- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 22, 2001

The Washington Redskins continue paying for last year's $100 million failure. Guards Tre Johnson and Keith Sims will be released today as the team struggles to trim $13.9 million off its payroll by March 2.

Wide receiver Irving Fryar and offensive tackles Derek G. Smith and Kareem Ellis also will be released, and running back Gerard Arnold will not receive a tender offer. The moves save the Redskins $5.25 million, but they're still more than $8.6 million over the $67.4 million limit.

"You can't escape [the cap]," coach Marty Schottenheimer said yesterday. "It's the reality of the way business is conducted… . We find ourselves, like everybody else in the National Football League right now, in the process of making choices. That's exactly what the [salary cap] system dictates.

"Some people like the system, some don't. I don't have a problem with the system, because it is equitable. Having said that, it's never easy to release players, especially players of this quality."

The Redskins can avoid other costly releases by renegotiating contracts. Already the team is negotiating with defensive end Marco Coleman, cornerback Champ Bailey and safety Sam Shade to lower their salary cap numbers. The Redskins also will explore new deals with quarterback Jeff George and defensive end Bruce Smith. No other moves are expected until shortly before the deadline.

The opening cuts will cost the Redskins $1.697 million in prorated bonuses against the cap this season, giving them $3.08 million in "dead money" for players no longer on the team. Washington also could owe Johnson and Sims $225,000 each and Smith $167,000 if they don't play this season, though the injury protection benefit doesn't count against the cap.

While the moves were expected, replacing both starting guards won't be easy. Johnson missed 12 games with a knee injury and a one-game suspension and Sims lost nearly four games with Achilles' tendon problems, but the pair were considered critical to the running game. Coupled with the loss of injured center Cory Raymer, the Redskins' interior line problems were one of the major reasons for their 8-8 record.

Schottenheimer said second-year guard Mookie Moore should start this season, but the team will probably sign a veteran guard after June 1.

"That's an area we'll focus on, but it's not something we have to do in the draft," Schottenheimer said. "In my mind, you get better through free agency acquisition, but the other side equally important, and frankly often overlooked, is the development of your own players. Mookie Moore has ability."

Johnson was a 1999 Pro Bowl pick in his only healthy season. The 1994 second-rounder, who was second only to cornerback Darrell Green in team seniority, lost 32 games to injuries. Still, he's considered an excellent run blocker and a leader in the locker room. Although Johnson failed the team physical Tuesday, Schottenheimer said the lineman had been expected to be ready for the season's Sept. 9 opener. Cutting Johnson saved the team $2.8 million against the salary cap.

Sims hadn't been expected back until October after undergoing Achilles' surgery in December that caused him to fail Tuesday's physical. He limped through much of last season on the sore left heel that sometimes left him nearly immobile.

Fryar wasn't expected to return after two seasons with the Redskins following his 1998 "retirement." Fryar started four games with 41 receptions. Smith, a 1999 fifth-rounder from Virginia Tech, missed both seasons with knee injuries. He also failed a team physical. Ellis was re-signed last month after being cut in July following his arrest for driving under the influence. Arnold missed last year with a knee injury.

Meanwhile, Schottenheimer wavered on cornerback Deion Sanders' comeback attempt in baseball but expects him to report to training camp around July 28. Schottenheimer said he wouldn't permit Sanders to report in September should the cornerback make the Cincinnati Reds as an outfielder.

"I would expect if he wants to play for the Washington Redskins that he would be here [for camp]," Schottenheimer said. "I understand how Deion feels about his baseball career, and I have no problem with it. This is a world of free choice, and you're free to do whatever you choose to do. I'm not going to try to say or do anything that would keep Deion from doing what he'd like in that regard. He's got an agreement with us and baseball is important to him and football is important to him."

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