- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 26, 2003

On the eve of the NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins used another pick for yet another veteran player yesterday, officially signing defensive tackle Jermaine Haley and surrendering a seventh-round pick as compensation.
The run-stopping Haley becomes the Redskins' top interior reserve on the defensive line. Snatching him from the Miami Dolphins who declined to match his four-year, $4million offer sheet left Washington with three selections for what could be its smallest draft class ever.
The Redskins' first pick, the 12th of the second round and 44th overall, won't come until this evening because the first round generally lasts from noon until 5 or 6p.m. And night will have fallen by the time Washington makes its only other meaningful selection in the third round (81st overall).
"It's going to be a long day," personnel director Vinny Cerrato said yesterday. "I guess we'll be watching TV, like everyone else. Getting something to eat."
The Redskins' third-round pick, incidentally, is six slots lower than it was scheduled to be; they swapped with New England as part of the deal to obtain compensation for return man Chad Morton.
Tomorrow the club has one seventh-round pick (232nd, obtained last year from Miami for quarterback Sage Rosenfels), barring a move back with one of today's selections. In addition, about 10 undrafted players will be signed tomorrow night to fill out the 80-man roster limit.
Washington has never had a draft class smaller than five players, selecting that many in 1979 and 2001. Since 1994, the draft has been limited to seven rounds, meaning most of the smaller classes have come in recent years.
Club officials, however, are comfortable with how five picks already have been spent. Each selection, in their minds, was used on a player more talented and ready to contribute than would have been available in that slot.
The Redskins don't plan to put the names of their veteran acquisitions on their draft board unlike Atlanta, which will do so with wide receiver Peerless Price after trading a first-round pick for him but they do consider those players among their draft haul.
"We just opened some of our presents before Christmas this year," said vice president of football operations Joe Mendes.
Here's how the picks were spent: the first-round was used as compensation for wide receiver Laveranues Coles; the fourth-round was traded for running back Trung Canidate; a fifth-round was obtained from New England and used on Morton; the sixth-round was compensation for safety Matt Bowen; and the first of two seventh-rounds went for Haley.
Three starters and two frequent contributors are expected from that group. Thus, one already might consider this an extension of the club's four-year run of solid drafts, dating to 1999, when a front office led by Charley Casserly picked cornerback Champ Bailey in the first round and right tackle Jon Jansen in the second.
The following year, linebacker LaVar Arrington and left tackle Chris Samuels were taken with the second and third overall picks. In 2001, wide receiver Rod Gardner and cornerback Fred Smoot came at the head of that smallish class. And last year the Redskins dropped back twice in the first round and still managed to get quarterback Patrick Ramsey, as well as seven other prospects who remain with the team.
Earlier this week Cerrato said Washington is no more likely to complete a trade today than in a year with a full complement of picks. Of the two meaningful selections, the third-round pick is more likely to be moved. The Redskins expect to pick up an immediate contributor with the second-round selection.
The apparent priority with that pick is safety, with Ohio State strong safety Mike Doss a top prospect still likely to be around at No.44. Cerrato listed other needs as linebacker, center, wide receiver and tight end. The Redskins also are expected to pick up a punter and a developmental quarterback in the late rounds or afterward.
Trading up is virtually out of the question. Owner Dan Snyder ruled out a trade involving current players, though the Redskins tried to gauge the market value for cornerback Fred Smoot. Snyder also made it sound highly unlikely that Washington would offer up one of next year's picks for a selection this year.

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