- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS — Get Steve Spagnuolo out of Dan Snyder’s mansion and the New York Giants would have a chance of retaining their star defensive coordinator.

That was Giants co-owner John Mara’s recollection yesterday of the events following the Super Bowl when Spagnuolo interviewed for the Washington Redskins’ coaching vacancy in Potomac.

“I kind of had a deal worked out with his agent. It was just a question of getting him out of the house,” Mara said yesterday at Indiana Convention Center, site of the NFL Scouting Combine. “He was stuck in that house, and we couldn’t get a hold of him. It was a relief when he finally did emerge.”

Spagnuolo chatted with Snyder on the phone for 90 minutes the night after the Super Bowl. Following the Giants’ parade, he flew to Maryland, where he talked with Snyder and executive vice president Vinny Cerrato on Feb. 5 and most of the next day. On Feb. 7, Spagnuolo removed his name from consideration and signed a three-year, $6 million contract with the Giants.

“We were fortunate to keep him,” Mara said. “I don’t know how long we can keep him, but hopefully it’s as long as possible.”

The Redskins, who hired Jim Zorn on Feb. 9, stalled their search to wait for Spagnuolo to become available. His stock rose when the Giants won three road games and then defeated New England in the Super Bowl.

“He was our No. 1 priority as soon as the game ended,” Mara said. “I ran out of our box and right past Dan Snyder. I got in the elevator and said, ‘I know what the first phone call he’s going to make is to.’”

Even before Spagnuolo traveled for the interview, Mara was optimistic the Giants could put together a financial package to keep him on Tom Coughlin’s staff.

“I felt we had a pretty good shot at keeping him, but you never know what’s going to happen when you get into the interview situation,” Mara said. “We were concerned about losing him, but we had a good talk and a good talk with his agent [Bob LaMonte]. He did such a great job for us, and the players responded to him so well. We’re fortunate we got it done.”

Berrian not tagged

The Chicago Bears didn’t apply the franchise tag to receiver Bernard Berrian by yesterday’s 3 p.m. deadline, making him an unrestricted free agent Feb. 29.

Berrian, 27, caught 70 passes for 951 yards and five touchdowns, and his 6-foot-1 frame could attract the Redskins, who are looking for a receiver taller than 6 feet.

“It’s very important [to keep him],” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “He’s a No. 1 receiver. Hopefully we can find a way to keep him in Chicago.”

Had the Bears franchised Berrian and a new deal wasn’t worked out, he would have made a minimum of $7.848 million in 2008.

Bears linebacker Lance Briggs is also slated for free agency. The team agreed not to franchise him last summer. Briggs’ career started in Chicago with Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Blache.

“How many teams would like to see an All-Pro go somewhere else?” Smith said. “So I’m optimistic. We realize when you have a player out there like Lance, a lot of teams want him. We’re one of them.”

Franchise fever

By yesterday’s 4 p.m. deadline, 12 teams had used the franchise tag to take players off the market: linebacker Karlos Dansby (Arizona), linebacker/defensive end Terrell Suggs (Baltimore), defensive end Jared Allen (Kansas City), safety Ken Hamlin (Dallas), tight end L.J. Smith (Philadelphia), defensive tackles Corey Williams (Green Bay) and Albert Haynesworth (Tennessee) and offensive linemen Stacy Andrews (Cincinnati) and Jordan Gross (Carolina).

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