Mar 4, 2005, 1:38 PM EDT
It used to be that the franchise tag was the kiss of death for the future of a player for the Redskins. The first Redskin so designated was linebacker Wilbur Marshall, who was traded to Houston for a third-round draft pick. Then there was defensive tackle Sean Gilbert, who sat out a year with the tag before going to Carolina (at least the Skins got better compensation for him, two first-round picks). After that it was Stephen Davis who received the kiss of death; he did stick around two seasons after being tagged before being waived. Finally, a year ago, Champ Bailey was the team’s franchise player for about 15 minutes before being shipped to Denver for Clinton Portis.
Now, however, there is another class of players whose departure is guaranteed, those who declare themselves “Redskins for Life” or give some other oath of allegiance to the team when approaching their free agency period. The implication is that they will grant a substantial home town discount to the Redskins because they love playing here so much.
The first one to talk this way was defensive tackle Daryl Gardener. The Redskins virtually rescued him off of the trash heap in 2002 and he responded with a Pro-Bowl calibre season. After vowing to return, he took a little more money to go with Denver.
Now we have Antonio Pierce, who said as recently as last week that he wanted to return to Washington. Instead, he signed with the Giants. From the Washington Post:
Pierce signed a six-year, $26 million contract yesterday, but kept his promise of providing the Redskins an opportunity to match New York’s offer. The Redskins felt that the deal — which included a $6.5 million signing bonus — was too expensive and would damage their offseason plans even more.
So much for that.
Actually, there are conflicting reports as to how close the Redskins were willing to come to the Giants’ offer. From that same Post article by Nunyo Demasio:
According to a source with knowledge of negotiations, the Redskins declined to go any further than offering Pierce a $3.5 million bonus. Pierce did not return messages seeking comment yesterday.
This differs significatnly from the account offered by David Elfin in the Washington Times:
Although coach Joe Gibbs said the Redskins couldn’t meet Pierce’s contract demands, a club source said Washington matched almost all of the Giants’ six-year, $26 million deal, including a $6.5 million signing bonus, but offered less during the first two years.
Don’t construe any this, by the way, as criticism of any of the players for deciding to take the money. Their careers are short and most of them have just one chance for a big payday. Far be it from me to say that they should take a million or two less here and there in order to stay in Washington.
The flip side of that coin is that the players need to forgive us if we are quite skeptical of their nice-sounding pronouncements of undying devoution to the Burgundy and Gold.