Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Dan Snyder’s checkbook opened wide again yesterday. Really wide.

Washington somehow found enough salary cap room to make Adam Archuleta the richest safety in NFL history and agree to pay linebacker Andre Carter $30 million over six years.

Those additions came a day after the Redskins gave Antwaan Randle El $11.5 million in guaranteed money and paid more than $2 million for fellow receiver Brandon Lloyd and tight end Christian Fauria.

Archuleta was welcomed to Washington yesterday with a six-year, $31.8 million contract that includes $10 million in guaranteed money. Carter officially will join him tomorrow. Both 2001 first-round draft choices spent the past five years in the NFC West, Archuleta with St. Louis and Carter with San Francisco.

The 6-foot-4, 265-pound Carter, who played defensive end until moving to linebacker last year in San Francisco’s 3-4 alignment, was destined for the NFL as the son of longtime defensive lineman and former Redskins assistant Rubin Carter.

Archuleta, meanwhile, walked on as a linebacker at Arizona State. Now he will join free safety Sean Taylor and cornerbacks Shawn Springs and Carlos Rogers in an all-first round secondary, replacing strong safety Ryan Clark — a starter the last two seasons.

“Adam’s workouts and routines are kind of legendary,” Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said. “This is probably one of the best trained athletes on the league. He’s extremely serious about football. We never talked any business until he felt comfortable about seeing how he would fit in with us.”

At 6-foot and 223 pounds, the 28-year-old Archuleta is much sturdier than Clark. Gibbs called him “one of the best tacklers in the league” — like Clark, he’s more about run support than ball skills with 409 tackles and just three interceptions (and 15 sacks) for the Rams.

“I wanted to make sure that I found a place where defense was important,” Archuleta said. “I did not want to be a part of a situation that I was a part of [with the Rams]. We ended up 30th on defense last year, and it’s just not fun. I loved watching [the Redskins] play the last two years when I was breaking down film. I got jealous. These guys were flying around. They were hitting people. Guys were rarely out of position. And it looked like they were having fun.”

However, Archuleta had thrived his first three seasons in St. Louis under defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, so not choosing to reunite with Smith, now Chicago’s coach, was difficult.

“It was going to take a lot to make me not go to Chicago,” said Archuleta, who spent two intense days with Washington’s defensive coaches before signing. “Everybody knows what kind of [close] relationship I have with Lovie. … But then there was a part of me that said I get a chance here to be in a situation where it’s a little bit more creative. I would be stretched as a player. It’s more of a challenge.”

While the Redskins have a greater need at linebacker after the release of three-time Pro Bowl selection LaVar Arrington, Carter fits better at defensive end, which could put holdover starter Renaldo Wynn in jeopardy of being cut.

The Redskins gained about $4.5 million in salary cap room by reworking the contracts of linebacker Marcus Washington and defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin. But highly paid offensive linemen Jon Jansen, Randy Thomas and Casey Rabach, quarterback Mark Brunell and defensive end Renaldo Wynn haven’t renegotiated.

Adding Randle El, Lloyd, Fauria, Archuleta and Carter and retaining running back Rock Cartwright and reserve linebacker Khary Campbell (who re-signed yesterday) cost roughly $9 million. Given that the Redskins already were over the cap even after cutting six players, there are some strange economics at work.

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