- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 19, 2003

Defensive tackle Jermaine Haley passed a physical and signed his four-year, $4million offer sheet with the Washington Redskins yesterday, positioning the club to obtain its fourth restricted free agent and fill yet another need before the NFL Draft.
The Redskins and Haley agreed to terms of the contract late Thursday night, as first reported by The Washington Times in yesterday's editions. Officially, the offer sheet came hours before last night's midnight deadline for restricted free agents. The Dolphins now have until Friday, the day before the draft, to decide whether they will match the proposal.
It appears almost certain they won't. To start, Miami recently signed Jeff Zgonina to be the No.3 defensive tackle, the role Washington now projects (and is prepared to pay) for Haley. And although there has been talk of a sign-and-trade, NFL rules make such a move all but impossible.
Technically, a sign-and-trade is prohibited once an offer sheet is executed. In a sign-and-trade, the former team would not have to pay any signing bonus or absorb any salary cap impact. Miami's only option would be to match Haley's offer sheet, pay the $650,000 signing bonus, then retain that $650,000 against the cap after a trade.
Generally, sign-and-trades in the NFL are limited to, for example, franchise player situations. But in this case, it doesn't make sense for the Dolphins to pay $650,000 in hopes of obtaining a higher draft pick than Haley's scheduled compensation, a seventh-round selection.
For Washington, the seventh-round pick is a small price considering Haley was viewed as one of the few solid defensive tackles left on the market. Only Dallas' Mike Myers, an unrestricted free agent, was a possibility.
Haley, 30, showed promise as a Dolphins reserve. At 6-foot-4 and 305 pounds, he is a proven run-stopper who could begin to rush the passer as a Redskin.
"We look to expand on [his previous role]," defensive coordinator George Edwards said. "We think with his size and his speed, being able to hold the point inside, being able to give us some vertical pressure inside, he should really help us."
Haley, for his part, hopes the Dolphins don't match the offer.
"I don't know what they're going to do," Haley said at Redskin Park. "Who knows what they're going to do? They've done a lot of strange things already. If they [match], they [match], and hopefully there's some other way I can get out of it."
The seventh-round pick for Haley would be the round's 12th. Parting with it would leave Washington with three selections: one in the second round (12th of that round), one in the third (17th of the round, down from 11th as part of the deal to acquire Chad Morton) and one in the seventh (18th of the round, from Miami for quarterback Sage Rosenfels last year).
Earlier this offseason Washington acquired three other restricted free agents: wide receiver Laveranues Coles (giving up a first-round pick), kick returner Chad Morton (a fifth-round pick) and safety Matt Bowen (a sixth-round pick). The club also traded its fourth-round pick for running back Trung Canidate.
The exchange for Haley, like each of those acquisitions, made sense on an individual basis. But the Redskins could suffer some ill effects in future years: Many NFL executives consider midround selections the low-cost talent pipeline that keeps a team competitive within cap constraints.
Still, the Redskins are left with few needs heading into draft week after acquiring 12 (now probably 13) new players. Topping the want list are a starting-quality safety, a punter to push veteran Bryan Barker and a developmental quarterback.
Green Bay was the other major contender for Haley, proposing a contract that fell below his expectations. The Packers were offering a fairly good chance to start, while in Washington Haley is slated to be a frequently used reserve.
The Redskins plan to work Haley in on third downs, which makes sense because newly signed Brandon Noble will play almost exclusively on first and second downs. Dan Wilkinson and Haley might rotate as the lone defensive tackle on third down, while left end Renaldo Wynn continues to slide inside in those situations.
The presence of defensive line coach Robert Nunn in Washington helped convince both sides to make a deal. Nunn, a Dolphins assistant from 2000 to 2002, was hired by Washington this offseason.
"He's been with me in Miami since I've been there," said Haley, who played in the CFL in 1998 and 1999 before joining the Dolphins in 2000. "He's a great coach."
Said Edwards: "Coach Nunn had a good experience with him."
Haley also cited Washington's contract proposal and defensive scheme as reasons for choosing the Redskins. As for why he wants out of Miami, he said the Dolphins failed to come through on several promises.
"What I wanted from Miami, the last two years, I didn't get," Haley said. "I thought I busted my butt and worked hard for them, and they didn't play me as much as I wanted to play."

Notes Linebacker Kevin Mitchell expects to re-sign with the Redskins next week after coming away impressed from a conversation yesterday with owner Dan Snyder. Mitchell, who started at middle linebacker in 2001 before being supplanted by Jeremiah Trotter, recently visited Detroit, where former Redskins defensive coordinator Kurt Schottenheimer oversees the defense. With the Lions, Mitchell might be able to start on the strong side. But he is leaning toward keeping his family settled in the Washington area after the recent birth of his first child, a son.
Safety David Terrell was unable to work out an offer sheet with San Diego, agent George Mavrikes said.

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