- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 21, 2004

Fullback Bryan Johnson has signed an offer sheet with the New Orleans Saints, a move that gives the Washington Redskins until Friday to match it or lose Johnson with no compensation.

The Redskins said at the start of free agency they would match any offer for their four restricted free agents, but vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato didn’t have much to say about the Saints’ cap-unfriendly offer.

“No comment right now,” Cerrato said. “We’ll take our time with it.”

Johnson, 26, brings no compensation because he was undrafted out of Boise State in 2000. A linebacker in college, he evolved into a solid blocking fullback and terrific special teams player. He could start at H-back in coach Joe Gibbs’ offense.

According to several sources familiar with the offer sheet, New Orleans’ pact is valued at about $4.3million over four years and contains several clauses that could dissuade the Redskins from matching.

The first element is an immediate $800,000 roster bonus with no signing bonus. Roster bonuses, unlike signing bonuses, are not prorated over the life of the contract, and this one serves to give Johnson a high first-year cap number.

That figure is further inflated by a second element: “likely to be earned” incentives that Johnson almost certainly will not earn. The incentives, based on a technicality in NFL player contracts, raise Johnson’s first-year cap figure. Because he is virtually certain not to earn them, the Saints (or Redskins) would get a cap rebate for the incentives’ value in 2005.

In the end, Johnson has a first-year cap figure of about $2.2million. The Redskins have a little more than $4million remaining against the spending limit.

Washington also must be careful to reserve funds in order to match its other restricted free agent, wide receiver Darnerien McCants. McCants, who has fifth-round compensation, is expected to command an offer sheet of significantly more value than Johnson.

The Redskins’ other restricted free agents are safety Ifeanyi Ohalete and linebacker Antonio Pierce, neither of whom is expected to get much activity in the market.

Last year Washington bucked NFL convention by signing away four restricted free agents: wide receiver Laveranues Coles, return man Chad Morton, safety Matt Bowen and defensive tackle Jermaine Haley. Several weeks ago, the Redskins attempted to pry cornerback Jerametrius Butler from the St. Louis Rams but had a six-year, $15million offer sheet matched.

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