Wilkinson is scheduled to receive $3.5 million in base salary in 2003, clearly too high a price. He slumped in 2002, recording just 17 tackles despite playing alongside star Daryl Gardener, and his best years a Redskin (15 1/2 sacks in 1998 and 1999) are far removed.
At this point in his career, it's hard to remember that he was once the No. 1 overall pick by Cincinnati, in 1994.
Nonetheless, the Redskins need Wilkinson. He remains the most likely playmaker in an interior rotation that includes blue-collar Brandon Noble, run-stopping Jermaine Haley and unproven Del Cowsette. With Wilkinson, Washington's interior is suspect; without him, it's a potential disaster.
Moreover, there aren't any starting-quality defensive tackles on the market--none even good enough for Washington to use as leverage against Big Daddy.
The only instance in which there might be movement on the Wilkinson pay front is in training camp. At that point another defensive tackle could get cut (that was when Washington grabbed Gardener last year). Or some team might find it has a surplus of quality defensive tackles and be willing to trade one for a draft pick.
But for now, Washington's hopes for a lower salary rely on Wilkinson being generous. And that's a long shot considering his comments about the organization early in the offseason.
"After a while, just like any corporation, people get upset and see what's going on," Wilkinson said. "This used to be one of the highly touted places to be a part of. That's not the case anymore. They may think they are but they're not. Free agents are looking at a lot of other places before looking here. And that changed all within the last three or four years."
The bright aspect of Wilkinson's situation is his trimmed weight (he's in the low 300s now, after settling in the 350-pound range last season). He is determined to play leaner and stronger this year.
Also, the presence of Noble should give Big Daddy a boost. Noble is a true nose guard, a position that's tough to play and leads to few tackles. Playmaking DTs like to be on the outside edge of the opposing guard, where they can rush the passer and hopefully avoid double-teams. Noble's presence should allow that for Wilkinson.
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