- The Washington Times - Monday, February 16, 2004

The Washington Redskins and agent Angelo Wright yesterday denied tampering with Wright’s client, defensive tackle Ted Washington, but questions linger concerning the club’s adherence to NFL rules.

The NFL prohibits contact between a pending free agent and any team other than his current one. Washington, a beefy defensive tackle who dominated in the New England Patriots’ recent Super Bowl XXXVIII win, is set for unrestricted free agency on March3.

Last week the Boston Globe reported that Wright said he received two preliminary inquiries for Washington from the Redskins and Oakland Raiders. Yesterday The Washington Post reported that the Redskins contacted Washington’s representative. Neither report alluded to any potential wrongdoing.

But any specific discussions at this point would be illegal. Redskins vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato and Wright both denied improper contact.

“Absolutely not,” Cerrato said. “Free agency doesn’t begin until March3. It’s illegal for us to make contact. We haven’t contacted [Wright], nor have we contacted anyone else.”

Said Wright: “I’ve got four free agents. Do I talk to teams to see what they need? Yes. But I haven’t talked about anyone specific.”

It is widely known teams often circumvent NFL rules regarding contact. But league officials admit it’s difficult to prove wrongdoing when the team and player simply can deny improper actions.

Still, the Redskins are under particular scrutiny. Just before last season’s opener, the Patriots released safety Lawyer Milloy. SI.com quoted Milloy saying his agent contacted the Redskins before his release and that “the Redskins gave us a bigger offer than the Patriots.”

The Redskins were investigated by the NFL, but apparently no wrongdoing was found. The penalty for tampering could range from a reprimand to a draft pick.

NFL spokesman Greg Aeillo did not return a phone message yesterday regarding the Washington reports.

Meanwhile, Redskins coaches and scouts will travel to Indianapolis tomorrow morning for the NFL Scouting Combine. The team continues to await a pair of potential trades, to acquire Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell and to part with cornerback Champ Bailey.

Brunell could agree to a deal with Washington any time between now and March3, when the signing and trading period opens, but NFL sources said the passer is considering whether to push for contact with other teams.

There is mutual interest between Brunell and teams like the Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, San Diego Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but Jacksonville has been reluctant to grant contact since allowing Redskins coach Joe Gibbs to meet with Brunell.

However, Brunell has a $2million roster bonus as leverage on the Jaguars, and he probably could get meetings with other clubs by threatening not to waive the bonus, the mechanism that will facilitate a trade.

A trade sending Bailey to another club isn’t expected for some time. The Redskins entered the process with immense trade hopes, seeking at least first- and second-round picks, and teams probably will wait until Washington’s demands sink.

Leveraging a deal for less valuable picks likely will be the Redskins’ perceived desire to part with Bailey. Although Redskins officials say they hold Bailey in high regard, they are faced with two unattractive prospects: keeping him at the fiscally unsound one-year franchise figure ($6.8million) or catering to his long-term contract demands.

Washington is expected to grow more eager to deal Bailey as the April24-25 draft approaches. The Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos, New Orleans Saints and Houston Texans are considered potential bidders.

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