- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 26, 2002

The Washington Redskins are among the NFL teams now looking at former Stanford quarterback Chad Hutchinson.

Hutchinson, 24, is attempting to re-start a pro football career after spending four years playing baseball in the St. Louis Cardinals' organization.

The Redskins, according to NFL sources, are making a late push to land Hutchinson. The Dallas Cowboys currently lead the race, having offered a seven-year deal that includes a $3 million signing bonus and guaranteed salaries in the early years, sources said. Houston, Kansas City and Green Bay also are considered contenders.

Agent Scott Boras confirmed that he has had several discussions with Redskins owner Dan Snyder in recent weeks. Talks are fairly advanced with several NFL clubs, Boras said, declining to say whether the Redskins are one of those teams.

Hutchinson is seeking a deal that would contain guaranteed salaries in at least the first three seasons, similar to how a baseball contract would function. None of the teams in serious talks is balking at such a structure, Boras said.

Hutchinson could become Washington's No. 2 or 3 passer next season. The club's top two quarterbacks, Tony Banks and Kent Graham, are unrestricted free agents, while the No. 3 (or developmental) spot is being held by 2001 draft pick Sage Rosenfels.

Who the Redskins land at quarterback is one of the club's hottest questions this offseason. After ranking 30th in passing in 2001, Washington is expecting an offensive surge from new coach Steve Spurrier and the prolific system he is importing from the University of Florida.

It is unclear how effective Hutchinson could be after four years away from football and limited overall exposure to the sport. He played just one year of high school football and two years at Stanford.

But Hutchinson possesses a strong arm, impressive size (6-foot-5, 236 pounds) and good mobility. He passed for more than 2,000 yards in each of his seasons at Stanford, compiling 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, and probably would have been a high-round pick in the NFL Draft.

Instead he signed a four-year, $3.5 million deal after being selected by the Cardinals in the second round of baseball's 1998 draft. He opened 2001 on St. Louis' major league roster but surrendered three home runs in four innings and was demoted to the minors with a 24.75 ERA. St. Louis retains his baseball rights but a no-football clause has expired, Boras said.

Meanwhile, at least one of the Redskins' 17 unrestricted free agents is more hopeful of re-signing now that there has been an overhaul in the front office.

Linebacker Shawn Barber, the weakside starter before blowing out his knee in Week 3, hopes he will get stronger consideration from the club now that Joe Mendes has been hired as vice president of football operations.

Barber, a restricted free agent last offseason, played on a one-year tender after serious talks for a long-term contract never evolved. Agent Brian Mackler said he hasn't spoken to the Redskins "for months" about signing Barber, but that could change before March 1, when clubs can negotiate with their own free agents.

"My thought is that with Joe Mendes being hired and his being with the Redskins in the past, he knows what Shawn means to the Redskins," Mackler said. "Hopefully, that will change the way the Redskins view my client."

Mendes spent seven years with the Redskins before departing just before the 2000 season as their chief negotiator/salary cap specialist.

Mackler added that Barber will be fully rehabilitated from his torn ACL within the next three weeks. If the Redskins don't re-sign him, Mackler said, "I'm positive that there will be a number of the other 31 teams that will value Shawn Barber,"

Houston, the expansion club being guided by general manager Charley Casserly, a former Redskins GM who drafted Barber in 1998's fourth round, could be a major competitor to sign the linebacker.

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