- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 3, 2003

An awkward situation that threatened to stretch through the 2003 season was resolved yesterday when the Washington Redskins and vice president of football operations Joe Mendes agreed to part ways.

Vinny Cerrato, the personnel director since returning to the club in January 2002, was promoted to vice president of football operations, completing a rise that began last season when the excessive friction between he and Mendes became clear.

Mendes’ departure, meanwhile, capped a gradual erosion of power from when he returned to the club in January 2002 as the de facto general manager.

Mendes oversaw most of Washington’s personnel last offseason, deferring to owner Dan Snyder only in certain instances. But last fall Cerrato began assuming Mendes’ personnel duties, and this spring Snyder took over the significant contract negotiations.

That setup will continue despite Cerrato’s change in title. Cerrato will oversee scouting and the structure of the personnel department, deferring to Snyder on major personnel disagreements, while Snyder handles major contracts and maneuvers against the salary cap.

Other moves are expected as a ripple effect. Current assistant Dustin Nelson will take on more responsibility in the contracts/cap department, team sources said, though another hire could be made as well. In the scouting department, college director Ron Nay is expected to be fired while pro director Scott Campbell remains. Other changes will follow in the lower rungs of the department, where several scouts’ contracts have expired. Area scout Reggie Cobb, for one, recently moved on to Tampa Bay.

Cerrato declined comment on his promotion and the forthcoming changes.

Mendes’ departure — not really a firing or a resignation, but something in between — followed a meeting in recent days in which he and Snyder agreed it was best if he moved on.

“I have very fond memories,” Mendes said last night. “I’m very appreciative of the opportunity Mr. Snyder gave me. And I’ll miss all the people, all the players, very much. I wish the Redskins organization and the fans nothing but the best.”

Mendes had been set to remain with the club through the season, until his contract ran out in January 2004. The Redskins last month aborted a plan to oust him because Snyder had grown determined not to fire Mendes, and because Mendes had indicated to associates that he wouldn’t quit.

Still, both sides realized it would be superfluous for Mendes to stay. This week’s resolution allowed them to reach a middle ground. Mendes, who was believed to be making upwards of $400,000 annually, was expected to receive his pay through the end of the year.

Mendes, 50, now will take some time off. He and his wife are expecting twins in November. He has told associates that he hopes to work in the NFL again, apparently for another team. When he left the Redskins in 2000, he worked for agents Ethan Lock and Eric Metz.

In Mendes’ year atop the personnel department, he and Snyder shored up the talent on defense and conducted a seemingly solid draft, but on offense the personnel was lacking. Regarding the offensive personnel, though, coach Steve Spurrier didn’t press for top players, believing he could win with other teams’ castoffs.

Mendes’ draft in 2002 was defined by its value, which is fitting considering his conservative nature. The Redskins traded down twice in the first round and selected quarterback of the future Patrick Ramsey, then spent their second-round pick on running back Ladell Betts, the anticipated replacement for star Stephen Davis.

Washington also selected several other players who could contribute this season: third-round wide receiver Cliff Russell and cornerback Rashad Bauman, fifth-round tight end Robert Royal and safety Andre Lott, and seventh-round fullback Rock Cartwright and defensive end Greg Scott.

But the lacking of Washington’s offensive personnel became a major topic toward the end of last season. Particularly troublesome were the problems at guard, where Washington shuffled through blockers without finding any mainstays.

With Mendes taking a back seat to Snyder and Cerrato this offseason, the Redskins were one of the NFL’s busiest clubs. They acquired nine players in the first three days of free agency — including four guards — and to date they have added 17 veterans, including 15 from other clubs.

Note — Agent Jack Reale said cornerback Champ Bailey currently isn’t looking to make a proposal to extend his contract.

“At this point, that would be premature, since the club hasn’t given any indication that they’d like to entertain those types of discussions,” Reale said.

Reale added that Bailey, though, would welcome a proposal from the team.

Bailey, one of the NFL’s premier cornerbacks, is set to be a free agent next offseason and command a signing bonus in the $15million to $20million range. The Redskins are pretty much done assembling the 2003 roster and don’t have a first-round pick to sign; thus, Bailey’s future appears to be their next big issue.


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