Brunell-to-Redskins 'an almost-done deal'
The Redskins are closing in on a trade to acquire Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell, several team and NFL sources told ESPN.com.
Parties to the negotiations were working this weekend to arrange a Monday meeting between Brunell and new Redskins coach Joe Gibbs. Because the NFL is under its annual trade moratorium, a deal can't be officially completed until March, but there is nothing to preclude the two sides from agreeing to details before that.
Sources said that many of the principal parameters of the trade, which would officially end Brunell's very productive nine-year tenure with the Jaguars, have been completed. They cautioned, however, there are some details on which the teams are still working.
None of the sources would say what Jacksonville will receive as the compensation for parting with a player who defined the quick success of the one-time expansion franchise. Jaguars officials acknowledged privately last week that they have been offered a second-round draft pick for Brunell by an unspecified team.
If the deal is completed, it would leave in question the future of Redskins incumbent starter Patrick Ramsey, the two-year veteran who finished the 2003 season on injured reserve with a broken foot.
That 33-year-old Brunell would not return to the Jaguars in 2004 has been essentially known for more than a year. The 11-year veteran, who led Jacksonville to a pair of AFC championship game appearances, sports a salary cap charge of $10.5 million for 2004. That includes a base salary of $6.5 million but, more important, a $2 million roster bonus due March 1.
It had been anticipated that Brunell would have to delay or forfeit the roster bonus because the moratorium on trades is not lifted until March 4.
But one league source told the Florida Times-Union on Sunday that the Jaguars now expect to pay the bonus since the team's chances of trading the quarterback are high.
The source told the paper that the Jaguars believe the high draft pick they could get in a trade for Brunell would be worth counting the bonus against the team's 2004 salary cap.
By dealing Brunell, the team will absorb just a $2 million salary cap charge, for a prorated signing bonus share, and will recoup $8.5 million of cap room.
If the deal is completed, Brunell almost certainly will sign a new, multi-year contract with the Redskins. Trade negotiations between the Redskins and Jaguars were accelerated in recent days. It will be left for agent Leigh Steinberg, who represents Brunell, to strike a contract accord with Redskins officials.
There were reports during Super Bowl week that the Dolphins would ardently pursue Brunell, either via trade or after he was released, but Redskins officials have been working with great stealth to complete his acquisition.
A league source, however, told the Times-Union that the Jaguars may not be as close to a deal with the Redskins as expected, because the Chargers, Dolphins and Cowboys continue to up their trade offers for the quarterback.
According to the paper, San Diego's general manager, A.J. Smith, tried contacting the Jaguars several times Sunday regarding a trade for Brunell before the Jaguars met with the Redskins. The Chargers have the 35th pick in the second round of the draft, whereas the Redskins' selection is six spots lower at No. 41.
Brunell originally entered the NFL as a fifth-round choice of the Packers in the 1993 draft. After two seasons in Green Bay, where he appeared in just two games and logged only 27 pass attempts, Brunell was traded to Jacksonville in 1995 for third- and fifth-round draft choices. He assumed the Jaguars' starting job shortly into his tenure in Jacksonville and held that spot for eight seasons.
In the third game of the 2003 campaign, Brunell suffered an elbow injury, opening the door for rookie Byron Leftwich, the club's first-round draft pick, to supplant him. Brunell never played another snap in a Jags uniform.
For his NFL career, he has completed 2,196 of 3,643 passes for 25,793 yards, with 144 touchdown passes, 86 interceptions and an 85.2 efficiency rating. In his three starts last season, he threw for 484 yards and had two touchdown passes and no interceptions.
He has started in 117 of his 122 appearances and was named to the AFC Pro Bowl team on three occasions. The former University of Washington standout, of course, holds all of the Jacksonville franchise passing records. Under his stewardship, the Jaguars advanced to the conference title game in 1996 and 1999 but lost both times.
Washington had not been mentioned as a potential suitor for Brunell's services but Gibbs might be seeking a more veteran quarterback.
Should the Redskins land Brunell, it will be interesting to see what the team does with Ramsey, its first-round choice in the 2002 draft. The former Tulane standout started 11 games in 2003, completing 179 of 337 passes for 2,166 yards. He had 14 touchdown throws, nine interceptions and a passer rating of 75.8. Among the league's most sacked quarterbacks last season, Ramsey earned respect around the NFL for his toughness and grit and his potential is highly regarded.
Ramsey, 24, is under contract through the 2006 season and his salaries and cap charges are not exorbitant, meaning Washington could retain him and allow Brunell, in part, to serve as his mentor.
It is difficult to imagine Brunell agreeing to any deal to a team where he did not have assurances of at least competing for the starting job. Steinberg reiterated last week at the Super Bowl that Brunell still believes he can be a starter for several more seasons.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
Information from the Jacksonville Times-Union was used in this report.
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