- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 9, 2002

The Washington Redskins are backing off their recent ultimatum to Pro Bowl running back Stephen Davis after meeting with his agent this week, NFL sources said yesterday.
Davis still will be cut when the 2003 salary cap goes into effect, around next March, if he does not negotiate a new contract. However, the club has tempered statements that a deal must be struck this summer, even going so far as to say those statements never occurred.
A preliminary meeting took place Tuesday at Redskin Park between team officials and agent Steve Weinberg. The sides discussed possible frameworks for a pact but were nowhere close to exchanging proposals.
Washington, it appears, initially tried to pressure Davis into talks because it needs cap room. Davis is one of just three players who could provide significant cap relief, along with defensive ends Marco Coleman and Bruce Smith.
The Redskins need more than $3million just to sign their draft picks. That room is expected to come after June 1, when Coleman is released. Coleman might be able to stay by accepting a massive pay cut but has told friends he isn't even considering it.
After releasing Coleman, Washington might be able to squeeze by without further moves besides the expected cuts of long snapper Ethan Albright and cornerback Donovan Greer. But a new deal for Davis would create enough space to pursue more talented players at defensive tackle and guard, where young players currently are first-string.
The problem is that Davis is happy to play on his current nine-year, $90million contract and be cut next winter. That way he can make the $4million he is due in new compensation $3million in base salary and about $1million in bonuses and become one of 2003's premier free agents, perhaps commanding a signing bonus in the $7million to $10million range.
Washington seemed to think it could gain leverage by telling Davis he would be cut at season's end if he did not reach a new agreement this summer. Now there appears to be a winter window for more talks. Regardless, Davis didn't sound pleased by the club's tactic during last month's minicamp.
"To make ultimatums and stuff like that, I don't think it's good, but the only thing I say is, let's just get it done," Davis said.
"It's not up to me whether something gets done it's up to the organization," he added. "It depends what they come at me with. I'll be willing to [sign a new deal], but I can't control that. The only way I can control that is to go out and do my job."
For Davis to seriously consider a proposal, it must offer upfront in addition to replacing the new compensation he is due a good part of his potential signing bonus as an unrestricted free agent in 2003.
That means Davis is seeking a signing bonus of at least $8million more than $3million for dropping his 2002 new compensation from $4million to the minimum base salary of $525,000, and a sizable chunk of the $7million to $10million he expects as a signing bonus on the open market.
The Redskins, for their part, are attempting to decide whether it makes sense to give so much money upfront to a running back who will be 30 on March 1, 2004, and who might not be the best fit for coach Steve Spurrier's high-powered passing offense.
Incidentally, Washington would not be allowed to place the franchise tag on Davis if it releases him, according to league rules. The Redskins put the franchise tag on Davis in the 2000 offseason to restrict his movement to other clubs.
It remains all but certain that Davis would not return to the club if he is cut. Washington already would keep about $6.2million of Davis' astronomical $11.4million cap figure as "dead money," and it wouldn't make sense to then give him a market value deal and bring his cap total back into the $8million range.

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