- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 12, 2001

The latest big day by running back Stephen Davis made him the first Washington Redskin with 1,000 yards rushing in three straight seasons and opened debate about whether he will surpass John Riggins and Larry Brown to become the greatest rusher in franchise history.
Here's a better question: Can Davis stay with the team long enough to have a shot?
At age 27, he's certainly young enough. And he has a nine-year deal, one that was supposed to make him a "lifelong Redskin."
But that contract could make Davis unaffordable as soon as 2003 after just one more season or at least make the club think hard about replacing him with a high draft pick, who might be able to gain similar yardage at a fraction of the price.
Davis' salary cap figure is set to rise from $3.4 million this year to a team-high but still affordable $5.9 million next year to a hefty $11.4 million in 2003. After next season Washington almost certainly will have to renegotiate Davis' deal or release him.
That's the downside of Davis' nine-year, $90 million contract. Davis, whose career yards (4,543) and pace (90.9 yards per game since 1999) leave him about 15 games shy of Brown (5,875) and 33 of Riggins (7,472), could enter 2003 within range of a number of Redskins rushing records and playing for another team.
Davis wants to finish his career here. Asked this week if he expects to do so, he replied, "My contract says I am."
Reminded that many big-money contracts work against players by inducing their releases, Davis said, "True. But my plan is to play for the Redskins my whole career. I'm the type of person, I don't like change. If I could stay in one place, play there, do my job, my whole career, I would do that."
Stability is a big part of Davis' life. He grew up in the same house in Spartanburg, S.C. He still has the same best friends from those days. If it's up to him, he'll set all the Redskins rushing records and retire as one of the key figures in franchise history.
And Marty Schottenheimer wants Davis around. The first-year coach and director of football operations has lauded his featured running back, particularly in recent weeks as the record came and went.
"Stephen Davis is as good as any running back I've ever been around because he's got great instincts," Schottenheimer said. "And that's something you can't teach a runner. You can teach him where the blocks are and what you need to read, but you need natural instinct, and he's got that."
The top rushing season by a Schottenheimer back was Christian Okoye's 1,480 yards in 1989 for the Kansas City Chiefs. Schottenheimer got one other 1,000-yard season out of Okoye. In 1985 Earnest Byner and Kevin Mack each bested 1,000 yards for Schottenheimer's Cleveland Browns, but neither hit the mark again. And Schottenheimer had Marcus Allen for five seasons, but none of those was a 1,000-yard year.
In other words, Davis already has one of the best seasons by a back under Schottenheimer, and he could become the coach's best back ever. But to make that possible Schottenheimer will have to make a tough financial decision, a choice he isn't prepared to discuss.
"We don't get into discussion about contracts," Schottenheimer said. "I'm hopeful that Stephen is able to spend a considerable length of his career as a Washington Redskin."
Davis is scheduled to count $8.9 million against the 2003 cap. But he has a clause that escalates his 2003 salary by $2.5 million if he gains 3,300 yards between 2000 and 2002. He needs just 977 more yards over the next 11/4 seasons.
The Redskins could renegotiate Davis' deal after next year, either asking him to lower his compensation or pushing its effect into future years. Or, if their cap situation continues to improve, they could pay Davis his money and be prudent elsewhere.
But Schottenheimer thus far has been very cautious about the cap, not overpaying players and not leaving problems to be solved later. And he has said that running back is the easiest position for a rookie to step in and play. As good as Davis' season is, Chicago rookie Anthony Thomas and Minnesota rookie Michael Bennett are averaging more yards per carry, and San Diego rookie LaDainian Tomlinson has passed the 1,000-yard barrier.
The running backs scheduled to have cap numbers in the $10 million or more range in 2003 are Atlanta's Jamal Anderson ($12.2 million), St. Louis' Marshall Faulk ($12M), Davis ($11.4M), the New York Jets' Curtis Martin ($11.4M), Denver's Terrell Davis ($9.9M) and Dallas' Emmitt Smith ($9.8M).
Anderson and Terrell Davis have suffered multiple injuries in recent years and are unlikely to play for those figures if at all. Smith probably will retire. Faulk's deal includes several clauses that essentially guarantee renegotiation or release. And Martin, while now young (28) and in great shape, is unlikely to play for that kind of money with rookie LaMont Jordan being groomed in the system.
In other words, none of those other huge cap figures is expected to be palatable in 2003. And Stephen Davis' probably won't be, either.
Notes
The Redskins signed tight end Marco Battaglia off waivers, adding a capable player who replaces injured Stephen Alexander for at least the time being. The signing, however, was due more to Battaglia's availability than any impending move with Alexander, a 2000 Pro Bowl pick who should miss at least one more week with a fractured ankle.
Battaglia, a former special teams captain who was in the final season of a three-year, $2.1 million contract, was waived by Cincinnati after recovering from an appendectomy. He no longer was eligible to play for the Bengals because he had been placed on injured reserve. The sixth-year veteran has 13 catches for 118 yards this season, and has played 88 career games with 70 catches.
Cornerback Central McClellion was released to make room for Battaglia. The Redskins made one other move, signing rookie defensive end Doug Sims to the practice squad and releasing tight end Steve Brominski.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide