- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Washington Redskins admitted yesterday they tried to trade for disgruntled Cincinnati receiver Chad Johnson — only to have the Bengals turn them down.

The Johnson-to-the-Redskins rumors had brewed for weeks despite frequent assertions by Bengals coach Marvin Lewis that the team wouldn’t trade the three-time All-Pro. Johnson has threatened never to play again for Cincinnati, which has reached the postseason just once in his seven seasons.

Yesterday, Lewis at first denied an ESPN report that Washington had offered two draft choices for Johnson because the question referred to a pair of first-rounders.

A Redskins source also said Washington hadn’t made a firm offer because Cincinnati said it wouldn’t deal Johnson in part because of the $8.1 million salary cap hit it would take as a result.

However, when Lewis learned later in the day ESPN reported the Redskins’ offer as their 2008 first-round pick (21st overall) and a conditional third-rounder in 2009, he confirmed it.

At that point, the Redskins source also retracted his denial.

The Redskins would welcome Johnson since receiver Santana Moss battled injuries the past two seasons and fellow starter Antwaan Randle El’s 51 catches and 728 yards last season were career highs.

Johnson has averaged 92 catches and nine touchdowns the past five seasons. The 30-year-old is the first player to lead a conference in receiving yards four consecutive years (2003-06).

At 6-foot-1, Johnson isn’t the big receiver new coach Jim Zorn wants, but he’s three inches taller than Moss and Randle El. And unlike potential rookies Devin Thomas (6-2), Malcolm Kelly (6-4) and Limas Sweed (6-5), Johnson is a sure thing despite his often-petulant attitude.

Redskins executive vice president Vinny Cerrato said the best of the incoming rookies aren’t worth taking until the second half of the first round.

“The biggest mistakes are made when you reach for a player,” Cerrato said.

Trading their first-round selection hardly would leave the Redskins bereft this weekend. They still would have more picks than they have had in six years, thanks to three compensatory picks for free agent losses after the 2006 season.

“I don’t think it’s a change of philosophy,” Cerrato said. “That’s just the way it worked out this year. There are three ways to acquire players: free agency, trades and the draft. This year, it happens to be the draft.”

Since the Redskins have all their starters back, they don’t have a need to fill with the 21st pick. While they won’t draft a quarterback, a running back or a tight end that high, almost anything else is possible.

Cerrato said the Redskins will take the “best player on the board” but added offensive line, defensive line, receiver and cornerback remain their biggest needs.

Notes — Preparing for his first draft as a coach, Zorn has been involved in all the lengthy meetings with the scouts, taking only an hour each day to work with Jason Campbell and the other quarterbacks. Therefore, Zorn’s entire playbook won’t be finished for the May 2-4 minicamp, the only one he’s conducting. …

A Redskins source said the team isn’t interested in Kansas City’s Jared Allen because the 26-year-old defensive end could face a one-year suspension if he’s flagged with a third DUI charge. Allen, who last season had a league-high 15½ sacks, received a two-game suspension at the start of the 2007 season following two DUIs.

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