- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 9, 2006

Coming off a career-high 155 yards last Sunday and possibly looking at his first 1,000-yard season, Washington running back Ladell Betts spurned the chance to become a free agent for the first time in March and signed a five-year, $11 million contract extension with the Redskins yesterday.

The deal includes a $3.5 million signing bonus and a $2 million roster bonus in 2007.

Betts’ decision not to test the market was surprising since he’ll be the second banana in Washington again next season once three-time 1,500-yard runner Clinton Portis recovers from shoulder surgery. Houston and the New York Jets, among other teams, will be looking for No. 1 backs. Unlike former teammates like cornerback Fred Smoot, linebacker Antonio Pierce and safety Ryan Clark, all starters who rejected contract offers during the seasons before they became free agents, Betts decided that he couldn’t pass on the deal even if it means he won’t be the feature back.

“Everybody wants to be the man at their particular position,” Betts said. “It was something I had to weigh, my values and things I wanted to accomplish in this league, security, being comfortable where I’m at. At the end of the day, this was the decision I came up with. As the year went along it became more evident that we do need two tailbacks. Most teams have more than one tailback to carry the load so talks grew more and more. The Redskins stepped to the plate and gave me an offer where I felt comfortable coming back. My understanding is that my role will be large going forward.”

Betts had just 99 touches to 382 for Portis in 2005. The ratio was a more balanced 144-72 (2-1 in Portis’ favor) when they were both in the lineup this season.

“Ladell and Clinton have been an excellent tandem,” coach Joe Gibbs said. “Ladell knows how important he is to us, how he fits in and what his role in. He likes being here. I thought it was really good for us. I really appreciate the fact that he didn’t [test the market].”

Portis, who had his left arm in a sling in the wake of Tuesday’s operation, doesn’t expect to be 100 percent until early summer.

“It’s great … for Ladell to get what he deserves with the success he has been having,” Portis said. “I always believed he had a lot of potential. It’s not always peaches and cream on the other side. Going elsewhere, trying to re-establish yourself and take over and be the man, there’s pressure that comes with that.”

While Betts averted that pressure, his decision to stay all but sealed the exit of T.J. Duckett, who has just 23 carries for 99 yards and no touchdowns after being acquired from Atlanta in August, when Portis was hurt and Betts had missed some time. Duckett, who had 31 touchdowns and 2,175 yards in four seasons with the Falcons, is unsigned for 2007.

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