- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 21, 2001

The Washington Redskins want to keep wide receiver James Thrash, and Thrash wants to remain a Redskin. But the club's inability to clear significant room below the salary cap before June 1 might scuttle a deal.
So goes another cap constraint for the Redskins, who are expected to begin announcing veteran cuts today. Among those likely to be released tomorrow, the first day such moves can become official, are guards Tre Johnson and Keith Sims, receiver Irving Fryar, defensive lineman Kenard Lang and tackle Andy Heck.
But even that purge and perhaps a half-dozen contract restructurings would get Washington only in range of the $67.4 million cap by the March 2 deadline. The Redskins, about $13.9 million over following tender offers to three exclusive-rights players (guard Derrick Fletcher, defensive end Derrick Ham and defensive back David Terrell), would need far more room to pursue free agents.
That's where Thrash comes in or leaves, depending how you look at it. Agent Ray Anderson said yesterday that his client, an unrestricted free agent who led Redskins wide receivers with 50 catches last season, won't be waiting if the club doesn't make him an immediate priority when free agency opens March 2.
"If James is a guy who the Redskins wait to sign until after June 1, then it's realistic to say he won't be playing there," Anderson said from Atlanta.
Despite the bevy of forthcoming moves, the Redskins won't be able to create major cap relief until June 1, when they could unload several high-priced veterans and delay much of the penalty until 2002. The second round of cuts could include defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson, safety Mark Carrier and a cornerback, Deion Sanders or Darrell Green.
But by then, it would be too late to negotiate with the myriad free agents hitting the market March 2, including Thrash and another of the Redskins' own, middle linebacker Derek Smith. Coach Marty Schottenheimer acknowledged yesterday that Washington might not have the cap room to sign either until after June 1.
To Anderson, that means no deal.
"I don't think there's any possibility James will be available after June 1," Anderson said. "Our goal is to have an idea of the teams with strong interest from the get-go."
Thrash, 25, entered last season with just 15 career catches after breaking into the league as an undrafted free agent out of Missouri Southern. Although he is not the fluid, prototypical wideout teams look for in starters, he stood out after Michael Westbrook suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 2 and Albert Connell struggled in the go-to role.
Westbrook, still just 28, is expected to return from his injury and be the Redskins' No. 1 target in the final year of his contract. Thrash likely would be a No. 3 option, depending on who Washington drafts with its first- and second-round selections. Thrash also would be a prominent player on special teams.
"James is looking forward to seeing the other pieces of the puzzle," Anderson said. "He's confident that, no matter who the Redskins draft, he can play an important role in the receiving corps."
Washington's contract restructurings are under way. Targets are defensive end Marco Coleman, cornerback Champ Bailey and running back Stephen Davis, while under consideration are safety Sam Shade and quarterback Jeff George.
Among the probable cuts, Sims expects his pink slip to be coming after undergoing a physical yesterday at Redskin Park. Cutting Sims would save the Redskins about $667,000 before signing his replacement.
"I understand they're over the cap and they have to make tough decisions and I might be one of them," he said.
Sims claimed he would be ready by the season's start (Sept. 9) after undergoing surgery in December for a ruptured Achilles' tendon. However, team sources said it's early October at best.
"I'm further along than I thought I would be," Sims said. "But with these things you don't know because it's a slow process."
Johnson also underwent a physical yesterday but not at Redskin Park. Agent Greg Ray speculated that the physicals for his client and Sims were formalities, simply to gather information in case either player filed an injury grievance.
"You might call it an exit interview," Ray said from Philadelphia.
Lang's fate appears sealed by an attempt to trade him. Schottenheimer wouldn't comment on a CBS Sportsline report that Washington unsuccessfully tried to trade the 1997 first-rounder to Chicago, saying the Redskins discussed several players with a number of teams. However, Bears sources confirmed talks.
Notes The Redskins will visit Gettysburg (Pa.) College on Friday as the fourth stop in seeking a site for training camp. Washington officials earlier traveled to William & Mary, Dickinson College and the University of Richmond. A decision is expected within two weeks… .
Six Redskins were assigned to NFL Europe teams. Receivers Jamie Deese and Ethan Howell will play for Amsterdam, defensive tackle Eric Stevenson and receiver Tommy Nash for Scotland, offensive tackle Terrance Simmons for Frankfurt and center Ryan Kalich for Berlin. Kicker Scott Bentley is awaiting designation. The seven will return for training camp and not count against the 80-player limit.

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