- The Washington Times - Monday, February 28, 2005

INDIANAPOLIS — So much for a quieter free agent season in Washington. The Redskins yesterday were on the verge of landing former Tennessee Titans cornerback Samari Rolle with a typically huge signing bonus, believed to be worth $15million, NFL sources said.

The move would reunite Rolle, 28, with Washington assistant head coach for defense Gregg Williams, who was defensive coordinator during Rolle’s first three seasons, and with former teammate Steve Jackson, who now coaches the Redskins’ safeties. It also means Fred Smoot, a starting cornerback the last four seasons, will be allowed to leave as a free agent.

The two holdups apparently were Williams’ need to assuage Redskins coach Joe Gibbs about Rolle’s Feb.15 arrest on a domestic assault charge and agent Peter Schaffer’s focus on negotiations for two other clients, wide receiver Derrick Mason and defensive end Trevor Pryce. Rolle’s deal, however, appeared virtually completed.


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Meanwhile, a new contract for left tackle Chris Samuels could be finished in coming days. According to a source familiar with negotiations, the Redskins have boosted their offer substantially, positioning Samuels to receive the biggest signing bonus in club history.

Wide receiver Laveranues Coles and running back Clinton Portis are tied for the signing-bonus mark at $13million, but Samuels appears set for a signing bonus in the $16million range.



The upshot of Samuels’ potential deal is that the Redskins would move into position to trade Coles, perhaps even to the New York Jets. Talks to swap Coles for Jets wide receiver Santana Moss broke down Saturday, but a source said the snag seemed to be the product of contractual posturing.

There is basically no deadline for Samuels’ contract and Coles’ potential trade, though Washington would like to have both done before Wednesday’s start of free agency. However, the club needs to replace Samuels’ pact first to have enough salary-cap space to trade Coles.

Washington also is trying to move wide receiver Rod Gardner, and there appears to be legitimate interest around the league. Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Minnesota and San Diego all have had at least preliminary discussions with the Redskins, according to a source. Washington is expected to get a mid- to late-round draft pick.

Rolle’s assault charge stemmed from a Valentine’s Day altercation that left his wife, Danisha, with a cut over her left eye that required three stitches. Rolle waived his right to a hearing Thursday. His court date is April6 in Franklin, Tenn., with a maximum sentence of 11 months and 29 days plus a fine.

The 6-foot, 175-pound Rolle, a victim of the Titans’ Feb.21 cost-cutting purge, is fast enough to thrive under the re-emphasized illegal contact rules and tough enough to be effective in run defense. Rolle is believed to be recovered from the left knee injury that ended his 2004 season after 11 games.

A second-round pick out of Florida State in 1998, Rolle became a starter in 1999 as the Titans reached their only Super Bowl. He was an All-Pro when Tennessee had the NFL’s top defense in 2000.

“Samari is a rare breed,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. “He’s a shutdown corner. He’s very smart, very mature and he has some unique athletic skills. He has superb closing ability and explosion. There are a lot of good corners who can run fast, but they can’t leap like Samari. He was a big reason for our success in 1999 and 2000.”

Smoot, who turns 26 next month, was taken by Washington in the second round in 2001, inheriting Deion Sanders’ number (21) and starting job. Coincidentally, Rolle, who also wears 21, was the only player Sanders approved wearing his old No.2 at Florida State.

Smoot was solid throughout his tenure in Washington, but he never reached Pro Bowl status. What’s more, a definite chill developed late last season between Smoot and some members of the organization after contract negotiations stalled. Smoot rejected an offer that was believed to include a $10million signing bonus.

“I want to be here bad,” Smoot said the last week of the season. “It’s not about me wanting to be here. It’s all about the front office and do they want me here.”

Smoot’s departure would leave just seven players from 2001 in Washington: offensive tackles Jon Jansen and Samuels; linebackers LaVar Arrington, Lemar Marshall and Antonio Pierce; receiver Darnerien McCants; and long snapper Ethan Albright.

Pierce and Albright will join Smoot as free agents Wednesday, but the team wants to retain both. McCants doesn’t seem to be in Gibbs’ plans.

• Jody Foldesy reported from Washington.

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