- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 1, 2000

Veteran free agency begins today, and for the Washington Redskins, it's all about Dallas Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders. The Redskins also will look for a starting linebacker and backup guard, but Sanders will dominate their agenda once he's released by Dallas.

Sanders is expected to be cut by tomorrow because contract incentives ensure him $13 million in salary in 2001 if he remains on the Cowboys' roster as late as Saturday. Although Dallas reportedly has talked with Sanders over a restructured deal, club sources said no deal is expected.

Instead, Washington, Denver and Tampa Bay are the only teams expected to talk to Sanders, with the Redskins considered the front-runner. Washington is expected to offer a $6 million-plus bonus, with the long-term deal permitting a first-year salary cap number of around $1.7 million. NFL sources said Denver and Tampa Bay aren't expected to offer such a large bonus, but would pay more in salary.

To avoid violating NFL tampering rules, Redskins officials won't comment on Sanders. However, they talked with agent Eugene Parker during the offseason when the Cowboys gave Sanders permission to negotiate with other teams before the NFL stopped talks. League sources said Sanders knows the Redskins' offer, but is hoping interest from other teams will increase Washington's bid.

If the Redskins fail to nab Sanders, they'll consider signing free agent cornerbacks R.W. McQuarters (San Francisco), Tyronne Drakeford (New Orleans) or Phillipi Sparks (New York Giants). Cornerback Darrell Green probably would become the nickel back should the Redskins sign another cornerback.

Meanwhile, fullback Larry Bowie is expected to be released today, and running back Brian Mitchell's departure is imminent. The moves would save the Redskins nearly $3 million in cap room this year, though $575,000 would carry over into 2001.

Both players worked out yesterday during the ongoing two-week quarterback school. Bowie was uncertain over his fate.

"Whatever happens, happens," he said. "It's their decision. I can't do anything about it. I'm not a sore loser. I'll practice until the word is given."

Coach Norv Turner denied that Mitchell's departure has been decided, though team sources said it could happen as soon as today.

"I think there's some uncertainty in the situation," Turner said. "We'll just see what happens."

The Redskins will hope for a June bargain at linebacker to replace middle linebacker Derek Smith or outside linebacker Shawn Barber. Last June offensive tackle Andy Heck and fullback Larry Centers signed one-year deals for far less than their market value.

A veteran guard also is needed, especially since guard Tre Johnson will be suspended for the season opener for hitting a referee last season. Turner said he would prefer starting a veteran against Carolina on Sept. 3 instead of rookie Michael Moore.

Mostly, Turner doesn't expect much free agent movement, saying he's ready to enter training camp July 20 with the current roster.

"We're always looking to get better, but I like the guys we have," Turner said. "I think we have real good balance [and] good depth in a lot of areas."

Notes Linebacker LaVar Arrington may return today after missing two days following the birth of his child. Safety Quincy Sanders and receiver Ethan Howell both participated after missing Tuesday with strained hamstrings… .

The United Sports Fans of America, a Florida-based fan advocacy group with more than 450,000 members, wrote Redskins owner Dan Snyder protesting the team's new $10 fee to watch training camp practices. The group claims more than 30,000 members in the Washington area, nearly all of them opposed to the fee.

"Putting a price tag on the experience sends a signal to the fans that the bottom line for the Redskins is not necessarily winning, as you claim it is," the group said. A number of people who have written [us] believe you are trying to squeeze more money out of the pockets of your loyal fans."

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