- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 2, 2002

So much for a conservative start.

The Washington Redskins entered NFL free agency yesterday by signing New York Giants linebacker Jessie Armstead and Tampa Bay receiver Reidel Anthony. Washington also traded defensive tackle Jerry DeLoach for Houston quarterback Danny Wuerffel.

Meanwhile, several of the Redskins' 17 unrestricted free agents soon could depart. Defensive tackle Kenard Lang, tight end Stephen Alexander and center Cory Raymer quickly drew interest. Cleveland is among a half-dozen teams seeking Lang. Alexander is being courted by Houston and Cincinnati. Raymer is also drawing interest from Houston. Guard Dave Szott may sign with the New York Giants, and receiver Michael Westbrook could opt for Cleveland or Tampa Bay.

Armstead considered rejoining his former New York defensive coordinator, John Fox, in Carolina before agreeing to a three-year, $4.5million deal with Washington. Armstead received a $1.25million bonus with annual salaries of $750,000, $1million and $1.5million. He'll count $1.17million against the salary cap this year.

With Anthony and Wuerffel each costing $525,000, the Redskins are now about $1.7million under the $71.1million maximum. The team is expected to release several players to create more cap room.

Armstead replaces weakside linebacker Shawn Barber, who rejected a Redskins offer yesterday. Barber wanted a bigger contract despite missing 14 games with a knee injury last year. However, the Redskins and Barber continue to talk, according to NFL sources.

Armstead never missed a game since he was taken as an eighth-round pick in 1993, and has 96 starts over the past six years. He played last season even after suffering a torn hamstring Oct.28 against Washington. "I've got some good years left in me," said Armstead, 31, who has played in six straight Pro Bowls. "You don't have to worry about me playing each week. If I can, I will. If I can make the Pro Bowl playing hurt last season just wait until you see me healthy."

Armstead quickly agreed to the Redskins' offer after talking with owner Dan Snyder and defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis.

"The Redskins have a chance in the next two, three years [to be a Super Bowl contender]. That's more important than anything," Armstead said. "That stadium is always rocking. I've been in too many wars with the Redskins and know a lot about the organization just from the outside looking at them."

Anthony, 25, becomes the second former Florida receiver to reunite with Washington coach Steve Spurrier after Chris Doering recently signed. The 1996 All-American has 144 career catches for 1,846 yards and 16 touchdowns as a former first-rounder. However, after a standout 1998 season 51 catches and a 24.3-yard average on kickoffs Anthony had just 58 catches over the next three seasons, including 13 in 2001.

"Reidel can still run, and he can still catch. He has to become a dedicated guy," said Tampa Bay general manager Rich McKay. "Based on where he is in his career, I would think he'll do that now."

Anthony should supplant Kevin Lockett as the No. 3 receiver, with the Redskins still looking for their second starter opposite Rod Gardner. Washington has expressed heavy interest in Tampa Bay's Jacquez Green, New Orleans' Willie Jackson and St. Louis' Az-Zahir Hakim but may save its first-round selection for a wideout instead. Green and Jackson also played for Spurrier at Florida.

The Redskins monitored quarterbacks, though Seattle's Trent Dilfer, Atlanta's Chris Chandler and New England's Drew Bledsoe appear too pricey. Instead, Washington is expected to resume trade talks for Chicago quarterback Shane Matthews. The Bears first wanted to re-sign quarterback Jim Miller, who agreed to a five-year deal yesterday, before peddling Matthews for a conditional 2003 late-round pick.

The expected deal for Wuerffel was first confirmed Tuesday, making the 1996 Heisman Trophy winner the third former Gator to rejoin Spurrier. The Redskins would owe a seventh-round draft choice if DeLoach doesn't make the Texans roster.

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