- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

The start of the Washington Redskins’ first minicamp of the season didn’t mean an end to the club’s free agent spending spree.After bringing in 13 players during a hectic offseason, the Redskins yesterday agreed to a two-year, $1.5 million deal with veteran cornerback Alex Molden, NFL sources said.Molden, a seven-year veteran who has played in New Orleans and San Diego, received a $200,000 signing bonus. He’ll undergo a physical at Redskin Park this morning and is expected to be in uniform for the second day of this weekend’s minicamp.Despite starting all 16 games last season, Molden, 29, was released by the Chargers after he declined to restructure the six-year, $17.1 million contract he signed in 2001. With Champ Bailey and Fred Smoot entrenched at the corners, Molden isn’t expected to compete for a starting job, but he will challenge Rashad Bauman for the No. 3 spot.”He’s been a starter in the league, so he gives us some more veteran depth in the defensive backfield,” Redskins personnel director Vinny Cerrato said.A first-round draft pick by the Saints in 1996, Molden has been a starter on and off during his NFL career. Over seven seasons, he has recorded 304 tackles, 12 interceptions and eight sacks.Smoot ignores rumorsFred Smoot’s name came up often this winter as rumors circulated around the NFL that the Redskins were looking to trade the cornerback for an early-round draft pick. Smoot, however, says he paid no attention to such talk and can’t wait to get back on the field for his third season.”I’d hear all the chatter and hear this and hear that, but until something happened, I wasn’t really worried about it,” he said. “Hey, I love where I’m at, and I’m not trying to leave.”Questions whether Smoot had reached a plateau as an NFL cornerback might have prompted the trade rumors, one of which had the 24-year-old going to Detroit in a package that would have sent the Lions’ No. 2 overall draft pick to Washington.But with the trade talk now quashed, Smoot and fellow starting corner Champ Bailey are looking forward to re-establishing their collective image among the rest of the NFL.”I talked to Fred, and he wasn’t worried about it,” Bailey said. “I would never like to see him leave, because I think we’re the best tandem in the league right now.”Different look on ‘D’With Marvin Lewis now trying to turn the hapless Cincinnati Bengals into a winner, the Redskins’ defense has a slightly different look, perhaps most noticeably with altered roles for Bruce Smith and LaVar Arrington.As had been expected since the signing of defensive end Regan Upshaw in March, Smith practiced most with the second-stringers. The soon-to-be 40-year-old still will see plenty of playing time on passing downs.”I think Bruce understands, certainly at his age, that he’s not going to play 70 plays a game,” coach Steve Spurrier said. “We want to still use him, and he is still an excellent pass rusher — he’s still one of the best in the league. We just don’t want him to get beat up in there playing every down.”Though all signs point to Smith returning for a 19th season, one that likely will see him collect the four sacks he needs to break Reggie White’s career record of 198, he still has not officially committed to it.”I haven’t made a final decision,” he said. “I’m just here practicing because I think it’s the right thing to do right now. I’m trying to work some things through in my mind and make sure that I’m making the right decision.”Arrington, meanwhile, was excited to be playing his natural linebacker position in the Redskins’ nickel defense rather than as a down lineman, as he was last season.”I finally have a coach who trusts what I can do, trusts my ability,” Arrington said, referring to defensive coordinator George Edwards. “It’s nice to have a coach who knows what your strengths are and is prepared to utilize them.”Extra pointsThe Redskins came out of yesterday’s practices without any significant injuries. New running back Trung Canidate twisted his left ankle during the morning workout but returned in the afternoon. Four players were held out: guard Tre Johnson (hamstring), linebacker Jeremiah Trotter (knee) and defensive ends Ladairis Jackson (knee) and Greg Scott (ankle). …Veteran punter Bryan Barker, who is battling to regain his job, had a few nice kicks, though he was inconsistent overall. The Redskins brought in unsigned players Brent Bartholomew and Mike Barr to punt along with Barker this weekend.

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