Just three days after committing $61.5 million in guaranteed money to three players to kick off free agency, the Washington Redskins released defensive end Jason Taylor after a dispute developed over a $500,000 roster bonus.
The move saves the Redskins a critical $8.5 million on their salary cap. But it also, for the time being, makes the undersized and inexperienced duo of end Chris Wilson and linebacker H.B. Blades starters at the spots Taylor could have filled this season.
"I'm a starter now and I'm ready," said Wilson, who was surprised by the news.
The Redskins were due to pay Taylor a $500,000 roster bonus on Tuesday. According to a source close to the situation, the team approached Taylor and his agent, Gary Wichard, about converting that sum to a workout bonus that would have been paid in June; the offseason program begins on March 16 and runs Tuesday through Thursday for 13 weeks.
Taylor balked at the offer, which demanded that he participate in 75 percent of the offseason conditioning program at the team's headquarters in Ashburn, Va., in order to receive the bonus. He told the team he wanted to spend the offseason at home with his family in Weston, Fla., just north of Miami; at that point the Redskins decided to release him.
A messages left for Taylor was not returned.
"We're disappointed that Jason's not going to be with us, but we didn't ask him to do anything that we didn't ask of all of our guys," said a highly-ranked Redskins official. "He's a 35-year-old guy coming off a major injury. It wouldn't be fair to everybody else if he didn't have to be a part of the program."
The Redskins acquired Taylor from the Miami Dolphins on July 20 last year in what seemed like a brilliant move, just hours after they lost starting end Phillip Daniels to a season-ending knee injury on the opening snap of training camp. The team gave up its second round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and its sixth in the 2010 draft.
Taylor was at odds with the Dolphins at the time because he skipped the club's offseason program to participate on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" show.
Despite that and the fact that Taylor soon would turn 34, the Redskins figured he still would bolster their lackluster pass rush. Taylor, who has more sacks than any other active player, had recorded 11 sacks for the Dolphins in 2007, just one season after winning the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.
But Taylor was hampered by injuries from the start in his tenure with the Redskins. He sprained a knee in preseason, rushed back in time for the opener and recorded his first sack for the Redskins in a Week 2 victory over the New Orleans Saints.
Taylor was kicked in the left calf during a victory over the Arizona Cardinals the next week and underwent emergency surgery the next morning to save his internally bleeding leg. He had a followup procedure in October and was never the same, finishing with just 3.5 sacks in 13 games, including eight starts at the more run-oriented right end spot.
"It was really frustrating for Jason to have all the adversity," Redskins coach Jim Zorn said at last month's scouting combine. "He battled his way through and I tip my cap to him. It was a disappointment for him to not be as disruptive as he wanted to be."
While giving the Redskins more than enough money to pay for the return of left guard Derrick Dockery, who on Tuesday will sign a deal that counts more than $3 million against the cap, Taylor's departure is disruptive since the Redskins will have a late entry into the free agent market for linebackers and ends. Already, players such as Chris Canty (whose visit to Washington was scrubbed last Friday after Haynesworth signed), Channing Crowder, Michael Boley, Keith Brooking, Antonio Smith and Bart Scott have signed with new teams.
Arizona's Bertrand Berry and San Diego's Igor Olshansky now head a thin crop of ends. The linebackers, headed by Buffalo's Angelo Crowell, the New York Jets' Eric Barton, Kansas City's Donnie Edwards, Jacksonville's Mike Peterson and Tampa Bay's Derrick Brooks and Cato June, are more plentiful. None had visits planned with the Redskins as of Monday.
In addition to landing Dockery, the team on Friday landed All-Pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and retained cornerback DeAngelo Hall.
Demetric Evans, who started a career-high 11 games at right end for Washington in 2008, visited San Francisco on Monday. Evans, who will turn 30 in September, had said he didn't want to come back for a sixth Redskins season if he couldn't start, but now that possibility exists for him. Daniels, who turns 36 on Wednesday, had his contract voided last week.
"I worked out for the coaches at Redskin Park last week and it went well," Daniels said on Monday before leaving for his second 3-hour workout of the day. "I'm feeling good. I can come back this year and do what I always do. I just don't know whether the Redskins want me back or not."
The Redskins' official said the club is mulling re-signing Evans, Daniels or Marcus Washington, a five-year starter at strongside linebacker whose release on Feb. 20 had increased Taylor's chances of moving to that spot. Taylor's exit also improves the odds of the Redskins using the 13th pick in April's draft on Texas defensive end/linebacker Brian Orapko.