- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 8, 2003

The Washington Redskins have been negotiating on and off for about a month to extend the expiring contract of defensive lineman Carl Powell, one of their key reserves, NFL sources said yesterday.

There remains a good chance that Powell could sign a new pact before free agency opens on Feb.28. The Redskins have exclusive negotiating rights until then, and Powell said before he left town last week that he would like to re-sign without testing the market.

Meanwhile, the Redskins will cut running back Stephen Davis sometime between Feb.20 and Feb.28. Davis cannot be cut until the former date because the NFL has frozen rosters until then. And he must be gone by the latter because that's when the new league year begins and the 2003 salary cap goes into effect. The Redskins don't have room for Davis' $11.4million cap figure.

With regard to Powell, the sides tried to get a deal done before the season ended, which would have allowed the Redskins to prorate the cap impact of a new deal into 2002. The club instead used some remaining 2002 cap room to sign reserve tight end Zeron Flemister to a three-year extension just before the last game.

Powell's signing would be more significant for several reasons. First, he is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent; Flemister, in contrast, would have been restricted and probably would have remained anyway. Second, Powell was an impact player for Washington's fifth-ranked defense last season; Flemister caught just 10 passes on the 20th-ranked offense.

For most of the year Powell provided valuable minutes as a "swing" lineman, a capable reserve at both end and tackle. He then performed well in place of injured defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson over the final four weeks as Washington rose through the league's defensive rankings.

Through it all, coaches consistently raved about the work ethic and enthusiasm of Powell, who finished with 31 tackles and three sacks. His enthusiasm, in particular, was on display in the final game, when he sacked Dallas quarterback Chad Hutchinson and celebrated with a somersault.

Powell, who turned 29 on Saturday, came to Washington on a one-year contract after starting to emerge in Chicago in 2001. His background with defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis both were in Baltimore in 2000, though Powell did not appear in any games was a big reason he signed here.

Lewis' potential departure to Cincinnati might add some pressure for the Redskins to sign Powell. Lewis is among the coaches who have been extremely pleased with the lineman, and he probably would try to bring Powell to the Bengals if he becomes the coach there.

Despite Powell's contributions, it is unlikely he would be viewed as the permanent replacement for Wilkinson, who is in line to be cut after June1. Powell remains a bit undersized (in the 280- to 290-pound range) for a defensive tackle. The Redskins are attempting to re-sign tackle Daryl Gardener and will look in free agency and the draft for another starter.

Powell, in that scenario, would remain a key reserve at tackle and end.

The Redskins will save $5.2million against the cap when Davis is released, funds that now are crucial because linebacker LaVar Arrington met some costly triggers in his contract. Washington also is in line to save $1.6million by cutting safety Sam Shade, who spent the latter part of the year on injured reserve with a neck injury.

Washington could do Davis a favor and let him go Feb.20. That would allow Davis to get a jump on free agents (who aren't free until Feb.28) and begin negotiating with other NFL teams. At this point, Tampa Bay, Dallas and New England are among those mentioned as potential destinations.

Lewis appears to be one of the top two candidates in Cincinnati, though former Jacksonville coach Tom Coughlin might be the front-runner. There are indications that the Bengals' third elite candidate, Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, isn't interested in the job.

Note The Redskins signed guard Brad Bedell, a former sixth-round pick by Cleveland who started four games for the Browns in 2001.

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