- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Veteran safety Sam Shade realizes he's likely in his final days with the Washington Redskins, who can save a much-needed $1.6million of salary cap space by cutting him as soon as tomorrow.
"I haven't heard anything from the Redskins, but I've got a pretty good idea what might happen," Shade said last night. "In this business, people come and go all the time. I know I might not be a Redskin anymore."
Shade, 29, came to Washington as a free agent in 1999 and started all but three games in his first three seasons with the club. But last season he lost his job to second-year safety Ifeanyi Ohalete and later herniated a disc in his neck, leading to a spot on injured reserve.
The rise of Ohalete, an exclusive-rights player who can be retained this offseason for a low qualifying offer, and the potential savings from cutting Shade make him an obvious target when the NFL's waiver wire resumes tomorrow and teams can begin releasing players.
The Redskins remain more than $2million over the $75million cap, with which they must comply by Feb.28, the start of the league year and the opening of free agency. Cutting running back Stephen Davis (a savings of $5.2million) and Shade would get them below the limit with some cushion, which would be used to re-sign defensive tackle Daryl Gardener and pursue free agents at wide receiver and guard.
Shade, a well-spoken and savvy player, braced himself at midseason for the scenario that now is evolving. His maturity showed around Redskin Park, where he encouraged Ohalete even as the younger player supplanted him.
"I think you always mentally prepare to move on in this line of work," Shade said. "The one thing you know about the NFL: There are no guarantees. I think a lot of players realize that. One day, they're going to ask you to leave. Not everybody's going to be Darrell Green."
The neck injury now is fully healed, according to Shade. He last was evaluated at the end of the season and required no further treatment. Although the injury was considered a bit precarious at the time, he actually rehabilitated enough to play the final two games though being on injured reserve precluded him from doing so.
"Standing on the sideline those last two games, that was difficult," Shade said. "I had never experienced a situation where I just watched, knowing I could be out there playing and helping my team win."
Shade's confidence in his health and skills as his 30th birthday approaches in June makes him eager to continue his NFL career.
"I definitely want to play in 2003, whether it's with the Redskins or with somebody else," Shade said. "I still feel like I can play at a high level. I was a starter going into last season, and I don't feel like my play dropped off. The coaching staff just wanted to go in a different direction."
There are some concerns about Shade's game, primarily in coverage. But teams generally don't rely on their strong safeties for coverage, and Shade has watched several teams around the league play a lot of three-safety formations and use one of the safeties as a linebacker a role he filled for a number of years in the NFL.
The Redskins' silence with Shade isn't unexpected. As of Monday night, they hadn't talked to Davis either, and no meeting was scheduled.
With regard to Washington's own pending free agents, the Redskins have spoken only to Gardener and defensive lineman Carl Powell, the latter of whom appears increasingly unlikely to sign before the market opens. Talks with Gardener should heat up again this week.


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