- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 11, 2000

The Washington Redskins continue to sign marquee players. Quarterback Jeff George agreed to a four-year, $18.25 million deal last night as a backup.

The deal nearly unraveled after agent Leigh Steinberg said an unnamed "mystery NFC team" offered George a similar contract. The Redskins almost rescinded their three-year offer before increasing the bonus from $1.5 million to $2 million and adding a fourth year. George will earn $500,000, $3.75 million, $6 million and $6 million over the next four years, respectively. He also can earn another $1 million annually in incentives.

"We were already leaning so hard with Washington we decided to go ahead and do the contract," Steinberg said.

George, 32, enters camp as Brad Johnson's backup despite coming off a solid season. George was 9-3 with the Vikings last season. He completed 191 of 329 passes for 2,816 yards with 23 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a 94.2 pass rating. Conversely, Johnson was 316 of 519 for 4,005 yards with 24 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 90.0 pass rating.

The Redskins now will concentrate on extending Johnson's contract. Johnson said he was unaware of any negotiations but is hoping for a deal before training camp.

Johnson's agent, Phillip Williams, said he has only spoken briefly with Redskins officials but expects negotiations to continue after the weekend's draft. Regardless of George, the Redskins want to re-sign Johnson after making the Pro Bowl last season.

"Obviously, we've talked about it as a possibility, but we haven't gotten into anything," Williams said. "You don't want to enter the last season without a contract. You don't have a quarterback of Brad's caliber coming out ever. Pro Bowl quarterbacks don't come free."

Indeed, Johnson would command a blockbuster deal as an unrestricted free agent next year. The Redskins could make him a franchise player in 2001 by signing or dropping the current franchise tag on running back Stephen Davis. Either way, Johnson probably would earn more than $4 million annually.

Meanwhile, restricted free agency ended with guard Brad Badger receiving a two-year, $2 million offer from the Minnesota Vikings with a near $350,000 bonus. The Redskins retained rights to receivers Albert Connell and James Thrash, linebacker Derek Smith, defensive end Ndukwe Kalu and defensive tackle Barron Tanner, but they must match Minnesota's deal by Friday to retain Badger or receive the Vikings' fifth-rounder in the coming draft. The fourth-year player started 21 of 42 games, including four at left guard last season.

Coach Norv Turner said the Redskins don't expect to trade down the second or third selections overall on Saturday. Washington will choose Alabama offensive tackle Chris Samuels and either Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington or defensive end Courtney Brown.

The Cleveland Browns are expected to take one of the two PSU defensive standouts, and Turner downplayed speculation about a trade with the New York Jets should Arrington be chosen first.

"A lot of people made the assumption early on that we had our heart on a player," Turner said. "There are four or five guys that belong where we pick. We get two of them, and we're going to improve our football team a great deal."

The Redskins prefer Arrington over Brown, mostly because Washington's 30th-ranked defense needs an outside linebacker more than an end. However, the Redskins won't complain about getting Brown.

"If Cleveland took one [Penn State player] and we took the other we'd be in pretty good shape," Turner said. "You're never going to pass up a guy that you would say, 'He's a heckuva football player.' "

While player personnel director Vinny Cerrato and Turner recently have said they don't want to trade down, each has left open the possibility. The Jets may be interested in trading at least two first-rounders to gain the third pick if Brown is available.

"A lot of people talk about things and have no intention of doing it," Turner said. "As I look at it right now, I would expect us to draft a player with each of those picks. If someone makes an offer that jumps out at you that you say, 'Gosh that's fabulous,' you'd consider doing otherwise. I don't think that will happen."

Note Redskins public relations director John Maroon resigned. He's the third publicist to depart since July.

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