- The Washington Times - Friday, March 1, 2002

Quarterbacks and receivers will be the Washington Redskins' primary focus when free agency begins today.

The Redskins figure to wait out the first wave of high-priced players, given their mere $3 million in salary cap room, which permits little flexibility. With 17 unrestricted free agent Redskins and eight starting jobs to fill, the team is waiting for a more realistic market that offers better values before making massive moves.

Still, Washington is expected to inquire about Seattle quarterback Trent Dilfer and New England passer Drew Bledsoe. Washington also will trade defensive tackle Jerry DeLoach for Houston quarterback Danny Wuerffel and rekindle a prospective deal for Chicago quarterback Shane Matthews.

In addition, Washington will consider St. Louis receiver Az-Zahir Hakim and Tampa Bay receiver Jacquez Green.

Otherwise, Redskins vice president of football operations Joe Mendes, along with the coaching and scouting staffs, begin today's NFL Combine searching for potential picks for the April 20-21 draft. The Redskins' free agency plan may give them one prominent player, but they mostly will wait until next week, letting the growing market of players released by teams with salary cap problems depress expected salaries.

Dilfer will be the marquee quarterback, but NFL sources said a possible $6 million bonus would be too costly for the Redskins. Cincinnati, Buffalo, Houston and Seattle also are interested.

"It's not really about money," said Dilfer's agent, Michael Sullivan. "Trent's looking for a place to start. I don't know how quickly this will happen, but I believe it will happen within 10 days."

Trading for Bledsoe would be too costly given his $5 million salary, though the compensation the Redskins would have to pay might be only a second-rounder. Still, the Redskins are expected to inquire about Bledsoe, who lost his job last season to Tom Brady. Cincinnati and Buffalo also are interested in Bledsoe, though New England isn't desperate to trade him.

Obtaining Matthews seems contingent on Chicago re-signing quarterback Jim Miller. The Bears could complete the deal as soon as today. Matthews is expected to cost a 2003 late-round pick, which could become a fourth-rounder if he starts regularly.

Washington's first move might be for a receiver. Hakim could become the No. 2 target and punt returner. Green is another Florida Gator sought by Redskins coach Steve Spurrier, who is trying to build his passing game with his former college players.

Meanwhile, the Redskins will review 333 players over four days at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis for a quarterback, receivers, defensive tackle and guards. NFL sources said quarterback Joey Harrington could fall to Washington's No. 18 selection after earlier projections said he might go in the top five. A lackluster combine effort could drop him to the middle of the opening round, when Washington would eagerly take him.

Still, Mendes won't make any decisions on prospective picks based on 40-yard times or bench press reps. Instead, game film evaluation will prove more important.

"I think there's many mistakes over the years getting excited over players [at the combine]," Mendes said. "The combine is just one part of the equation. Don't forget, they've played three or four years and they have a lot of tape. They'll be drafted on how they play football and not how they change directions between two sets of lines."

Staff writer Jody Foldesy contributed to this article.

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