Hitch: Washington needs cap space

The Washington Redskins and New York Jets are in serious trade negotiations and, if a deal is consummated, it would have the teams' top wide receivers changing uniforms, ESPN.com has learned.

Updated: February 26, 2005, 10:57 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Washington Redskins and New York Jets are in serious trade negotiations and, if a deal is consummated, it would have the teams' top wide receivers changing uniforms, ESPN.com has learned.

Under terms of the trade proposal, the Redskins would send unhappy wide receiver Laveranues Coles to the Jets, the franchise with which he actually began his career. In return, Washington would get four-year veteran wideout Santana Moss.

League and team sources, here for the annual predraft scouting combine, confirmed the discussions. While the parameters of the trade appear to be in place, and each club seems satisfied with the terms, there remain several hurdles. Foremost among them, as reported Thursday by ESPN.com, is that the Redskins must first create salary cap room to absorb the hit they will take in a Coles trade.

But one team official said on Friday morning that, if he were a betting man, he would wager that the trade eventually is completed.

Laveranues Coles
Coles

Santana Moss
Moss

Jets coach Herm Edwards, asked on Friday if he would be interested in being reunited with Coles, who spent the first three years of his career in New York, declined comment, citing NFL anti-tampering rules.

"Man, I'm not going there, OK?" Edwards said, laughing. "(Coles) is under contract to another team. I don't want the commissioner coming after me."

The Jets clearly feel, though, that Coles is the better receiver of the two. The Jets did not want to let Coles escape in 2002, but the terms of the restricted free agent offer sheet to which the Redskins signed him, a seven-year deal worth $35 million and including a $13 million signing bonus, were too prohibitive to match.

Washington, which has decided it will move Coles, who has complained about the lack of verticality in the Redskins' offense, covets Moss' explosiveness.

Moss, 25, was the Jets' first-round choice in the 2001 draft and the former Miami (Fla.) star has been a productive playmaker when healthy. There have been times, however, when Moss has missed time with hamstring and knee injuries. In four seasons, he had 29 starts in 51 appearances, with 151 receptions for 2,416 yards and 19 touchdowns. His best season came in 2003, when he posted 74 catches, 1,105 yards and nine scores.

He is entering the final year of his original rookie contract and is scheduled to earn a base salary of $448,000 in 2005. Washington will seek a contract extension with Moss before completing any deal for him, but that should not be a problem. Drew Rosenhaus, the agent for Moss, has worked with Redskins owner Dan Snyder on several contracts in the past and the two men have a strong relationship.

Before the Redskins can complete any Coles trade, though, they must first carve out a considerable amount of cap room.

The salary cap math involved in the Coles' mess: If Washington trades the wide receiver, whom they signed as a restricted free agent in 2003, forfeiting a first-round draft choice to the Jets in that transaction, they face a cap impact in excess of $9 million.

Efforts to have Coles bypass a $5 million deferred signing bonus due him on April 1, a move that would have dramatically decreased the cap hit, seem to have fallen apart. Coles originally had agreed to forfeit the $5 million, but only as part of an agreement that he would be released, and able to choose his next team.

The Redskins don't have the cap space sufficient to afford the $9 million charge that would accompany a Coles trade. But offensive tackle Chris Samuels, whose cap charge for 2005 is $9.5 million and who is due $6.5 million in base salary and bonuses, can provide desperately needed room if he agrees to a new deal.

Samuels, 27, is agreeable to an extension but the numbers must be right before the five-year veteran, a first-round pick in the 2000 draft, signs off on a reworked contract. As of Thursday afternoon, despite accelerated negotiations between the Redskins and Samuels' agent, an accord was not imminent.

Agent Jimmy Sexton in January sent the Redskins a contract proposal that was rejected by Washington officials. A month later, the Redskins would love to strike a deal based on those January figures. Problem is, with the big-money contracts already signed during this offseason by Walter Jones of Seattle and Indianapolis' Ryan Diem, the financial landscape for offensive tackles has been altered.

Jones received a signing bonus of $16 million on a seven-year contract with total value of $52.5 million. Although he is one of the better left tackles in the league, Samuels does not rate in Jones' elite class. But Samuels still will merit a contract with a signing bonus close to what Jones received, with a per-year average of at least $6 million.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.

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