- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 5, 2005

After just three days, two free agents and $6 million worth of bonuses, the Washington Redskins just about have closed owner Dan Snyder’s usually wide-open wallet during the NFL’s signing period.

“Right now there’s not somebody [we’re pursuing],” Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said after welcoming receiver David Patten to the team yesterday at Redskin Park. “We’ve kind of done the things we need to do so far.”

Even if cornerback Fred Smoot follows middle linebacker Antonio Pierce out the door or the proposed trade of unhappy Laveranues Coles for fellow receiver Santana Moss falls through, Gibbs seems to have controlled Snyder’s spending.

“You never say that you’re done, because something could crop up,” Gibbs said. “Every day that list [of available players] comes out, we pore over it. We have needs. We’ve got a game plan, but it could change if something happens.”

The relatively affordable additions of Patten and center Casey Rabach stand in serious contrast to such previous Snyder binges as 2003, when the Redskins signed five players and traded for a sixth on free agency’s first day, or last year, when they acquired six players and handed out nearly $50 million worth of bonuses on the first day.

“Last year was a different year for us in that it was our first go-round [of my second Redskins tenure] and we said there were a real number of areas that we need to move in to try to help ourselves,” Gibbs said. “This year what it says is that we’re more comfortable in all those areas.”

Gibbs and Co. are comfortable with Patten as aa starter despite his size (5-foot-10) and age (31 in August), though his 44 catches for New England last season were seven fewer than the Redskins’ Rod Gardner.

That’s because Patten, who averaged 18.2 yards a catch with seven touchdowns and six grabs of at least 30 yards in 2004, still has the speed to get deep and make big plays.

“It’s about productivity, not size,” receivers coach Stan Hixon said. “Height is not a big deal. It’s about catching the ball and speed. If we can get them at 6-2, 6-3, that’s fine, too, but I have no problem with a person of David’s stature. Last year we didn’t have many what we call chunk plays, the big plays. We went into free agency looking for a big-play receiver, and that’s what we got. David has that speed that we all look for. He can stretch the field.”

Redskins receivers didn’t do that often in 2004, totaling just eight catches of at least 30 yards. They combined for just six touchdowns and averaged 11.5 yards a catch.

“We’re going to do every single thing we can to stretch the field, get deep, make big plays,” said Gibbs, who compared Patten to former Redskins standout Gary Clark. “We ran the ball decent last year. What we missed were big plays. If you get people up there trying to stop the run, you should be able to get big plays.”

The Redskins also targeted Patten because of the former Arena Football League player’s reasonable price compared to the likes of Derrick Mason and Plaxico Burress. Gibbs was on the phone to Patten just two minutes after the signing period began at midnight Wednesday and called twice more in the next two hours.

“In free agency, there’s always the concern that maybe people haven’t taken notice or haven’t seen what you accomplished,” said Patten, who averaged 15.5 yards a catch and scored 16 touchdowns in 54 games for the Patriots. “For him to call that soon really let me know that they really liked me. This team … believes in me and is willing to commit to me and give me an opportunity to come in and make a difference. I promised [Gibbs], I promised this organization that I will give everything David Patten has. You can take that to the bank.”

While not breaking it.

Notes — As first reported by the New York Post, Redskins minority owner Fred Drasner is selling his 10 percent stake back to the Snyder family. Drasner was eased out of another Snyder venture, Ventiv Health Inc., last month. The sale will be considered by the NFL’s finance committee Wednesday and voted on by the owners at their meetings in Hawaii later this month.

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