- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Washington Redskins, seeking a replacement for longtime starter Marcus Washington, signed veteran linebacker Robert Thomas on Wednesday.

The club released Washington in February because of his high salary and a string of injuries that limited his playing time in recent years. The Redskins gave Washington a chance to return at a lower salary, but he balked.

The 6-foot, 235-pound Thomas didn't appear on the official free agent list because the Oakland Raiders cut him off injured reserve in December.

Thomas was the nation's No. 1-ranked linebacker as a senior at Imperial (Calif.) High School in 1997 and an All-American as a senior at UCLA in 2001. The St. Louis Rams made him their first-round pick in the 2002 draft.

Thomas started 30 games during his three seasons in St. Louis. Fast, athletic and smart, Thomas just wasn't the big hitter the Rams wanted as a successor to top tackler London Fletcher, now the Redskins' middle linebacker.

St. Louis traded Thomas to the Green Bay Packers at the end of training camp in 2005. Cut by the Packers, he signed with Oakland in 2006. He started 10 games for the Raiders in 2007 but appeared in just two last season before suffering a season-ending hamstring injury against the Atlanta Falcons on Nov. 2.

Thomas, who turns 29 in July, is better suited to the weak side than the strong side, but so is two-year incumbent starter Rocky McIntosh. That means Thomas likely will open training camp competing with H.B. Blades, career special-teamer Alfred Fincher and the untested Tyson Smith for the starting spot opened by the release of Washington.

Veteran linebacker Khary Campbell, a special teams standout, remains unsigned. The Redskins also are expected to choose at least one linebacker in this month's draft.

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