- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 11, 2003

The Washington Redskins' ongoing offseason splurge is going to prove costly to the club and not only in dollar amounts.

In signing three restricted free agents to offer sheets and acquiring another player in a trade over the last 10 days, the Redskins could wind up losing four of their top six picks in April's draft.

As it stands now, Washington still has a selection in every round of the draft except the fourth round (the pick went to St. Louis in the Trung Canidate trade). But the club stands to lose three more picks should the New York Jets and Green Bay Packers choose not to match the Redskins' pending offer sheets for restricted free agents Laveranues Coles, Chad Morton and Matt Bowen.

Coles, who has agreed to a seven-year, $35 million offer sheet with a $13 million signing bonus, would cost Washington the No. 13 pick overall in the draft. Morton, inked to a five-year, $8 million deal on Thursday, would cost the Redskins their fifth-round selection. And Bowen, who officially will become a Redskin today if the Packers don't match a four-year, $6 million offer sheet, would cost a sixth-round pick.

Put it all together and by this time next week the Redskins' entire participation in the draft could be limited to a second-round, third-round and two seventh-round picks. Club officials might as well schedule some vacation time over draft weekend because it doesn't look like there's going to be much to do at Redskin Park.

Washington finds itself in this predicament because NFL rules require the compensation of draft picks when a club signs a restricted free agent. In recent years, most teams have been reluctant to pull off such moves because of that fact there was only one restricted free agent signed in the entire league last winter.

Redskins owner Dan Snyder, though, now has made offers to three restricted free agents in seven days and in the process has traded away more than half of his team's upcoming draft picks.

The most significant move is the signing of Coles because it will cost Washington its first-round selection. The Redskins hold the No. 13 pick and have contacted several teams about trading up into the top 10.

Should they acquire Coles, though, the Redskins won't make their first selection until the second round (No. 44 overall). And assuming they have solved their most-pressing need for a speed receiver, they could elect to make defensive tackle their top draft priority.

This year's class on the defensive line is widely considered one of the best in years, and even at No. 44 the Redskins could find themselves a bona fide prospect to help fill their hole on the interior line. Washington lost starter Daryl Gardener last week to the Denver Broncos, signed Brandon Noble away from the Dallas Cowboys and is still deciding whether to keep veteran Dan Wilkinson.

Several defensive tackles are projected to go in the first round, from Penn State's Jimmy Kennedy to Miami's William Joseph to Kentucky's Dewayne Robertson. But it's possible that one player among a second tier of tackles that includes Oklahoma State's Kevin Williams, Georgia's Jonathan Sullivan, Texas A&M's Ty Warren and Washington State's Rien Long could still be around when Washington's turn comes up in the second round.

Along with their second-round pick, the Redskins still have a third-round selection, though they traded down six spots to No. 81 overall with the New England Patriots last week to acquire the fifth-round selection needed to sign Morton.

The second day of the draft could be a long one for Washington's coaching and scouting staffs, which could be forced to sit quietly through the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds with nothing to do but cross players off the board. The Redskins will have traded their fourth-round pick to the Rams for Canidate, their fifth-round pick to the Jets for Morton and their sixth-round pick to the Packers for Bowen.

Things finally will pick up again in the seventh round when the Redskins make their last two selections their original pick, plus another one acquired last season from the Miami Dolphins for quarterback Sage Rosenfels.

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