- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 6, 2003

The Washington Redskins have aborted a plan to oust vice president of football operations Joe Mendes, meaning he will remain with the club through the upcoming season and depart when his contract expires in January.Team sources said last night that owner Dan Snyder has decided not to usher Mendes from the organization, a move that would have finalized the front office overhaul that began last fall.Still, Mendes won’t stay beyond the expiration of his contract. That deal pays him for the significant duties he held when he returned to the club in January 2002 as the de facto general manager.Now Mendes holds the role of a compromised contract negotiator and salary cap specialist. His personnel influence was ceded to Vinny Cerrato in the fall, and his most important contract duties were assumed this offseason by Snyder.Mendes’ departure had been all but certain, NFL sources said, with only its timing and an exit strategy to be determined. The most likely scenario had Mendes officially resigning but having the remainder of his contract bought out.The Redskins also might have allowed Mendes to begin looking for a job while finishing out his contract. But he has told associates he doesn’t want to work for another NFL team. He also told associates that he wouldn’t resign.Snyder did not want to fire Mendes, sources said, out of respect for his service to the club.The Redskins won’t replace Mendes per se, instead filling a lower position of contract negotiator/salary cap specialist. That post last was held by Mark Levin but left vacant last summer when he returned to work at the NFL Players Association.Expected to get consideration is Dustin Nelson, a young assistant in the department who has worked on cap and contract issues for three years.Promoting Nelson would allow Snyder to continue negotiating key deals but leave the lesser work in capable hands. Hiring from outside the club would be unnecessarily expensive, plus the team would have difficulty luring someone to take a position of compromised authority.The scouting department still will get a shakeup, sources said. Expected to be fired in coming weeks is college scouting director Ron Nay, a close friend of Mendes who was promoted to his current position a year ago. Pro director Scott Campbell, who was moved from overseeing the college side in last year’s shakeup, is expected to remain in the upper levels of the scouting department.Pro scout Dennis Murphy left the club last week for a position with Detroit. Sources said Murphy was frustrated by the friction atop the organization.Mendes and Cerrato both declined comment.A conflict between the two led to the current setup, the emergence of which was reported by The Washington Times on Nov. 26. Mendes and Cerrato have sharply divergent views on personnel and how to run a club, and they often have clashed since Snyder, after firing coach and director of football operations Marty Schottenheimer in January 2002, decided to split the general manager’s position into two parts.Mendes at that point was atop the personnel department, while Cerrato took the role of a key scout outside the normal hierarchy. Their differences eventually led to a heated argument in Snyder’s box during a Nov. 17 road game against the New York Giants. The owner immediately put Cerrato in charge of the draft and overseeing free agency, and Mendes was left to work with cap and contract details.The club adamantly denied the shift in power when it was reported by The Times, but this winter the new paradigm emerged. Cerrato oversaw all draft preparations and free agent evaluations, and Snyder himself took a much more active role in pursuing and negotiating with players.The Redskins, as expected, have been among the NFL’s most aggressive clubs this offseason. However, the moves have been much different from 2000, the last time this front office structure was in place.That year Washington signed aging veterans like Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders, Mark Carrier and Jeff George, compiling an NFL-record payroll of nearly $100 million en route to an 8-8 finish. This offseason the club has acquired 14 veterans, but most of them are young and targeted for positions of need. Only wide receiver Laveranues Coles and guard Randy Thomas have signed blockbuster deals.Mendes’ first stint for the Redskins was from 1993 to 2000 as a negotiator/cap specialist. He resigned in July 2000 after negotiating a series of big contracts, then spent 18 months as a consultant for player agents.Cerrato previously worked for the Redskins from 1999 to January 2001, when he was fired by Schottenheimer. He served as a commentator for ESPN during his year away from the club.

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