- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 31, 2002

The modestly upbeat news continued for the Washington Redskins yesterday. A day after winning their second straight game to close out a 7-9 season, there were increasing signals that the Redskins will enjoy their first offseason of continuity since owner Dan Snyder bought the club in 1999.
Coach Steve Spurrier, in his season-ending news conference, made it sound likely that a replacement still would be promoted from within if defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis leaves for an NFL head-coaching post. Spurrier added that he has "a pretty good core of players," which will be boosted mostly in the draft, rather than free agency.
"We'll try to build through the draft and [with] what we have," Spurrier said.
Players have endured four coaches in three years, four defensive coordinators in four and countless personnel changes under Snyder. Now the club apparently wants to follow a model closer to the NFC East champion Philadelphia Eagles', instead of each year making radical changes.
"That's not good for an organization," cornerback Fred Smoot said. "You look at the teams going to the playoffs now a lot of those players have been together. That's the difference around here. There's been a lot of switching up and players going here and going there. With a lot of us staying put, I think that's good for the team."
Simple pleasures for players yesterday included the fact that they won't have a new coach, their starting quarterback, Patrick Ramsey, will return unchallenged and the bulk of their standout defense which finished the season ranked fifth is due to come back.
"It's always been rebuilding for the Redskins," linebacker LaVar Arrington said. "Hopefully this will be an opportunity for us to build off of what we've started to do this season."
Said tackle Chris Samuels: "I was just telling [tackle] Jon [Jansen] that: I'm excited because I know that next year Spurrier's coming back, and I'm finally going to be up under the same system."
The only threatening big change is at Lewis' post. Three NFL head-coaching positions opened yesterday and Lewis is generating discussion as a candidate after leading Washington's defense to a lofty ranking in his first season.
Whether Lewis becomes a serious candidate in Jacksonville, Cincinnati or Detroit, if that job opens, will become clear in the coming days and weeks. For now, Lewis is focused on the future of his Redskins defense.
"I can't worry about [other openings]," he said. "All I can worry about is this job here."
Spurrier said he is "prepared for one of our coaches [to move up] if Marvin gets a head job" but wouldn't rule out the possibility of looking outside the organization. Players, for their part, were unanimous in casting votes for an internal promotion likely of linebackers coach George Edwards because it would lead to more continuity.
At least eight defensive starters are in line to return in 2003. End Bruce Smith could retire or be cut in favor of a younger player; tackle Dan Wilkinson is in line for a post-June 1 cut and tackle Daryl Gardener is expected to re-sign.
Gardener, in fact, issued his strongest statement to date regarding his desire to commit to Washington before the market opens on March 4.
"I know for a fact, 100 percent, that I'll be a Redskin," Gardener said. "Money is not a problem. I have enough money to retire. But I'm going to be a Redskin regardless."
The Redskins' other key defensive re-signing would be lineman Carl Powell, who filled in effectively for injured Wilkinson this month. Powell also is interested in bypassing free agency.
On offense, the Redskins have at least seven returning starters under contract, including Ramsey, Samuels, Jansen and 1,000-yard wide receiver Rod Gardner. The club also pretty much knows it will stick with Ladell Betts and Kenny Watson at running back after Stephen Davis is cut for salary cap reasons.
One offensive player acknowledged his interest in re-signing before free agency backup quarterback Danny Wuerffel.
"I've enjoyed being in this organization here with Coach, and I'd be very interested if that was a possibility," he said.
Spurrier has left open the chance that either Wuerffel or Shane Matthews would re-sign, but team sources said Matthews is almost certain to depart.
Positions to be addressed on offense include wide receiver and guard. The Redskins are expected to add a free agent wideout and Spurrier would like to re-sign this year's No.2, Derrius Thompson.

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