smizzy Posted February 13, 2004 Report Share Posted February 13, 2004 In a stunning move that certainly grabbed the attention of league general managers on an otherwise serene Friday afternoon, ESPN.com has learned the Washington Redskins have granted star cornerback Champ Bailey permission to initiate trade discussions with other franchises, in advance of the start of the free-agency period early next month.Several teams confirmed to ESPN.com that they received from agent Jack Reale faxed notification of the surprising move. Reale did not immediately return phone messages on Friday but a Washington source confirmed that Redskins owner Dan Snyder on Thursday night agreed that Bailey can speak with other clubs.Bailey, 25, just finished the final season of his original NFL contract and he technically is eligible for unrestricted free agency, although the Redskins could limit his options.The move could signal an impasse in negotiations, aimed at extending the contract of the five-year veteran and four-time Pro Bowl performer, or it might reflect any number of potential scenarios. Among them: The team could attempt to recoup draft choices it might invest in acquiring quarterback Mark Brunell from the Jacksonville Jaguars in the coming days. Or the Redskins, having recently signed strong-side linebacker LaVar Arrington to a blockbuster contract, may have decided they cannot afford to have two such highly-paid defenders on the same roster.Arrington on Dec. 28 signed an eight-year contract worth $60 million-$68 million and the deal included a signing bonus of $15.5 million and option bonus of $4.5 million. Even when players are granted permission to speak with other teams, trades are rarely consummated, and the Redskins reserve the prerogative, of course, to reject offers from around the league. But the fact Snyder would put a player of Bailey's stature on the trade block certainly sent ripples through the NFL on Friday afternoon."My first reaction," said one AFC general manager, "was that it was a joke. Once I found out it was (legitimate), I mean, how could I ignore it? The guy is only 25 years old, is a bona fide star in the league, and plays a 'must have' position. You've got to at least find out the price of doing business."Even before the start of the 2004 campaign, Snyder raised the possibility with other NFL owners of trading his star cornerback. He casually mentioned to Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, for instance, that Bailey might be available for the right price.Redskins chief negotiator Eric Schaffer huddled with Reale in Atlanta early this week and essentially offered a contract similar to the proposal the Redskins made to Bailey during training camp last summer. That proposal was reportedly for a nine-year contract worth about $55 million and featuring total bonus money of approximately $14 million. It was rejected by Bailey and Reale in the summer and, sources said, was no better received this time around.Earlier in the week, Reale said he was "open minded" about the resumed negotiations and termed the session with Schaffer as "cordial." It will not be surprising, given new events, if Reale is a very popular man next week, when general managers and even some owners convene in Indianapolis for the annual NFL Scouting Combine workouts.The Redskins still reserve the right to designate Bailey as a "franchise" player, a move that would significantly limit his mobility in the free-agency period, which begins March 3. And if Washington cannot strike an extension agreement with Bailey, or receive a trade offer it considers viable, using the "franchise" tag is the strongest likelihood.But the "franchise" designation for a cornerback carries a $6.801 million impact against the Washington salary cap and the Redskins probably would be forced to carry that late into the summer. Historically, at least, applying a "franchise" designation often creates acrimony between a team and the player affected by it.Or, if the "franchise" tag is exercised, Bailey could quickly accept the guaranteed money, decline any attempts to sign a subsequent long-term deal, and force Snyder to carry a very unwieldy cap number on the cornerback for the 2004 campaign.The seventh player chosen overall in the 1999 draft, and universally acknowledged as one of the NFL's premier players at one of its highest-profile positions, Bailey was elected to the NFC Pro Bowl team each of the past four seasons. The former University of Georgia star has never missed a game in five seasons, making 80 straight appearances.Bailey has recorded 313 tackles and 18 interceptions during his career and most talent evaluators agree he fits the term "shut-down cornerback." Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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