- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 27, 2003

The outstanding Washington Redskins career of running back Stephen Davis met its long-anticipated end yesterday when the club cut three veterans: Davis, safety Sam Shade and tight end Walter Rasby.
Today's deadline to comply with the salary cap made the departures of Davis and Shade a foregone conclusion. The Redskins were projected to be more than $5million above the $75million salary cap once tender offers, escalators and incentives were totaled. Releasing Davis saved them$5.2 million and cutting Shade another $1.6million.
Davis, who turns 29 Saturday, endured a rough 2002 season to finish third on Washington's career rushing list (5,790 yards), 85 yards short of runner-up Larry Brown.
A between-the-tackles, workhorse style helped Davis to two Pro Bowls but didn't mesh with coach Steve Spurrier's offense, which calls for a lot of screen passes and draws. Young Ladell Betts and Kenny Watson are better suited to that style and far less expensive.
Still, Davis said he was "sad" yesterday when the end finally came.
"The thing I realize is that the Washington Redskins the people, the fans, the organization that gave me an opportunity I really appreciate that," said Davis, a 1996 fourth-round pick. "It's a part of my life that I'll always cherish. This is somewhere me and my family had the opportunity to grow."
Davis remains the Redskins' only player to rush for more than 1,000 yards in three straight seasons, and he set the franchise single-season mark in a season in 1999 and 2001. But he battled knee and shoulder injuries last year and finished with just 820 yards, by far his fewest in four seasons as a starter.
A host of teams are expected to bid for Davis and can do so immediately (free agency starts for most players at 12:01 a.m. tomorrow). Dallas, Tampa Bay, New England and Carolina are expected to be among those interested in a proven back like Davis.
"I'm excited [about potential opportunities], but I'm also sad about leaving," Davis said.
Shade, 29, started at strong safety from 1999 to early last season before losing his job to rising Ifeanyi Ohalete. Hard hits, character and leadership were Shade's trademarks, but he had trouble at times in coverage and his salary made him expendable.
"I knew it was coming. I think everybody knew, just with the way the salary cap works," Shade said. "It's kind of a relief, to be honest. It's tough to move on until you get some closure."
Shade emphasized that his injured neck has been healed for more than two months now and that he absolutely plans to continue his career. However, he was sorry it won't be in Washington.
"I'm going to miss playing for the Redskins," said Shade, acquired as a free agent in 1999. "I'll miss the fans. Those people love the Redskins."
The cut of Rasby, 30, created another $660,000 of space. A block-first tight end, Rasby wasn't the best fit for Spurrier's offense, and the player speculated late in the season that he might be released. Intensifying his suspicions was a contract extension for young tight end Zeron Flemister.
"I thought I had a good chance [to fit in Spurriers offense] before I got injured," Rasby said, referring to an ugly knee sprain in the preseason. "Then it took me a while to come back. I was kind of slow the whole year."
With Davis departing, Rasby figured his value to the team diminished.
"I feel like I was one of Stephen Davis' set-up components," said Rasby, who signed as a free agent in 2001. "If he's not with the Redskins, then maybe there isn't a need for me as well."
Washington also waived punter Craig Jarrett, a young player who performed erratically in a late-season audition in place of injured Bryan Barker.


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