Sorry Day

The Redskins blew it again: they somehow let Fred Smoot, a guy who wanted to stay here, get away. <BR><BR> Smoot has agreed to a deal with Minnesota, joining a team desperate for defensive help. And now the Redskins have another defensive hole to fill. Walt Harris, as of now, would be the starter with Garnell Wilds the nickelback. Ade Jimoh is not an option; even the Redskins privately agree on that.

But make no mistake: the Redskins will miss Smoot, for a variety of reasons. He was a fierce presence in the locker room, making it a fun place for teammates to be. No one held court better than Smoot, or talked more good-natured trash, than the Mississippi native.

I remember his first season when people were still trying to figure him out. He walked into the locker room and announced that he wanted to star in a Rush Hour sequel. Marco Coleman laughed, shook his head and said, ''Rookie.''

Smoot came up with wild nicknames for himself, trying to be another Deion Sanders. He predicted after his first season that he'd be eating pineapples after the following season -- because, of course, he'd be in the Pro Bowl.

That never happened. Smoot became a good No. 2, but wasn't close to being at a Pro Bowl level until this past season. Even then he was clearly behind Shawn Springs, whose athleticism was better and who finished plays better and who could be used in multiple roles more than Smoot.

But Smoot's value extended beyond just covering wideouts. He played hurt, earning great respect from his teammates. He stopped making boasts about what he would do and instead focused on what he needed to do. In other words, he matured.

For the media, Smoot was golden and earned the B.J. Blanchard Good Guy Award. The guy who won it the year before? Champ Bailey. Notice a trend?

Smoot wore No. 21 to be like Deion Sanders, but he wasn't like Deion. No, Smoot was himself and much more sincere than Sanders ever was. Sanders could turn his personna on and off. Smoot couldn't. He was a guy just having fun all of the time. Until the end of last season, when it first dawned on Smoot that he wouldn't return, he was always upbeat and happy. After that point he went into a funk, stung by an organization that he wasn't sure wanted him.

Thing is, it didn't have to be this way. Those who think the Redskins have managed the cap well, quit fooling yourself. Maybe they've never entered the cap hell of the 49ers or Jaguars or Cowboys. But their foolish investments in the past paved the way for players such as Antonio Pierce and Smoot to sign elsewhere -- for deals that would have been good for Washington.

I would not overpay a corner right now. Not with the current rules setup -- they've made it harder for corners to be shutdown players anymore. But you still need good corners and the Redskins lost one.

There is little good in this for Washington.


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