- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 8, 2004

The Washington Redskins are in discussions with the Jacksonville Jaguars to acquire Mark Brunell, NFL sources said yesterday. The veteran quarterback is due to meet tomorrow with coach Joe Gibbs.

The Redskins are one of several teams actively pursuing Brunell, but they appear to be the leading candidate to land the three-time Pro Bowl player. Sources said the Redskins have made a trade offer that includes at least a second-round pick in April’s draft and have arranged for Gibbs to meet tomorrow with the 33-year-old quarterback somewhere in Florida.

A trade for Brunell would constitute a surprising move by the Redskins for two reasons: He has a high salary, and Gibbs has spoken glowingly about current starting quarterback Patrick Ramsey.

ESPN.com reported yesterday that “an almost-done deal” was in place, but multiple sources said last night the Redskins are not the only team to have made an offer to the Jaguars. The Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers are believed to be interested in the quarterback also.

Brunell, an 11-year veteran, is due to earn $8.5million in 2004 ($6.5million in salary, $2million in a roster bonus). For that reason, the Jaguars have been planning to release him before that bonus kicks in March1, but with several teams willing to trade for Brunell, it appears the process will never reach that stage.

It’s unlikely the Redskins could absorb Brunell’s salary without first reworking the deal. That figures to be a major topic of discussion when he and Gibbs meet. Still, Brunell almost certainly will command a starting quarterback’s salary.

He entered 2003 as the Jaguars’ starter but suffered an elbow injury in mid-September, lost his job to rookie Byron Leftwich and finished what was surely his final season in Jacksonville on the bench.

Given the number of teams interested in Brunell, though, he’s still viewed by many as a viable NFL starter.

Brunell’s agent, Leigh Steinberg, did not return phone calls last night, but on Wednesday he told the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post that Brunell hoped to play a significant role with a Super Bowl contender.

“Mark’s focus is going to try to be with a team that has playoff aspirations, a team that’s in the hunt,” Steinberg told the newspaper. “The last few years have been frustrating for him because Jacksonville was rebuilding. Mark is probably going to be the hottest quarterback in the free agent market and he will certainly have a number of choices.”

Washington’s pursuit of Brunell raises serious questions about Ramsey’s status with the club. It’s not inconceivable the Redskins could carry both quarterbacks on their roster in 2004, but the combined salaries of the two would make a huge dent in the club’s overall cap figure and make it difficult to address other key needs this offseason. Ramsey has three years remaining on the five-year, $5.7million contract he signed as a rookie that included a $3.1million signing bonus.

Also, if the Redskins were to trade their second-round draft pick (37th overall) to Jacksonville for Brunell, they would be left with only three other picks — the No.5 overall selection, plus a third- and a seventh-rounder.

Ramsey, 24, had an up-and-down sophomore season — he threw for 2,166 yards and 14 touchdowns but was battered by opposing defenses and was forced to sit out most of the Redskins’ final six games with a broken right foot that ultimately required surgery.

Ramsey has begun rehabilitating his foot and as recently as Friday morning spoke with Gibbs about resuming football activities. To this point, Gibbs has spoken about Ramsey as though he will be his starting quarterback.

“Patrick, he wants to get going with football,” Gibbs said Friday. “And right now, the staff’s not ready to get going. So I’m kind of having to throw some cold water on him and say, ‘Hey, calm down a little bit.’ But I think he’s very eager, and we’re excited about getting a chance to work with him.”

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