee injury limited Holdman to only four games in 2002, and his stock never quite recovered. The Bears cut him in advance of a roster-bonus due date last spring. He attracted reasonable interest in free agency and opted for a one-year, $1.4 million deal with Cleveland.

The Redskins ended up with Barrow, who at the time seemed like a better fit at middle linebacker. Instead, Barrow sat out all season with acute tendinitis in his knee, and Gibbs revealed yesterday that the 35-year-old still hasn’t recovered.

?According to the report, he’s a half-inch off,? Gibbs said, referring to the circumference of Barrow’s thigh. ?The doctor wants to spend a little more time trying to get the strength and the size back in it.?

Gibbs hasn’t discussed Barrow’s potential departure, but it seems likely. Washington needs several million dollars of cap space to sign first-round draft picks Carlos Rogers and Jason Campbell, and getting rid of wide receiver Rod Gardner (a $2.1 million savings) might not be enough.

No other player logically could unlock a significant piece of cap room the way Barrow, who signed a six-year, $15.1 million deal in April 2004, could. By waiting until June 1 to release Barrow, the Redskins could save $1.74 million against the cap.

In other injury news, starting nose tackle Brandon Noble suffered a setback from his recent arthroscopic knee surgery, developing an infection in the surgical wound. Gibbs said another surgery was performed Monday and Noble will spend the next few weeks on antibiotics.

Previously, Noble expected to be ready for the June 17-19 minicamp. It was unclear yesterday whether that timetable has been jeopardized. Gibbs said only that rehab now would ?take a little longer.?

Note ? Gibbs still hasn’t been in touch with safety Sean Taylor, who is skipping the offseason workout program in hopes of a new contract, but the coach still expects Taylor to be on hand when ?organized team activities? (veterans-only practices) begin Tuesday. Said Gibbs: ?We’re hoping, obviously, he’ll be here.?

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