- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 24, 2002

The Washington Redskins have informed running back Stephen Davis that he will be cut after the upcoming season unless he negotiates a new contract, NFL sources said yesterday.

The Redskins' stance isn't unexpected, considering Davis' salary cap figure rises to an unmanageable $11.4million in 2003. To compare, Davis has the highest cap figure on this year's club at just more than $5.9million, and the team's total limit is $71.1million.

However, the two sides have considerable work to do if the Redskins are to retain the two-time Pro Bowl selection who twice has set the franchise mark for yards in a season.

There has been little progress on a new deal, sources said, and the process is expected to be lengthy and possibly unfruitful. Perhaps to guard against Davis' departure next spring, the Redskins used their second-round pick in last weekend's draft on Iowa running back Ladell Betts.

Davis, 28, has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of the past three seasons, becoming the first player in club history to accomplish the feat. He went to the Pro Bowl in 1999 and 2000 and last year rushed for 1,432 yards, breaking the franchise mark he set in 1999.

Davis was supposed to be a Redskin for life after he signed a nine-year, $90million deal prior to the 2000 season. But the contract was heavily backloaded and his impressive production since has boosted his compensation to enormous levels.

It is important to note that a new contract would be just that, an agreement from scratch. Contract renegotiations are far more common and occur for most NFL clubs several times in the offseason. This offseason wide receiver Kevin Lockett, tackle Chris Samuels and cornerback Champ Bailey reworked their contracts.

The last time Washington negotiated a contract with Davis it took the entire offseason. When negotiations broke down in the winter of 2000, the club placed the franchise tag on him. He didn't sign the tender offer until it had been altered significantly and he had missed two days of training camp. That deal included a $1million signing bonus and incentives that, if met, would have kept him from being re-franchised and would have allowed him to collect a hefty payout.

Just before the start of the season, he agreed to the current deal, which included another $6.5million in upfront money. That contract superceded the tender, just as the Redskins hope to overwrite Davis' current agreement. Because Davis now is under contract, there is no potential holdout or danger to his 2002 playing status.

A new contract might even provide cap relief this season, but it is unlikely to get done soon enough to aid in the pursuit of free agents. Washington probably will round out its roster around June1, when a second wave of veterans are cut. It's more realistic to think that a new deal for Davis could help in signing draft picks.

For now, the Redskins are laying low in free agency until after this weekend's minicamp. This will be the coaching staff's first chance to look at an almost complete roster, one that includes newly signed linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, 10 new draft picks and a group of undrafted rookies.

The list of 12 to 15 undrafted rookies will be announced today. It is expected to include Tennessee defensive end Bernard Jackson, Virginia Tech wide receiver Emmett Johnson, Notre Dame defensive back Ron Israel and Michigan State long snapper Tony Grant.

After minicamp, the Redskins will have a better idea of which positions need help. Washington has starting vacancies at guard and defensive tackle, unless some young player makes a big impression. The club passed on the chance to draft for need, instead trying to get the most value for each pick.

The Redskins have expressed interest in guard Rich Tylski, a starter who was cut this week by the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, Tylski does not expect to sign with a club until later this offseason, perhaps not until after June1.

Many free agent veterans, similarly, are comforting themselves with the knowledge that the market moves in cycles. The next big upswing comes around June1, and even afterward jobs open during camp as clubs lose players to injury or find that their young players aren't what they expected.

"The money doesn't change that much, contrary to popular belief," said free agent guard Ben Coleman, who signed a one-year, $1.1million deal with the Redskins last June14. "For young cats who don't understand how the league works, they're probably like, 'I've got to get a job.' But me, I'll push it to camp if necessary."

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