- The Washington Times - Friday, March 29, 2002

The Washington Redskins signed two versatile free agents yesterday to shore up their unsettled defensive line, acquiring standout Renaldo Wynn and unheralded Carl Powell, two players who can play both defensive end and tackle.

Wynn signed a six-year, $20.5million contract with a $3.5million signing bonus, and Powell took a one-year deal for close to the $450,000 minimum. The pickups leave the interior offensive line, where Washington needs two starting guards, as the key area of need. The Redskins also are expected to acquire a starting-quality quarterback.

If either Wynn or Powell emerges as a starting tackle, the Redskins might be done shopping on the defensive line. However, the signing of Wynn, in particular, increases the likelihood that defensive end Marco Coleman will be released. Coleman is a team leader and former Pro Bowl pick, but he's 32 and coming off a subpar season in which a dislocated elbow forced him to miss four games.

The Redskins might be tempted to play Wynn at right defensive tackle, where he would replace Kenard Lang, who signed with the Cleveland Browns after providing a nice interior pass rush in 2001. But Washington has very little salary cap space and could pick up $3.5million of relief by cutting Coleman. A contract renegotiation also is possible, but the Redskins now would have leverage in talks because of Wynn.

Defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis wouldn't comment on Coleman's status, saying, "We're going to see how the thing plays out. Our goal is to have all the best players in the NFL that we can afford."

Said Coleman: "They haven't discussed [Wynns signing] with me. They do need help at defensive line. But how it affects me I wouldn't know."

Wynn, 27, started 63 games for the Jacksonville Jaguars over the past five years after being the team's first-round pick in 1997. He played all four defensive line positions there but mostly left end (the run-stopping side and Coleman's slot) in recent years. He attracted considerable interest in free agency but selected Washington for its atmosphere and potential.

"I think this is a great football organization, a great city [with] great fans [and] a lot of history," Wynn said. "And with Coach [Steve] Spurrier, Coach Lewis and the caliber of players on this team, I think we're going to do some great things."

Lewis recalled recruiting Wynn out of DeLaSalle High School in Chicago while at the University of Pittsburgh. Wynn went to Notre Dame instead, but Lewis is excited now to finally coach him.

"It's hard to say [if he was the] 'best available' [lineman], but it was a good fit for our needs," Lewis said. "The ability to play tackle or end, he gives us some of that, and he can be a good inside rusher, particularly on third down."

Lewis' Baltimore Ravens defense set records and helped win Super Bowl XXXV with two huge defensive tackles taking up space inside. But Lewis said he isn't committed to having the same style of tackles in Washington.

"It doesn't matter how big a guy is," Lewis said. "What matters is whether he can stay on his feet. That's what we had in Baltimore, and that's what we're looking for here."

Powell, 28, is far less accomplished than Wynn but brings a reputation for playing extremely hard in limited action. He played in all 16 games for the Chicago Bears last season after spending parts of 1997 and 1998 with the Indianapolis Colts and 2000 with the Ravens under Lewis. He had not appeared in a game until last year.

"He gives us some added depth on the defensive line," Lewis said. "He's athletic enough to play special teams, and hopefully he continues to develop to where we can get some good snaps out of him. If he's a starter, he's a starter. We'll see what happens."

Powell's biggest play came last season in a 17-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings. He slipped into the backfield on third-and-goal from the 1 and made a one-armed tackle of quarterback Daunte Culpepper. The play saved a touchdown and was a catalyst as the Bears posted the second-best record in the NFC.

"One thing that I'm able to do is use my versatility," Powell said. "Plus being able to run and hustle and just outwork people that's what I bring to the table."


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