Redskins reach deal with QB Brunell

Posted: Friday, February 20, 2004

WASHINGTON (AP) Jacksonville quarterback Mark Brunell agreed to a seven-year, $43 million deal with the Washington Redskins late Thursday, clearing the way for a trade next month.

Brunell will receive an $8.6 million signing bonus, according to agent Leigh Steinberg, who wrapped up several weeks of negotiations with Redskins owner Dan Snyder.

Brunell is expected to displace Patrick Ramsey as the starter, giving Joe Gibbs the veteran he sought in the coach's first season back in Washington after an 11-year retirement.

''Mark and Joe Gibbs have been talking every day, sometimes multiple times,'' Steinberg said. ''Mark's comfort level and excitement level with coach Gibbs has grown every day. He became convinced throughout the process that the ability to play for a Hall of Fame-caliber coach that had been to four Super Bowls was unique and too good to pass up.''

The deal cannot become official until the offseason trading period begins March 3. The Redskins will give the Jaguars a third-round draft pick for Brunell, according to a source familiar with the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Redskins director of player personnel Vinny Cerrato declined comment.

Brunell became Jacksonville's starter in the franchise's inaugural season in 1995. He threw for 25,698 yards and 144 touchdowns over nine seasons. He became expendable when rookie Byron Leftwich emerged as the starter last season.

Brunell had one year left on his contract and was due to count $10.5 million against the salary cap this year including a $2 million bonus due March 3. The Jaguars were expected to cut him before paying the bonus, but the Redskins expressed interest in a trade during Super Bowl week.

The Jaguars will not have to pay the bonus because the new contract will supersede Brunell's old one, Steinberg said.

At least three other teams Miami, San Diego and Dallas also expressed interest in Brunell, but the Jaguars allowed him to negotiate only with the Redskins. Gibbs flew to Florida to meet with Brunell on Feb. 9.

Brunell wanted to go where he could start and maintained he didn't want to become part of a quarterback controversy, although that could happen in Washington. Ramsey has become a popular player in his two years with the team, and his agent recently suggested Ramsey might request a trade if Brunell were signed. Gibbs has said he has no intention to trade Ramsey.

Steinberg did not say Brunell received any guarantees from Gibbs about the starting job.

''Obviously Mark's been a starter since 1995 and is confident of his ability to lead a team,'' Steinberg said. ''But he looks forward to the ability to compete for a starting job in training camp.''

Clarett's decision to skip workouts raises more questions

INDIANAPOLIS Maurice Clarett was more prepared to handle questions Thursday than he was to perform for NFL scouts.

The running back who won a challenge to the NFL's draft system announced he would skip Friday's workouts at the scouting combine because he wanted more time to train after missing all of last season due to of a suspension.

Scouts must now wait until April to see Clarett's audition, a decision that angered some of the NFL's top evaluators.

''That's a farce,'' Buffalo general manager Tom Donahoe said. ''That was expected but that's ridiculous.''

Clarett, 20, will become the first true sophomore in the NFL draft but said his mother advised him not to work out at the combine.

There was another reason, too. Clarett weighed in at a porky 237 pounds, seven pounds higher than his playing weight at Ohio State, and he acknowledged he wasn't in top condition despite training the past couple weeks.

Scouts wondered why Clarett didn't arrive for the weeklong combine in better shape after missing an entire college season and then challenging the NFL's rule requiring underclassmen to complete three years of school before declaring for the draft.

Clarett said simply that he needed to train at a higher level and promised to be ready when he holds his personal workout in Columbus, Ohio, the first week of April.

''If it was just normal training, lifting weights and conditioning,'' he said. ''It wasn't like I was getting ready to jump right into the league. That level is a whole different level. The intensity of the training has to increase. I'm going to take these next four weeks and get back to eating right and training right and try to take my training up a notch.''

The explanation was not well received by those who wanted to see Clarett run. It also raised questions about his attitude.

''I just want to see what he looks like,'' Detroit Lions president Matt Millen said. ''We've got to do our homework and he's got to do his.''

Clarett was grilled by reporters for about 15 minutes in a preview of what he is likely to face later Thursday night when teams begin interviewing players one-on-one. The NFL limits teams to 60 interviews and Clarett said he expected to talk to all 32 teams.

He was asked repeatedly about his character, medical history, durability and whether he was prepared physically and mentally to jump to the NFL. Clarett even dodged a question about his agent, saying he hadn't yet made a decision even though he is believed to have chosen Jimmy Sexton.

And Clarett promised to show a different side in the NFL.

''I think I'm going to keep my mouth shut at this level,'' he said.

While teams hope to start getting more answers Thursday night, the bigger issues may require more examination.

Doctors checked Clarett's left shoulder, which he hurt during his record-setting freshman season with the Buckeyes.

He also had knee surgery that year and wound up missing three games and parts of two others because of the injuries although he still set ran for a school freshman record with 1,237 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Clarett explained the injuries by saying he played hard and was working on his feet to avoid taking big hits.

As Clarett spoke, he smiled frequently as he tried to deflect the criticisms.

''I think you can trust me,'' he said. ''When I sit down with the coaches and GMs, I think they'll have a good idea of where I'm coming from.''

Now Clarett must find a place to fit in.

Donahoe thinks that could be difficult. He didn't mince words when asked to compare Clarett's uncertain future to that of Willis McGahee, who the Bills drafted in the first round last year despite a knee injury that kept him out of all 16 games last year.

''Let's not put Clarett in the same category as McGahee,'' Donahoe said. ''That's not fair to Willis. Willis attitude-wise and character-wise, that's a big difference.''

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