- The Washington Times - Friday, August 23, 2002

The Washington Redskins began retooling their roster yesterday as the preseason nears an end, trading quarterback Sage Rosenfels to Miami for a conditional draft pick and acquiring veteran guard Brenden Stai from Detroit for a pick.

Rosenfels, a fourth-round selection out of Iowa State last season, is expected to be the developmental passer behind Jay Fiedler and Ray Lucas in Miami. The pick is in the 2003 seventh-round if Rosenfels makes the 53-man roster; if he plays in 50 percent of the offensive downs this year, it's a 2004 fifth-round pick.

Stai (6-foot-4, 318 pounds) is a powerful interior blocker who has played right guard in recent years and likely will become a starter in Washington. The eighth-year veteran out of Nebraska became expendable late last week when Detroit signed Ray Brown, an aging Pro Bowl pick in whom the Redskins were somewhat interested.

Stai, 30, began his career as a third-round pick by Pittsburgh in 1995 before moving to Jacksonville in 2000 and Detroit last season. He has 98 career starts, including seven playoff games, and has started 16 games each of the past four seasons.

"He's real excited bout it," agent Paul Sheehy said. "You're always disappointed when he signed with Detroit last year, we expected it would be a long-term situation. But it seems like there's a lot of excitement [in Washington]. He's pumped."

The departure of Rosenfels narrows the Redskins' quarterback race to Danny Wuerffel and Shane Matthews. Wuerffel probably has been the best passer of the preseason, but none of the three played well against opposing teams' starters.

Rosenfels completed 32 of 54 passes for 476 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions this preseason for Washington. His 103.6 quarterback rating was second behind Wuerffel (117.4) and ahead of Matthews (86.5). However, much of Rosenfels' success came late in Sunday's 35-34 win over Pittsburgh, when he threw for 190 yards and three touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

Rosenfels was not scheduled to play tomorrow at Tampa Bay, a sign that he was expendable. All along, Washington's No.3 slot has been targeted for first-round pick Patrick Ramsey.

"Sage believes in coach Spurrier's offense, but at the same time this is a great opportunity for him to get on the field a little quicker," agent Rick Smith said.

In Miami Rosenfels will be coached by former Redskins coach Norv Turner, now Dolphins offensive coordinator. The two previously have not worked together. Rosenfels was drafted by 2001 Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer.

Acquiring Stai could make a big difference for Washington's run game, which ranks last in the preseason. The Redskins have shuffled personnel at left guard and now might install Stai at right guard and swing Ross Tucker, a 2001 undrafted rookie who has been their best guard, to the left side.

This offseason the club signed Rod Jones to a three-year, $3 million deal to start at right guard, but he struggled with the transition after playing mostly tackle in the NFL. He now appears best suited as a backup at tackle and guard.

Washington also picked up David Loverne and Kipp Vickers as potential starting guards but neither has stepped up.

The Redskins' failure to run has called into question the role of running back Stephen Davis, who has been the foundation of Washington's offense in recent years. Some players said it was tough to judge the run game because the team hasn't committed to it yet. Stai should make his debut in the Aug. 29 preseason finale against New England, and he will be scrutinized to see whether Washington can boost its 2.6-yard average rush.

Yesterday's moves addressed a key surplus and deficiency on Washington's roster heading into first cuts. NFL clubs must trim their rosters from 80 to 65 players (not including NFL Europe participants) by Tuesday, then make final cuts to the 53-man roster by Sunday, Sept. 1.

Notes Defensive tackle Del Cowsette received a $10,000 fine from the NFL for his late hit on Pittsburgh quarterback Charlie Batch last weekend. The NFL considered Cowsette to have taken more than one step after Batch released the ball. Cowsette declined comment but said earlier this week that he thought he made the tackle in time. The Redskins signed kickers James Tuthill and Jamie Rheem and released Dan Frantz. Tuthill, who was claimed off waivers Wednesday from Houston, and Rheem, recently released by San Francisco, are insurance in case the hip flexor of Brett Conway does not heal. Conway is expected to do some light kicking next week and be ready for the Sept. 8 opener against Arizona. Offensive lineman Alex Sulfsted was feeling a bit better following Sunday's concussion. He hopes to return to practice Tuesday and play against New England.

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