- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 12, 2006

As usual, the Washington Redskins moved fast as the NFL’s free agent signing period got under way yesterday, trading two draft picks for San Francisco receiver Brandon Lloyd.

Shortly after the trade was finalized, owner Dan Snyder, coach Joe Gibbs and a plethora of assistants took Lloyd, 49ers linebacker Andre Carter, Pittsburgh receiver Antwaan Randle El and St. Louis safety Adam Archuleta in three limousines to the Wizards-Detroit Pistons game. The visits will continue today at Redskin Park with Lloyd, at least, being officially introduced as a Redskin tomorrow.

“Brandon has phenomenal hands,” raved Vinny Cerrato, Redskins vice president of football operations.

Despite playing with dreadful quarterbacks in his two seasons as a starter, the acrobatic 6-foot, 192-pound Lloyd caught 91 passes for 1,298 yards (14.3-yard average) and 11 touchdowns. However, he also dropped more than his share of passes and was criticized at times by his teammates and coaches for his lack of focus.

“Brandon is very athletic, and he can make the spectacular catch,” 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. “It’s good for them and good for us. The trade gave us an opportunity to strengthen our roster.”

With Lloyd having been acquired for a third-rounder this year and a fourth-rounder in 2007, Washington is left with just one selection (a second) before the fourth round next month. While Lloyd’s salary is a relatively affordable $1.552 million, the Redskins are so pressed for salary cap room that it’s hard to see them being able to afford Randle El, whom the Chicago Bears, among other teams, also are ardently wooing. And with Pro Bowl receiver Santana Moss entrenched at one spot, either Lloyd or Randle El wouldn’t start.

As a part-time starter for a team that lost just one regular-season game in 2004 and a regular as Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl last season, the 26-year-old Randle El caught a combined 78 passes for 1,159 yards (14.9-yard average) and four touchdowns. Randle El, who starred at quarterback at Indiana, has extra value in his ability to be used as a return man, runner and passer. He clinched the Steelers’ Super Bowl victory over Seattle with a late touchdown pass but figures to be too expensive for the ever-stingy Steelers to retain.

Meanwhile, Washington lost one of its two unrestricted free agent starters when tight end Robert Royal signed a surprisingly lucrative five-year, $10 million contract with Buffalo. Holdover Mike Sellers is the leading candidate to replace Royal, although second-tier free agents also could be candidates if there’s salary cap room left after Washington’s likely spending spree on this week’s visitors.

Carter, a first-round draft choice in 2001, would replace three-time Pro Bowl pick LaVar Arrington, who was granted his release Monday, ending a long-running battle between him and the organization. Archuleta, also a first-rounder in 2001, would be an upgrade on holdover Ryan Clark, who’s unsigned.

The 26-year-old Carter, whose father, Rubin, coached Washington’s defensive line in 1999 and 2000, the first two seasons of the Snyder regime — recorded 25 sacks during his first three seasons in San Francisco. A back injury limited Carter to seven games and two sacks in 2004, and the 6-foot-4, 265-pounder never seemed comfortable last year after the 49ers switched to a 3-4 alignment under ex-Redskins defensive coordinator Nolan, producing 4 sacks. Still, the 49ers, who have plenty of cap room, want to keep Carter, especially with higher-priced fellow outside linebacker Julian Peterson not expected to re-sign.

Archuleta was a linebacker at Arizona State but has spent his entire NFL career at safety. Although the Rams have struggled defensively, the Redskins like the hard-hitting, 6-foot, 223-pound Archuleta, who’s an inch taller and 18 pounds bigger than Clark. Archuleta, 28, has averaged 82 tackles and three sacks during his five seasons. St. Louis replaced him yesterday with former Minnesota Viking Corey Chavous.

While second-string quarterback isn’t a priority, Snyder also sent Redskins One to the Bahamas to bring the vacationing Todd Collins back for a visit. Collins, 34, spent the past five years under current Redskins offensive coordinator Al Saunders in Kansas City, throwing just 27 passes. Patrick Ramsey, last year’s backup to starter Mark Brunell, has visited the New York Jets with Miami believed to be next on his list. The Redskins are seeking a draft pick or two as compensation for Ramsey, their former starter who has a year left on his contract.

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