- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Washington Redskins’ trade of Laveranues Coles to the New York Jets for fellow receiver Santana Moss finally became official last night.

Coles, who demanded to be cut or traded because he disliked Redskins coach Joe Gibbs’ run-first offense and referred to Gibbs’ regime as a “dictatorship,” backed off some of those statements after passing his physical in New York.

“The Redskins are a very understanding organization, and they were very good to me in giving me the opportunity to come back to where I wanted to go,” said Coles, who left the Jets to play for pass-happy Redskins coach Steve Spurrier in March 2003. “That shows what type of people they are and Coach Gibbs, what kind of character he has. The last time we talked, we were on very good terms.”

Coles said he expects ex-teammate Moss “will flourish in that offense. I feel like I flourished. I just wasn’t comfortable, and I’m going to leave it at that.”

Asked to elaborate, Coles bristled, “My job is not to answer questions I don’t want to answer.”

Coles also said he had “nothing to do” with the $9.3 million in dead money he will cost the Redskins against this year’s salary cap, terming that “a front-office decision.”

Earlier in the day, spending decisions on the other side of the ball had Gibbs on the defensive. He discussed why the Redskins chose not to match the offers to cornerback Fred Smoot ($34 million over six years, including a $10.8 million bonus, from Minnesota) or linebacker Antonio Pierce ($26 million over six years, including a $6.5 million bonus, from the New York Giants).

“Fred and Antonio were important to us,” Gibbs said. “We wanted to keep them. Both of these guys played extremely well for us last year. We promised to do our absolute best to keep our core group of players together. We went after these guys hard. We went after them [during the 2004 season]. We made substantial offers, but it has to be within the confines of what works for the organization.”

Gibbs said the Redskins didn’t want to pay Smoot and Pierce “substantially more” than teammates at similar spots, referring to the six-year contracts they gave cornerback Shawn Springs ($31.3 million, including a $10.25 million bonus) and linebacker Marcus Washington ($22.5 million, including a $7 million bonus) last March. Springs, unlike Smoot, had been to a Pro Bowl, and Washington, unlike Pierce, had been a three-year starter.

“As long at it remains within reason, we’re going to do what we can to re-sign our players,” Gibbs said. “Fred got a better offer from someone else, and he took it. We understand that. We think a lot of him. We wish him the best.”

Gibbs said the club won’t pursue any free agents to replace Smoot and Pierce even though cornerback Walt Harris and linebacker Lemar Marshall, switching from the weak side to the middle, or the aging and ailing Michael Barrow likely won’t be as effective as the departed second alternates to the 2004 Pro Bowl.

The Redskins are counting on the return of three-time Pro Bowl weak-side linebacker LaVar Arrington, defensive end Phillip Daniels and safety Matt Bowen — who missed a combined 36 of a possible 48 starts with injuries last year — to pick up the slack.

“I played with Walt in Chicago,” Daniels said. “I have a lot of confidence in him. Lemar’s a young guy who played great last year. But it’s not up to them. It’s up to all of us on defense. We’ll be OK. We lost two guys, but we’re gaining three, four if you count Andre [Lott, the backup safety, who also missed most of 2004].”

Note — Gibbs said he and Redskins owner Dan Snyder have talked extensively to Ray Brown and that the 42-year-old offensive lineman, the last important unrestricted free agent Redskin, will re-sign.

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