Redskins Let Bailey Test Market

In the end, the Redskins might have no other choice but trade Champ Bailey now. As much hope as Joe Gibbs gives this franchise, there's a simple reality that can't be overlooked: the Redskins haven't always spent wisely. And now it will, or perhaps we should say could, cost them their best defensive player.

Unbelievably, the Redskins have allowed Bailey's agent, Jack Reale, to try and gauge other teams' interest in trading for the four-time Pro Bowl cornerback. Reale confirmed that this evening and said he's already heard from a half-dozen teams, most of whom wanted to make sure that the letter was legitimate. They couldn't believe the Redskins would be willing to let Bailey get away either. Let's hope this doesn't happen; it's hard to put a percentage on the chances that it might.

The sad reality, though, is that Washington might have no choice, thanks to some questionable spending -- the last of which was a too-large signing bonus for linebacker LaVar Arrington to restructure his contract. Few in the league would suggest that Arrington is better than Bailey.

In fact, one league executive said he's heard that the Redskins new staff consider Arrington an average linebacker. But he's one who just commanded a signing bonus of $20 million. Moves like that make it hard to keep players you really need. In Gregg Williams' scheme -- in most coaches scheme -- the most important positions are defensive end and corner. Linebackers who make a big hit once a game are not the most important players to build around.

But this current management group drafted Arrington and not Bailey. So who do they want to keep?

Also, the Redskins did make Bailey an offer Thursday, one that was similar to the deal he rejected this past summer. But instead of it being for nine years it was for eight. And $19 million were included in the final two years of the contract, which Bailey would never have seen. In the end, the contract averaged $6 million per season. Good money, yes.

But consider this: New England's Ty Law signed a deal in 1999 that would average $7.9 per season (with a cap that was only $55 million; the cap is now approximately $80 million). At worst Bailey is just as good as Law. Give him something closer to that deal. Bailey would sign, believe me. He does not want out of Washington, but instead feels forced out. Not to mention unappreciated.

Thing is, the Redskins don't seem all that interested in any real negotiating, which makes you wonder if they can afford to keep him. But let's say they want to franchise him, costing them around $6.5 million next season. They could do that. However, barring much contract restructuring, the Redskins would not be able to afford the $8.2 cap number in 2005. And Bailey would walk away, leaving the Redskins with no compensation.

It's rare that teams trade for players in this kind of situation, but it has happened. Remember Dan Wilkinson? With all these top corners on the market, would someone really want to give up picks and lots of money for Bailey when others are available? Who knows. But most of the other top corners probably also will be franchised, at least those in Bailey's category (Charles Woodson; Chris McAlister). To get one of them, you'll probably have to give up picks, too.

Should they trade Bailey now, they'd at least receive a first-round pick plus another choice. This for one of the game's elite defensive players (Pro Football Weekly ranked him as the NFL's 22nd best player overall as well as its top corner).

Here's the problem: ``I don't think anyone can make a deal with [owner Dan] Snyder,'' one league executive said.

The Redskins talked to one team during last year's draft about moving into the first round. Snyder asked what they'd want. The team official said Bailey. But Snyder told him he already had an offer of two No. 1 picks for Bailey, clearly trying to bluff his way into more. That might be routine business, but his reputation is such that others might shy away from trying to do a deal. But we'll see: the Redskins have made some trades under Snyder; this would be the biggest.

``I can't believe they'll trade the guy,'' this executive said. ``Champ's one of the best players in the league.''

Bailey is a 25-year-old corner who is on pace for a Hall of Fame career. It's unfortunate, but the bulk of that career might now be spent elsewhere. What a shame. What a damn shame.


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