Skins Blog: Coles Gone, Smoot Still Shopping

Coles will be catching passes for the Jets in '05.

The Redskins and Jets pulled the trigger on the Coles for Moss deal. The question lingers: Why did the Redskins do it? It must have been the toe.

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You can reach me by email at rtandler@comcast.net
Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs' Washington Redskins.


The on again, off again Laveranues Coles for Santana Moss trade finally happened on Saturday as the Jets ceded to Coles demand for a contract extension. From the Washington Post:
The intermittently on-and-off trade between the New York Jets and Washington Redskins has been finally completed, shipping unhappy wide receiver Laveranues Coles to his old team, the Jets, for wideout Santana Moss, sources familiar with the development said today.

The main obstacle had been Coles's request for a contract extension from the Jets, partly because he believed that he initially had an agreement with Washington to be released, making him a free agent. But after fruitless talks over the past several days, the Jets and Coles's agent, Roosevelt Barnes, apparently made enough headway.
According to broadcast reports the Redskins will not get any salary cap relief from Coles in this transaction. By not making this deal until after last Tuesday, it was already determined that the Redskins would take a 2005 salary cap hit of nearly $6 million if they traded or released Coles before June 1. Had Coles agreed to forgo part or all of $5 million payment on his original $13 signing bonus, they could have had that credited to their 2006 cap number. However, if the reports are correct--and that seems to be the way the deal has been heading in recent days--that won't happen.

So on April 1, the Redskins will have to cut a $5 million check and forward it to the Jets' facility. Ouch.

The question being asked is, of course, why? Why take such a big hit to trade a guy that the Skins just gave up a first-round pick and a ton of money for just two years ago? And why for Moss, who hasn't done much of anything special for the Jets?

To address the second part first, Moss doesn't suffer horribly in comparison to Coles. A first-round pick (16th overall) by the Jets, Moss has less tha half as many career catches as Coles (342-151), but has scored just one fewer touchdown (20-19) and has averaged 16 yards a catch for his career. Coles hasn't averaged that much for as much as a full season (save his rookie year when he had 22 catches). And Moss is two years younger than Coles is.

Still, even if you concede that Moss and Coles are roughly equal as players the fact is that this wasn't just a player for player trade from the Redskins' standpoint. There is the little matter of the cap hit and the wasted first rounder.

Coles' reported unhappiness with Joe Gibbs' offense was certainly the team evern considered the trade in the first place. But even is someone is desperately unhappy, you don't toss a first-rounder and five million bucks in the trash because of it. Nobody in the world, probably not even Coles, would have blamed the Redskins if they had told the receiver that they gave him big, big money so shut up and play. Coles, being the professional he is, probably would have.

Based on the facts we know, there is really only one reason that the Redskins would make this deal; they must think that Coles is damaged goods. His injured toe, the one on which he refuses to have surgery, has cost him much of the speed and explosiveness that led to the Redskins dangling the $13 million to lure him from the Jets in the first place. Rehabilitation without surgery didn't nearly do the trick to heal the toe last offseason. It was admirable that Coles gutted it out this past year, but it's safe to say that Gibbs' scheme wasn't the only factor at play in his 10.6 yards per catch average. The toe must have been a big issue as well.

Faced with diminishing returns, it appears that the Skins decided to cut their losses, get what they could for Coles, swallowed the bitter pill of the money and the first, and move on.

This is all speculation, mind you. But so was the notion that David Patten would be a good target for the Skins and, well, we know how that turned out.

Smoot Still Shopping

Fred Smoot was suppoed to be one of the hot commidities when the NFL free agent market opened up last Wednesday. The Redskins have had a contract offer that includes a $10 million singing bonus on the table since last year. Smoot, and others, thought that he's be able to get considerably more up front from another team.

So far, however, he's waiting for the phone to ring. From Len Pasquarelli on ESPN.com:
Another player we love in free agency, and who appears to be generating just tepid interest in the first week of the signing period, is Washington cornerback Fred Smoot. The four-year veteran has become a topflight corner over the past two seasons and has grown up off the field, but isn't getting nearly the play some lesser cover guys have experienced in the opening days of the market. Smoot turned down an extension offer during the season that would have paid him a $10 million signing bonus. Lesser-known cornerback Anthony Henry of Cleveland got $10 million to sign as an unrestricted free agent in Dallas. Seattle's Ken Lucas received a $13 million to $14 million bonus when he signed Thursday with Carolina. Those deals, one would assume, should help establish the market for Smoot, but first there has to be a market for his services. Let's be clear: There is interest in Smoot but not yet to the level everyone felt there would be.
This begs the question: Why not? It's possible that Smoot has over estimated his market value. Markets can differ from year to year, but last season Shawn Springs signed with the Skins for a $10 million signing bonus. Springs is considered to be the Skins' number one corner, so why should Smoot think he's worth more?

Smoot has made it known that he would prefer to remain a Redskin and the team's $10 million offer is common knowledge. By making that offer know, Washington has set Smoot's market value and it's up to another team in increase it. So far, it appears that none are willing to do so and, as a general rule, prices go down as time goes on. Should be Redskins be in a hardball mood, they could deduct $100,000 from the signing bonus for each day that Smoot doesn't accept it. Not that such a thing would be a good idea for future happiness, mind you, but financially the Skins could probably get away with it.

It's far from certain that Smoot will end up returning to the Redskins, but as each day passes the chances of that happening improve.

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