Armstead: signed and healthy

Jessie Armstead knows what the Redskins are getting: a five-time Pro Bowler, a fierce leader and a dominant playmaker. That is, if he's healthy--which Armstead insists he is.

Armstead agreed to a three-year, $4.5 million deal Friday, one day after being released by the Giants. He received a $1.25 million signing bonus.

The question now is, what does this mean for Redskins free agent linebacker Shawn Barber. He, too, plays on the weakside but was asking for more money than the Redskins wanted to pay. One scenario could have LaVar Arrington moving inside with Armstead and Barber playing outside.

But, 10 days ago, Redskins defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said it was ''highly doubtful'' that Arrington would ever move to the middle.

That could give Washington two major playmakers on the outside.

If Armstead is healthy.

This past season, he played with a torn hamstring injury. Two years ago he played despite a knee injury, recording a career-best nine sacks.

But Armstead, 31, never missed a game.

''Thing about it, like I've told everyone, if a guy can play with injuries and still produce . . . ,'' said Armstead, by phone from his home in Dallas. ''I'm from the old school. I won't take myself out because of a hurt finger. I see guys all the time with little things who don't play that week. I was fortunate to patch up my body and keep on marching along.''

Now he says he's healthy. He also said he has nothing to prove, despite his release for salary cap reasons. Armstead is known as a strong locker-room leader.

''I just want to do the same things I've been doing,'' Armstead said. ''I'll work hard every Sunday like I always have. The one thing they're getting is an impact player that will get in opponent's face and come back and make another play and can help out the younger guys. I'll help bring leadership their, but they've already got leaders.''

Armstead considered signing with Carolina becauase of coach John Fox, his coordinator in New York. But, in addition to a better offer, Armstead liked the reception he received from Redskins coach Steve Spurrier, defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis and owner Daniel Snyder, who reminded him of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

''Everyone sounds so upbeat,'' Armstead said. ''They're like, 'Hey, man, we're glad to have you. We're doing this, we're doing that.' ''

Armstead made his mark as a special teams player, becoming a full-time starter in his fourth season. Though he liked playing for the Giants, he wasn't devastated by his release.

After all, he grew up in what he called the 'hood, living in a house worth about $18,000.

''You see everything,'' Armstead said. ''We went through the toughest times you can go through. I learned how to deal with things like [being released]. That's why it doesn't affect me like it does a lot of people. Everything I get is a blessing. I realize that.''

Meanwhile, Redskins free agent defensive lineman, Kenard Lang, is expected to visit Cleveland on Tuesday. Receiver Michael Westbrook would like to play for the Browns, reuniting with position coach Terry Robiskie. But the Browns thus far have said receiver is not their primary need. Also, they would not pay Westbrook his asking price of approximately $5 million per season. Tampa Bay is another potential stop for Westbrook. But the Bucs just hired Richard Mann, Westbrook's position coach this past season. Westbrook did not like Mann, though he's also said money is a primary factor in wherever he signs.

Also, free agent guard Dave Szott will be courted by the Giants.

John Keim covers the Redskins for The Journal Newspapers and is a correspondent for Pro Football Weekly.

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