- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The second day of the free agent signing period was much quieter for the Washington Redskins — though not by much.

One day after the Redskins reached a deal with just one player, former Chicago Bears defensive tackle Stephen Paea, they remained stagnant in the free agent market, with visits from nose tackle Terrance Knighton and cornerback Perrish Cox the only tangible progress they had made on contract talks with any of the players they have targeted.

Knighton, 28, arrived at Redskins Park on Wednesday afternoon for a meeting with team representatives, according to a person familiar with the matter. There was no deal in place by that evening, nor was it clear that one would even be offered.

A 6-foot-3, 331-pound run stuffer, Knighton spent the last two seasons with the Denver Broncos after spending the first four years of his career with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Known for his unique nickname, “Pot Roast,” more so than for his play, Knighton has also reportedly drawn interest from the Oakland Raiders and the Green Bay Packers — as well as the Broncos, who are interested in keeping him in town.

An agreement with Knighton would likely represent the final touches of the makeover of the Redskins’ defensive line. It would allow the 6-foot-1, 300-pound Paea to fit in as a defensive end in Washington’s 3-4 defensive scheme — one that coach Jay Gruden has said that this year, under new defensive coordinator Joe Barry, will be much more active in rushing the passer.

Paea, who signed his contract at Redskins Park on Wednesday, will make $21 million over four years with only $7.85 million guaranteed, according to multiple reports. That guaranteed sum draws from a $5 million signing bonus and a $2.85 million base salary in 2015, meaning the team is only on the hook for his first-year salary and will take just a $4.1 million salary cap hit.

The Redskins began the overhaul of their defensive line late last month, when they jettisoned nose tackle Barry Cofield and defensive end Stephen Bowen, starters for much of the past three seasons. The two players’ collective performance dwindled last year, primarily because of injury, and their release allowed the team to save approximately $9.7 million against the salary cap.

Washington added defensive end Ricky Jean Francois the day before it released Cofield and Bowen, and he and Paea, as of now, would join a defensive line rotation of Jason Hatcher, Chris Baker, Kedric Golston and Frank Kearse that could also accommodate Knighton.

Cox, who has spent much of his career with the San Francisco 49ers, was also reportedly headed to Redskins Park on Wednesday. The 6-foot, 190-pound cornerback, thrust into a starting role last season because of injuries, had 53 tackles over 15 games while intercepting five passes and breaking up 12 others.

Meanwhile, two of the Redskins’ own players — running back Roy Helu and wide receiver Leonard Hankerson — have decided to head elsewhere.

Helu agreed in principle to a contract with the Oakland Raiders late Tuesday night, reportedly joining the team for two years and $4 million. The running back grew up in Danville, 20 miles east of Oakland, and had spoken fondly in recent weeks of the opportunity to play closer to home.

Hankerson wrote in a text message that he will join the Atlanta Falcons on a one-year deal that between his base salary and a signing bonus will pay him $1 million. The wide receiver will be reunited with Kyle Shanahan, the former Redskins offensive coordinator who now holds that role with the Falcons, and a slew of other offensive assistant coaches who had been in Washington.

“I definitely would like to thank Redskins and Dan [Snyder, the team owner] for everything,” Hankerson wrote on his Twitter account. “It’s been a pleasure, I’ve grown and learned a lot there.”

One other player Washington will reportedly host is cornerback Brandon Browner, who won the Super Bowl this past season with the New England Patriots. No visit date has been set for the 6-foot-4, 221-pound Browner, who also drew interest from the Redskins a year ago after three seasons with the Seattle Seahawks but instead chose to sign with the Patriots.

• Zac Boyer can be reached at zboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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