- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 23, 2002

The Washington Redskins extended a formal contract proposal yesterday to keep standout offensive tackle Jon Jansen out of free agency. Jansen was mulling a six-year offer valued at just more than $24million last night and could sign as soon as today, sources close to the talks said.

The deal is below Jansen's possible market value among the premier right tackles in the game, but earning top dollar hasn't been his priority from the start. According to sources, his first goal is to be part of a stable, winning organization, and he acknowledges that teams that overpay one or two players often can't fill out capable rosters.

Meanwhile, newly signed Tre Johnson will get a chance to supplant right guard Brenden Stai with Stai possibly moving to the left side, team sources said. Because of lingering injury concerns to Stai (knee) and left tackle Chris Samuels (ankle, shoulder), Johnson might even play Sunday against Indianapolis.

"I think it would have to be an emergency situation, which we're very close to, obviously," line coach Kim Helton said. "There's no question he has the toughness and the know-how, but I don't think it would be fair to him, nor would it be to our advantage, to put a player in a position who doesn't know what we're doing. Nor has he been in [an NFL-caliber] conditioning situation for a month and a half."

Jansen met with Redskins vice president of football operations Joe Mendes at Redskin Park in the afternoon, just as he did last Friday. Late last week agent Rick Smith was in town as substantive talks began, but Jansen is a bit unusual in that he takes a proactive approach in negotiations, rather than leaving everything to his agent.

The offer has a $4.1million average annual value but more realistically would pay Jansen about $11million over the first three years. It includes a $5.5million signing bonus that is spread over three years for salary cap purposes. He would receive $1million up front but could miss out on later bonus payments if he is cut before March1 (in other words, if he suffers a career-altering injury before the end of this season).

To compare, Cincinnati right tackle Willie Anderson received a $7.5million signing bonus as part of a deal that averages $5.1million. Philadelphia's Jon Runyan signed for $5million per season; he received a smaller bonus than Anderson but other clauses brought his guaranteed money into the $9million to $10million range.

Jansen, who has started all 56 possible games (including playoffs) as a Redskin, could net a deal comparable to Anderson and Runyan if he plays out this season and becomes a free agent on March4. Of course, then he would risk even more to injury in the coming 11 weeks.

The presence of Jansen is a key part of the plan for Johnson. The two formed a potent right side in 1999 (the Redskins' last playoff year) and in 2000 before Johnson suffered a torn ACL in Week5. Now Jansen can explain the new terminology to Johnson, who should be a quick study because of his intelligence (he has a master's degree from Temple).

Johnson said his left knee now is "100 percent" healthy while his right knee is at "93 percent." He injured the latter in Week 3 last season while playing for Cleveland, tearing the quadriceps muscle where it attaches to the joint. His tenure in Cleveland ended Aug.31 when the Browns, concerned about his ability to stay healthy, cut him.

Johnson intensified the learning process yesterday after watching some game film Monday, the day he signed. He spent about four or five hours studying plays at Redskin Park, emerging with the knowledge that it's a "totally different offense" from what he's run in the past. However, he said that's not a bad thing.

"I think it's a relatively simple offense not from the standpoint of execution, but at least from the standpoint of instruction," Johnson said. "The way [they] told it to me, it was like, 'Wow, it all makes sense.' I'm very impressed."

Johnson is best known for his powerful run-blocking. In 1999, the only year the oft-injured blocker has played all 16 games, he helped Stephen Davis to perhaps his most impressive season: 1,405 rushing yards, a 4.8-yard average and 17 touchdowns.

Things will be different in the pass-oriented Fun 'n' Gun, but Johnson appreciates knowing the scheme's philosophy up front. He said that some previous coaches, especially those in Cleveland, promised to run but ended up passing. Here, he can prepare himself differently because he knows the emphasis will be on pass-blocking.

"At least knowing this allows me to prepare myself better physically," Johnson said. "I know if I'm not going in there to go bear-hunting with my fist, then I know, 'OK, keep my head back [to brace for pass rushers].'"

Johnson's signing led to the release of young Ross Tucker, a long-shot 2001 undrafted rookie out of Princeton who actually was a starter at various points this preseason.

Another free agent possibility on the offensive line visited Redskin Park yesterday: former Detroit and Dallas guard Aaron Gibson. The NFL's biggest player (6-foot-6, 410 pounds) until he was cut by the Cowboys on Sept.18, Gibson has struggled through injuries each year since being a Lions first-round pick in 1999. Also working out were wide receiver Desmond Kitchings and defensive backs Chris Oldham and Deron Jenkins.

With regard to Samuels, the X-ray on the sprained ankle and MRI on the shoulder stinger, as expected, revealed no significant damage. Samuels still isn't sure if he'll practice today but remains confident he'll play against Indianapolis.

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