Pierce Bolts

He was a core player. Just like Fred Smoot. Just like Laveranues Coles. And now Antonio Pierce is gone, just like Smoot. And, maybe, like Coles.

He was a core player. Just like Fred Smoot. Just like Laveranues Coles.

And now Antonio Pierce is gone, just like Smoot. And, maybe, like Coles.

''We worked hard to it done,'' Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said. ''We would loved to have gotten it done.''

They didn't work hard enough. Gibbs said the Redskins couldn't keep Pierce because it would throw their salary cap stuff out of whack, and might have prevented them from signing someone else -- or keeping another player.

The Giants apparently loaded the front end of Pierce's deal, also giving him a $6 million signing bonus, around $500,000 less than what the Redskins gave Marcus Washington last season. But, the thing is, Washington could have signed Pierce long before it reached this point. The Redskins screwed this one up a while back. Someone in the front office was sleeping on this one.

I'll say this: Pierce is not an All Pro player. He played well this past season, but he also had help from his tackles who kept blockers off him. But Pierce can play each linebacker spot and can help on special teams. It might take two or three players to replace what he did.

That's progress? I don't think so.

''We felt we went as far as we could go,'' Gibbs said. ''I hate it and it doesn't happen often, but sometimes it happens.''

The Redskins will consider everything when trying to find a starter in the middle. It's hard to imagine Mike Barrow, who turns 35 this summer, being the answer. What does he have left after missing all of last season? Kendrell Bell? Those in Pittsburgh weren't high on him. Jeremiah Trotter? Been there, done that. He's better elsewhere. Ed Hartwell? Being pursued by others and is better as a downfield player a la Trotter. The Redskins like more athleticism.

So they're stuck. It's just a move that makes no sense, except when looking at their recent history. The Redskins have overcome the loss of better players than Pierce. But they also haven't built anything worthwhile here in years. Perhaps this is another example why that's the case.

. . . Receiver David Patten remained at Redskins Park late yesterday afternoon, after undergoing a physical. That's usually a precursor to an agreement.


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