- The Washington Times - Friday, April 25, 2003

Despite being free agency's most active team, the Washington Redskins "absolutely" can maneuver within the salary cap for a three-year run at the Super Bowl, owner Dan Snyder said yesterday.
The Redskins entered the offseason with a fairly tight cap situation but restructured three contracts pushing cap charges into future years to sign 12 new players so far. Two of them received blockbuster contracts, wide receiver Laveranues Coles and guard Randy Thomas.
"[We asked ourselves] can you keep the nucleus together for at least three years? And we came to the determination where we said, 'Absolutely,'" Snyder said. "That was the plan: … to put it together in such a way that it can stay together."
The owner spoke at a pre-draft news conference alongside coach Steve Spurrier, personnel director Vinny Cerrato and vice president of football operations Joe Mendes. Snyder also ruled out trading current Redskins for extra picks in this weekend's NFL Draft, and he dubbed dipping into next year's picks for trade bait highly unlikely.
"We're not into trading the future, unless someone's willing to give us something or do some deal," Snyder said. "We're not going to be anxious [to dangle any 2004 selections]."
The owner has tempered his "win-now" philosophy heading into his fifth season, remaining eminently aggressive but now with an eye toward the future.
He also has stepped up his role in personnel, negotiating a number of contracts, forming relationships with agents and intensely wooing free agents.
The Redskins' aggressiveness has left them with only four picks three if Miami declines today to match the offer sheet for defensive tackle Jermaine Haley. Tomorrow Washington is scheduled to pick in the second round (44th overall) and third (81st), and on Sunday the club has two seventh-rounders (one if Haley is acquired).
Spurrier, Cerrato and Mendes all contended that obtaining three restricted free agents (Coles, return man Chad Morton and safety Matt Bowen; Haley would be the fourth) and trading for running back Trung Canidate made the most of Washington's draft rather than raided it.
"I was talking with one of the execs of another club today, and he was asking me about why [we] used our draft picks," Cerrato said. "I said, 'Let me ask you this: Your [picks in rounds] four through seven, do you know they're going to come in and be able to start?' He said, 'No.' I said, 'Ours can. We know that. They've done it.'"
Cerrato added that the veterans have several months before training camp to get acclimated to the club, while rookies go back and forth after being drafted. Also, veterans won't hold out of training camp, while a number of top rookies do.
"These guys are three or four months ahead of where a rookie would be, and they're three years down the road, so the learning curve has passed them," Cerrato said.
Added Mendes: "When you look at the draft, the whole key is to maximize the value of the entire draft. As an organization, we just started maximizing that value a little earlier."
Needs this weekend, according to Cerrato, are linebacker, safety, center, wide receiver and tight end. Safety appears to be the top priority, and late- or post-draft targets will include a punter and a developmental quarterback.
Cerrato reiterated that the Redskins won't try to force a trade, saying they are no more likely to deal now than if they had a full complement of picks. Of trading up, he said simply, "We don't have any ammunition."
Trading a current player has seemed like a long shot though Washington has tried to gauge the value of cornerback Fred Smoot. NFL teams, as Cerrato noted, "fall in love with picks" this time of year, believing their extensive preparations will pay off with a group of budding stars.
Of the two early picks, the third-rounder is more likely to be moved, Cerrato said. In the second round, the club expects to get a player who can contribute immediately.

Notes Newly signed guard Randy Thomas has been given the No.77 jersey of returnee Tre Johnson, Spurrier confirmed. The coach explained, "What I've always done is, the guy who's the starter and is going to play more, he gets it."
With recent controversies involving the numbers of Sonny Jurgensen (9), Joe Theismann (7) and Bobby Mitchell (49) still fresh, Spurrier added with a laugh, "I've never been in a place where people are so touchy about numbers." …
Snyder tried to douse the simmering feud between Washington and the New York Jets. Asked if there is any animosity following the four-player raid of New York's roster, he replied, "No. Not at all. I consider [Jets owner] Woody Johnson a good buddy, a good friend. I think the media would like to create a lot of that, but our real rivalries are in the NFC East." …
Linebacker Kevin Mitchell signed the one-year, $680,000 contract he agreed to earlier in the week. … Snyder said the Redskins have been too involved in the draft to consider long-term solutions for linebacker LaVar Arrington, whose contract has become unwieldy, and cornerback Champ Bailey, who is scheduled to be one of the stars of the 2004 free-agent class.

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