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Redskins, Trotter Agree to Deal

By Mark Maske

Washington Post Staff Writer

Friday, April 19, 2002; 5:21 PM

The Washington Redskins reached a contract agreement today with free agent middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter.

The seven-year, $36 million deal includes a $7 million signing bonus. Because the final two seasons are easily voided based on playing time, the deal is realistically a five-year contract for $20 million.

The two sides had a tentative agreement in place in the wee hours of this morning, then had a scare late in the morning when the deal threatened to unravel before the finishing touches were applied this afternoon.

Trotter, 25, is a two-time Pro Bowl selection who became an unrestricted free agent two weeks ago when the Philadelphia Eagles withdrew their franchise-player designation from him.

He replaces Kevin Mitchell as the Redskins' starting middle linebacker and gives the team an imposing set of linebackers. The Redskins signed Pro Bowl outside linebacker Jessie Armstead as a free agent last month to go with their own Pro Bowl outside linebacker, LaVar Arrington.

The Redskins have an offensive-minded head coach, Steve Spurrier, but their three most expensive free agent signings this offseason have been on defense-Trotter, Armstead and lineman Renaldo Wynn.

Trotter and his agent, Jimmy Sexton, were in the D.C. area Sunday night and Monday. They dined with Redskins owner Daniel Snyder on Sunday, and were at Redskins Park on Monday. Trotter met with Redskins defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, and Sexton discussed contract terms with Joe Mendes, the team's vice president of football operations. The Redskins nearly signed Trotter before he left town Monday, but the two sides were not able to finish the deal then.

They continued negotiations, however, and the Redskins emerged as Trotter's most aggressive suitor. The Houston Texans, Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings also expressed interest. Trotter visited Houston last week, but the Texans made a revised contract proposal Tuesday that Trotter deemed insufficient. Trotter never made a visit to Green Bay scheduled for this week, and the Vikings said they never entered the bidding seriously despite expressing interest on Tuesday.

Some Redskins officials were wary about the salary-cap implications of signing Trotter, and that kept the deal from being completed Monday. Under Mendes, the Redskins have taken a careful, deliberate approach to their free-agent negotiations this offseason, searching for bargains in a thin market. But the Redskins wanted Trotter and sought to keep his contract within reason.

They could release a player or two to gain additional salary cap space. Defensive end Marco Coleman would be released in June if he refuses to renegotiate his contract, sources have said. The Redskins already have begun discussions with tailback Stephen Davis about a new contract and, according to sources, likely will attempt to rework defensive end Bruce Smith's deal.

Trotter said Monday he "definitely" was attracted by the prospect of signing with an NFC East team and getting to face the Eagles twice per season. He said he was looking for "a place where I can feel comfortable and come in and help the team. They have a great staff here. Everybody is laid-back, loves to have fun, loves the game. That's kind of like me. I love to have fun. I love the sport. I have a passion for the game. That's what I look for in the coaches and the players you have around you. There are some great players here already."

Redskins officials expressed interest in Trotter last week. The Eagles had named him their franchise player in February to limit his mobility on the free agent market. If he had remained their franchise player, the Eagles would have been required to pay Trotter a salary of more than $5.5 million next season. But they would have retained the right to keep him by matching any contract offer from another team, or to receive two first-round draft choices as compensation if he'd signed elsewhere.

The relationship between the two sides deteriorated, though, and the Eagles reportedly sought trade offers for Trotter before removing the franchise tag from him. By removing the franchise tag, the Eagles left Trotter free to sign with any team for any price, and lost their ability to be compensated for his departure.

Trotter was credited with 164 tackles last season. He had two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. He had 202 tackles in 1999 and 171 tackles in 2000, when he was selected to his first Pro Bowl and was named first-team all-pro. He was a third-round draft pick by the Eagles in 1998 out of Stephen F. Austin. He spent a season as a reserve before being added to the starting lineup in '99, and led the Eagles in tackles in each of his three seasons as a starter.

The Redskins continue to upgrade a defense that ranked 10th in the NFL last season. Snyder lured Lewis from the Baltimore Ravens for a three-year contract that would pay him at least $2.7 million, and the club has added projected starters Armstead, Wynn and Trotter.

Armstead, Trotter and Arrington have eight Pro Bowl selections among them. Trotter said Monday he thought the trio would be the best linebacking corps in the NFL.

© 2002 The Washington Post Company

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