- The Washington Times - Friday, December 20, 2002

The Washington Redskins took a step forward, in both a figurative and a literal sense, by re-signing standout right tackle Jon Jansen to a six-year, $25million contract extension yesterday.
Figuratively, the Redskins might have entered a new era in which they make significant efforts to keep their own players rather than letting them twist while pursuing other clubs' big-name free agents.
And literally, Washington made a nice move against the salary cap while clearing up one of its three major personnel issues in the period before the start of free agency.
With Jansen signed, the club can turn its attention to re-signing defensive tackle Daryl Gardener, who also wants to return without testing the market, and resolving the likely departure of running back Stephen Davis.
Jansen, who has started every game since arriving as a 1999 second-round pick, agreed to re-sign after the Redskins reworked the terms of the proposal they submitted in October, boosting the signing bonus by $2.5million (up to $8million) and the value of the first three seasons by $1million (up to $13million), NFL sources said.
The deal appeared to be fair for both sides. The club isn't paying Jansen the premium commanded by Cincinnati's Willie Anderson or Philadelphia's Jon Runyan, but Jansen is getting a solid amount of money, especially up front, and doesn't have the uncertainty of entering the market, where the best offer might have come from a place he didn't want to go.
Jansen's adventure in free agency might have been particularly precarious if the club had, as expected, used the transition tag, which would have given Washington the right to match any proposal he might have received from another team.
NFL clubs don't like to deal with transition players if they believe the original team is going to match any offer, figuring it's a waste of time to do another club's negotiating. And although a player might find a team to write a contract with a "poison pill," a cap-unfriendly clause that makes it tough for the original club to match, there aren't many teams with the cap space and willingness to do so.
However, Jansen's re-signing wasn't so much about the transition tag as it was about returning for the right money and that's not to say the most possible money.
Jansen was looking for a deal that compensated him at close to market value. But those close to him long have held that he didn't want to sign an enormous pact that would compromise a team's ability to fill out a roster. Here in Washington, there is a group of young players (Champ Bailey, Chris Samuels, LaVar Arrington, Fred Smoot, Rod Gardner, Patrick Ramsey) that could be the nucleus of a winning team if the Redskins build in careful fashion.
Jansen acknowledged as much yesterday.
"I got to thinking about all the young guys on this team," he said. "We have a core of young guys who are excellent players. If we can build around that and get guys to stay around, instead of having a big changeover every year, it's really going to make a big difference. And hopefully we'll see that difference next year."
Thus continues the plea for continuity, a theme throughout the latter stages of this sub-.500 season. And that continuity just might come if Washington's commitment to Jansen a re-signing engineered in large part by owner Dan Snyder is any indication.
It was only three years ago, in the 2000 offseason, that Washington assembled an NFL record payroll while jettisoning Hall of Fame return man Brian Mitchell and ignoring the unresolved future of quarterback Brad Johnson. Now things might be changing.
"As an organization, you work very hard to retain your core players," said Joe Mendes, vice president of football operations. "Jon Jansen is certainly one of those core players. He's a true Redskin, 365 days a year. Those types of people need to be rewarded."
And Washington got a nice reward in the process. Jansen's cap figure next year will be slightly less than $1.8million, a savings of about $2.7million from the projected transition figure.
Now cutting Davis would free up money to pursue, say, a wide receiver in free agency, rather than being used in large part to tag Jansen.
Notes The season of guard Brenden Stai is over. The veteran, acquired in a preseason trade with Detroit, said he no longer is attempting to return from the tendinitis in his knee that has kept him out since mid-October. He will undergo arthroscopic surgery in coming weeks but his future with the club is uncertain. His salary is scheduled to be $1.2 million and the Redskins would suffer no ill cap effects from cutting him.
Gardener was sidelined at practice by the flu. Fullback Bryan Johnson, center Larry Moore and defensive tackle Carl Powell were affected more seriously and were not on hand. Johnson and Moore, according to coach Steve Spurrier, were at the hospital. Spurrier expects all four to recover and play.


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