- The Washington Times - Friday, March 6, 2009

The Washington Redskins finished the first week of free agency Thursday the way they started it - by making news.

The week’s closing couldn’t match its opening for high-profile developments - landing star defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, re-signing standout cornerback DeAngelo Hall and signing guard Derrick Dockery - but it was still an interesting next chapter.

Late Wednesday, the Redskins lost their first free agent when defensive end Demetric Evans signed a two-year, $3.8 million deal with San Francisco. Evans’ departure after five seasons came hours after the Redskins welcomed free agent offensive tackle Ray Willis to Redskin Park.

Willis, a reserve during coach Jim Zorn’s final three seasons in Seattle, started 10 games for the Seahawks in 2008 and displayed a tough, physical style that Washington is seeking in a successor to 33-year-old Jon Jansen. The visit by the 6-foot-6, 315-pound Willis, 26, may indicate the Redskins don’t have full confidence in third-year tackle Stephon Heyer as a starter.

As the Redskins said goodbye to Willis on Thursday morning, word came that the archrival Dallas Cowboys had released receiver Terrell Owens. Web sites and message boards lit up with the rumor that the tempestuous five-time All-Pro was headed to Washington.

After all, the 35-year-old spent the past five seasons scoring touchdowns against the Redskins for the Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. What’s more, Redskins owner Dan Snyder has long loved adding stars with crowd appeal. And he’s pals with Owens’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, who represents seven Washington players.

The Redskins quickly denied the rumor. The team posted this statement on its Web site: “The Redskins are not interested in signing mercurial wide receiver Terrell Owens. The team remains committed to developing their young group of wide receivers, Vinny Cerrato said on Thursday.”

How often does a team so publicly deny an interest in a free agent, especially a likely Hall of Famer?

By early afternoon, the Redskins had found their veteran competition for unproven punter Zac Atterberry, signing Dirk Johnson, who spent most of 2008 with Arizona before the team cut him in December. Johnson, 33, averaged 41.7 gross yards and 35.9 net yards in seven seasons with New Orleans, Chicago, Philadelphia and the Cardinals while never having a punt blocked.

Late in the afternoon, Shawn Springs, a five-year starter whom the Redskins cut last Friday to save the $6 million needed to re-sign Hall, spurned the Eagles’ hopes of playing him at safety and agreed to play corner for New England.

All of this leaves the Redskins with gaping holes at left defensive end and strongside linebacker - and about $6.5 million to spend on filling them with veterans and four draft picks.

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