- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 11, 2006

Matt Bowen, Walt Harris, Brandon Noble, Cory Raymer and Tom Tupa officially became ex-Washington Redskins yesterday so the team could begin today’s free agent signing/trading period under the $102 million salary cap.

The five cuts saved the Redskins $7.455 million and LaVar Arrington’s release on Monday saved an additional $4.4 million.

Coach Joe Gibbs wasn’t available for comment and the team would not confirm which contracts were restructured to create additional cap space. But reworking had to be done so the Redskins could tender restricted free agents Chris Clemons, Derrick Dockery and Ade Jimoh, re-sign running back Rock Cartwright and have enough money to sign their draft picks and any free agents.

Among the five departed players, only Harris was a semi-regular last year, starting 13 games. Noble and Tupa missed the season because of injuries and Bowen and Raymer — former starters — played reserve roles.

Safety Ryan Clark, tight end Robert Royal and defensive end Demetric Evans also become unrestricted free agents today.

Quarterback Patrick Ramsey remains a Redskin, but reports in New York stated yesterday that a trade between the Redskins and Jets was imminent. The Redskins would receive a fifth-round pick and Ramsey would compete with Chad Pennington for the starting position.

The Ramsey trade would give the Redskins seven draft picks — their most since 2002. The Redskins currently hold picks in the second, third, fifth, sixth (two selections) and seventh rounds. Their first round draft choice was traded to Denver last year so the Redskins could select Jason Campbell.

Each team has an additional $7.5 million to use, thanks to Wednesday’s agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement. The salary cap is $16.5 million more than last year.

Among the team’s own unrestricted free agents, Clark and Royal appear to be the Redskins’ top priorities.

A starter at safety for 26 games (including playoffs) the last two seasons, Clark has found a niche within the Redskins’ defense.

In 13 regular season games last year, Clark had 57 tackles and three interceptions. He made $488,000 but looks to get a big raise from the Redskins or another team. The prevailing theory has been that the Redskins want him back, but not at an over-the-top price.

Clark said yesterday he remains optimistic a deal can be completed with the Redskins.

“Two, three weeks ago, I would have said I was 100 percent sure, but I’m not 100 percent sure now,” he said. “But I’m still more on the positive side than the negative side.”

Clark could garner interest because he won’t break a team’s payroll and has played on top-10 defenses the last two seasons.

“I want to stay here, but we’re totally prepared to go to the open market,” he said. “I think both sides want to get something done, but sometimes, the money isn’t available to spend at certain positions.

“I’m just sitting here waiting for 12:01. There’s going to be some pretty good action going on.”

The Redskins intend to get in on that action. Last year’s opening days of free agency were a mixed bag — they signed center Casey Rabach and receiver David Patten but lost middle linebacker Antonio Pierce and cornerback Fred Smoot, moves Gibbs later regretted. The trade for Santana Moss came in mid-March.

A published report yesterday said the Redskins were interested in San Francisco receiver Brandon Lloyd. Lloyd, 24, had 48 catches and five touchdowns last season for the 49ers, but signing him will cost any team. The 49ers have tendered Lloyd, a restricted free agent, for $1.6 million, giving them the right to match any contract offer or receive a first-round draft choice as compensation. The Redskins don’t have a first round pick this year.

Lloyd’s agent, Joby Branion, did not return a phone message yesterday.

Isaac Bruce is set to re-sign with the St. Louis Rams today for three years and $15 million and teams with big-time cap space, such as the Chicago Bears, are expected to go hard after Pittsburgh’s Antwaan Randle El despite the fact he’s a No. 2 receiver. Randle El’s skill set makes it difficult to gauge his market value.

“He’s not a cookie-cutter receiver,” Cleveland general manager Phil Savage said. “That’s the one thing I admire about what Pittsburgh has done. They’ve been very creative with him and Hines Ward.”

Note — Arrington visited Miami yesterday and is expected to visit the Giants this weekend. Cleveland also has expressed interest in signing him.

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