- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 29, 2004

HOUSTON — It will cost the Washington Redskins a bit more than expected to place the franchise tag on cornerback Champ Bailey — about $6.8million, according to figures recently released by the NFL Players Association.

Estimates for Bailey’s tag had been a little more than $6million, based on the 2002 cornerback franchise figure of $5.962million. The tag’s value is calculated by averaging the cap figures of the five highest-paid players at each position.

If the Redskins cannot agree to a long-term deal with Bailey in coming weeks, they will retain his rights with the tag — a qualifying one-year, $6.801million offer. The tag must be applied between Feb.10 and 24.

Cornerback carries the fourth-richest franchise tag. Quarterback ($9.958million), wide receiver ($7.229million) and offensive line ($7.021million) are higher.

If tagged, Bailey’s options in the free agent market would be severely limited. He could sign an offer sheet with one other club, but if Washington declined to match the offer sheet, his new team would have to surrender a pair of first-round picks.

Agent Jack Reale confirmed yesterday that there have been no further contract negotiations since Bailey rejected Washington’s opening nine-year, $55million offer in August. At the time, the sides paid lip service to restarting talks toward the end of the season. Washington instead used its remaining cap room on a nine-year, $68million extension for linebacker LaVar Arrington.

Arrington’s extension gives the Redskins leeway against the salary cap to franchise Bailey. The club is less than $6million below the projected $79million cap, but it can create significant room by cutting veterans. In jeopardy are Bruce Smith, Lional Dalton, Jessie Armstead, Larry Moore, Byron Chamberlain, Trung Canidate and Bryan Barker.

A negative effect of Arrington’s extension, though, is that it set a floor for Bailey’s negotiations. Although the merits of Arrington’s contract have been questioned extensively in league circles, it is richer than the take it or leave it proposal Washington made to Bailey last summer.

Next week Bailey will play in his fourth Pro Bowl, Arrington his third.

Reale added that one of his clients, punter David Leaverton, a late entry into the punting competition Barker won in 2003 training camp, recently re-signed with the Redskins.

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