Free Agent Updates

The Redskins got who they wanted--again. Washington signed right guard Randy Thomas, defensive tackle Brandon Noble and defensive end Regan Upshaw today, the first official day of free agency. And they're not finished..See who else will be visiting Redskins Park.

Jets placekicker Jeff Hall will visit Redskins Park tonight. Washington also is negotiating with receiver Rocket Ismail and returner Jermaine Lewis.

''If you want elite guys, you have to get them right away,'' Redskins director of player personnel Vinny Cerrato said. ''Last year we waited until June to get our guards, this year we wanted to get them right away.''

All three signees share a similar attribute to Dave Fiore, the first free agent signing on Friday. They're tough, hard-nosed and tenacious. And young.

''It's part of the plan,'' Cerrato said.

Upshaw will start at right end, defensive coordinator Regan Upshaw said. Which means if Bruce Smith returns, it will be in a reduced role. Noble will start at nose tackle, which means if Dan Wilkinson returns, he'd flip-flop on either side of him, leaving Noble over the center.

Thomas and Fiore will start at guards.

''We think we have two of the best in the league,'' Redskins coach Steve Spurrier said.

The Redskins wooed each player, making them easy to sign. Owner Dan Snyder sent his private jet to pick up each player. In one day, his jet went to New York to fetch Thomas, to Dallas to get Noble and back to New York for Upshaw.

That's why Thomas signed here, rather than visit the other teams on his list.

''When I walked in this building, his interest and the way he talked to me,'' Thomas said, ''I wanted to get it done. They made me the right deal. I didn't have to go anywhere else.''

Upshaw said, ''I got off the plane and next thing you know I'm signing a contract. They gave me an offer I couldn't refuse.''

Upshaw had one other team call him: Cincinnati.

''Cincinnati or Washington,'' he said, ''it was an easy thing to do.''

Upshaw has a habit of drawing personal fouls, something he says probably won't change. Mainly because he's not about to change.

''I play aggressive when I'm out there,'' he said. ''I try to knock the guy out. Either I'll knock him out or he'll knock me out. Some people take that as a cheap shot, but it's not.''

Noble went from a player who was cut as a rookie to an NFL Europe player to coveted free agent. And his decision was made easy by the fact that he's from Virginia Beach and his wife is from Philadelphia. With a second child due in May, they wanted to be near family.

Just don't ask him how he traveled to this point in his career.

''I have no idea,'' he said. ''I worked hard. . . I'm too stupid to quit. I keep grinding at it and grinding at it until I found a home. . . . I'm not a flashy athlete and I won't run a 4.2 40. But I'll hold up a double team all day long.''



Breaking Burgundy Top Stories