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Unsettled secondary in limbo

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2009

One of the Washington Redskins' strongest positions, defensive back, is in flux less than three days before the opening of free agency. DeAngelo Hall has two agents, Shawn Springs has two positions and Carlos Rogers is coming off a roller coaster season.

But the immediate concern is Hall, who unlike Springs and Rogers, isn't under contract for 2009.

Traded by Atlanta's new regime to Oakland last March, Hall signed a seven-year, $72 million contract with the Raiders. Then the team cut him after eight games. The two-time Pro Bowl selection signed with the Redskins on Nov. 6 and after 25 tackles, eight passes defensed and two interceptions in seven games, he's in line for another big payday.

"I was the highest-paid [defensive back] for eight weeks, but I learned it's not all about the money," Hall said Tuesday as negotiations between the Redskins and agents Alvin Keels and Joel Segal continued. "When teams are courting you, everybody's real nice. But Oakland wanted me to do things that would be like you writing your stories backwards. The Redskins have an advantage since we've had a chance to feel each other out. I'm optimistic that we can get something done in time, but there's not much time [before free agency]."

Although Rogers couldn't be reached for comment, Hall has been in frequent contact with him since they both spend their offseasons in Atlanta. Hall said he can't see the Redskins re-signing him and keeping Rogers and Springs because of the salary cap costs.

Rogers, whose contract can be voided in 2010, costs an affordable $2.45 million against the 2009 cap (traded players take their contracts with them). Fred Smoot, who turns 30 in April, has $4.2 million left in signing bonus proration, $1.55 million more than the base salary that would be saved by cutting him. If the Redskins release Springs, there wouldn't be any signing bonus acceleration since he's in the final year of his deal. His $6 million base salary is staggering for a player who missed 16 of the past 48 games with injuries.

Rogers, who slipped from a Pro Bowl level in the first half of 2008 to a reserve role by December, has told teammates he expects to be traded. However, coach Jim Zorn said he doesn't foresee the team trading the 27-year-old. The Redskins haven't contacted Springs' agent, Kennard McGuire, about redoing Springs' contract. Springs' $8.483 million cap figure is the club's second-highest.

With the Redskins barely under the $123 million cap, it's still possible Springs - who last year played a little safety - could move there alongside LaRon Landry with Hall and Rogers at the corners. That quartet would give the Redskins top-10 draft picks starting at each position in the secondary and allow them to move safety Chris Horton, who last season had a team-high three interceptions and 76 tackles as a rookie, into a reserve role.

"I really like our cornerbacks," Zorn said. "I hope we can keep DeAngelo. Shawn played very well when he was healthy [nine of 16 games] last year. I told Carlos that he has a tremendous future with us. I expect him to be with us in 2009."

Rogers didn't share Zorn's optimism after defensive coordinator Greg Blache benched him moments before the Dec. 14 loss at Cincinnati.

"I'm not a backup to nobody," Rogers said as he left for the offseason. "I'm a starter in this league. Everybody knows that. There's a lot of teams that would give their right arm to have me on their team."

The demotion was galling because Rogers worked hard to defy the consensus that he wouldn't return until late September or early October from reconstructive knee surgery he had undergone in November 2007. Instead, Rogers practiced in late July and was arguably the defense's top player as the Redskins got off to a 6-2 start.