- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Before we get to Dan Snyder’s flirtation with Samari Rolle — and there’s plenty to fulminate about there — let’s talk for a moment about what’s going on with Laveranues Coles. As you’ve no doubt heard, the Redskins once again have had a “misunderstanding” with one of their players. Last year it was with LaVar Arrington, who claims the team shorted him $6.5 million in his contract; this year it’s with Coles, who says the club promised to release him if he forfeited the $5 million bonus due him tomorrow.

It’s hard to know who’s right and who’s wrong in these matters — without an eavesdropping device, that is. But there’s no question a pattern is emerging, and it’s not one that flatters the Redskins. In addition to L’Affaires LaVar and Laveranues, after all, there was the team’s ham-handed attempt to change the terms of a deal with the Patriots in March 2003. How quickly folks seem to have forgotten that dubious move.

What happened was this: After the Redskins signed kick returner Chad Morton, a restricted free agent, they owed the Jets a fifth-round draft pick as compensation. Having already traded away their No. 5, they started talking to clubs that had multiple fifth-rounders — and managed to wangle one from the Patriots (for a No. 7 in ‘03 and a No. 4 in ‘04).

There was just one problem. According to league rules — which Snyder and his people apparently didn’t read very carefully — if the Redskins lacked a fifth-round pick, they had to come up with one at least as high as their own to give the Jets. New England’s fifth-rounder, it turned out, was 17 picks lower than Washington’s.

How did the Redskins respond to this obvious gaffe? They called back the Patriots and tried to tell them that the deal was for their other No. 5, the one they’d acquired from the Cowboys — a pick four spots higher than Washington’s original No. 5. “No way,” the Pats said. “It was for our No. 5.” So Snyder had to rework the trade and give New England even more for Dallas’ fifth-rounder.

Granted, it’s a small thing, a fifth-round pick, but what’s important here is the Redskins’ behavior. They made a deal — perhaps hastily, perhaps not knowing all they needed to know — and then they tried to “revisit” it, tried to pull a fast one on the Pats. Again, this doesn’t mean they misled Coles — or swindled Arrington — just that the players’ contentions shouldn’t be automatically shrugged off.

Frankly, it isn’t hard to envision a scenario in which Coles went to Snyder, expressed his willingness to forgo the last installment of his $13 million signing bonus in exchange for his freedom, and the Redskins owner, imagining what he could do with that $5 million, saying, “We might be agreeable to that.” (He did, I’ll just point out, give Deion Sanders a big signing bonus and let him walk after only a year.)

One can also envision Snyder running the idea by Gibbs, and Coach Joe, rightfully, saying, “What are you, crazy? We gave up the 13th pick in the draft for that guy. He caught 90 passes for us last season. We can’t just give him away. We’ve got to get something in return.”

Which brings us to our current He Said/They Said impasse.

Then there’s Samari Rolle. Rolle is a nice cornerback, don’t get me wrong. (You may remember him breaking open a Monday night game against the Redskins a few years back by picking off a Brad Johnson pass on the last play of the first half and returning it 81 yards for a touchdown.) It’s swell, too, that he has a history with Gregg Williams and would fit perfectly into his defensive scheme. But another huge (e.g. $15 million) signing bonus for a corner — on top of the $10 million the Snyder shelled out for Shawn Springs a year ago? Not advisable, and it’s good see the club has stopped pursuing him.

The issue to me, as much as anything, is that the Redskins would have been doing the exact opposite of what the Patriots and Eagles, the two smartest teams in the league, have been doing. The Pats just released pricey veteran Ty Law and have decided to go with younger cornerbacks. Philly came to the same conclusion a year ago with Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor (who, unlike Law, had played out their contracts). And yet, for a while at least, the Redskins were thinking about replacing Fred Smoot with the older and equally expensive Rolle — after replacing Champ Bailey with the older and almost as expensive Springs.

Does that strike you as good long-range planning, or does that strike you as Living in the Moment?

We won’t even get into the $25,000 Rolle was fined in 2002 and 2003 for four separate infractions (throat-slash gesture, two excessive celebration citations, plus a concussion-causing hit on Mark Brunell, then with Jacksonville). This domestic violence charge involving his wife doesn’t look real good, either.

Yup, sounds like he would have been a great role model for Sean Taylor. There are far, far better ways the Redskins can spend their money, but whether they can figure out which ways those are is, as always, anyone’s guess.

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