- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 30, 2004

The Redskins have agreed to the terms of a trade that would bring Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver James Thrash back to Washington, NFL sources said last night. In exchange for Thrash, a seven-year veteran who played in Washington from 1997 to 2000, the Redskins will send the Eagles a late-round draft pick in 2005.

The deal for Thrash came on the same day Washington finalized its trade of fullback Bryan Johnson to the Bears. Johnson, whose fate had been in limbo for the last week, was sent to Chicago for a sixth-round pick in next month’s draft.

A starter the last three seasons in Philadelphia, Thrash joins a crowded Redskins receiving corps. Laveranues Coles and Rod Gardner are entrenched as starters, with Darnerien McCants and Taylor Jacobs expected to play significant roles as well. McCants, a restricted free agent, still could sign an offer sheet with another team, but the Redskins have said they likely would match any offer.

How Thrash fits into the mix remains to be seen, but the 28-year-old has established himself as a hard-nosed, reliable receiver and a strong special teams player. He has 229 catches for 2,910 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Thrash’s production, however, decreased in each of his three years in Philadelphia, from a career-best 63 receptions, 833 yards and eight touchdowns in 2001 to 49 catches for 558 yards and one touchdown last season. When the Eagles acquired Pro Bowl receiver Terrell Owens earlier this month, Thrash became a prime trade candidate.

The 6-foot, 200-pound receiver broke into the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of tiny Missouri Southern State but over time made a name for himself with the Redskins. He wound up starting nine games in 2000 and finished second on the club with 50 receptions and 653 yards, leading to a five-year, $8.9million contract offer from Philadelphia.

Thrash never lost his connection to the Washington area, though — he and his family still reside in Sterling, less than 10 minutes from Redskin Park.

Back with the Redskins, Thrash could emerge as coach Joe Gibbs’ No.3 or No.4 receiver and is likely to be a major contributor on special teams. He ranked third in the NFC in kick returns last year and alongside incumbent returner Chad Morton could give Washington a dangerous duo on kickoffs.

Thrash has two years remaining on his contract; he is due to earn $1.6million this year and $2million in 2005. Washington cleared up $2.2million in cap space by trading Johnson to the Bears.

Yesterday’s deal capped a wild week for Johnson, who had signed a four-year, $4.1million offer sheet with the New Orleans Saints, only to find out 10 minutes before Friday’s deadline that the Redskins were matching the offer. Three days later, Johnson was sent to Chicago, which was willing to take on his hefty new contract and give up a low-round draft pick as compensation.

As it turns out, Washington had an inkling it would find a willing trade partner for the 26-year-old and thus matched the Saints’ offer sheet with the intention of dealing him to another club.

The Redskins had only a 24-hour window to work out a deal because Johnson’s contract contained a no-trade clause that expired late Sunday but also included an $800,000 roster bonus that was set to take effect today. By trading him to the Bears, Washington is off the hook for Johnson’s contract and incurs no cap charge this year.

The Redskins also managed to come away with an extra draft pick, which the club desperately needed after dealing away all but two of its selections over the last year. Washington now owns the No.5 pick overall, plus fifth- and sixth-round selections.

Had the Redskins allowed Johnson, a restricted free agent who was never drafted as a rookie, to sign with New Orleans, they would have received no compensation.

Notes — Darrell Russell, who spent the second half of last season with the Redskins, is reportedly close to signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Washington had no plans to bring back the former Pro Bowl defensive tackle, who recorded just four tackles in eight games last year. …

The Redskins cut linebacker Armegis Spearman, who had just been signed to participate in last weekend’s minicamp.

Staff writer Jody Foldesy contributed to this report.

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