Redskins assess value of free market Many players may profit immediately


ASHBURN, Va. -- For Jeff Bostic and Charles Mann, free agency is no longer a goal.

Bostic, who is in his 13th season with the Washington Redskins at age 34, signed a three-year deal Monday.

"I had no ambition to go anywhere else," said Bostic, who was due to make $515,000 this year and was bumped up to about $650,000.

Mann, who is making $900,000 in his 10th season at age 31, is close to a new deal with the team.

"I pretty much fit into this system. It's [free agency] not going to do me any good," Mann said.

For many Redskins, though, the prospect of free agency is enticing. In the wake of a decision by federal Judge David Doty freeing this year's four remaining holdouts, the players know that more free agency is coming. They're not sure what form it'll be, but they're looking forward to it.

Linebacker Andre Collins, who's in the final year of his contract at an average of $325,000, said: "Naturally, I think every football player's vision is like what's going on in baseball right now with the multimillion-dollar salaries. It's kind of like an ace in your pocket to know that some day you might be playing for what you're actually worth."

Linebacker Wilber Marshall, in the final year of the five-year, $6 million dollar deal he signed with the Redskins in 1988 when he became only the second player to move under the old compensation system, said that compared with baseball players, "You've got to be thinking you're getting shortchanged."

Wide receiver Gary Clark, who's making $850,000 in the final year of his contract and is looking for a deal that is "not far off" the new $2.5 million deal signed by Jerry Rice of the San Francisco 49ers, said, "I just want a fair shake."

Both Clark and Art Monk, who's making $1.1 million this year, figure to top $2 million next year, and Clark isn't going to complain being shortchanged.

"I have nothing to really complain about. I go down to D.C. too much to see people in the streets not having anything to eat for me to complain,"Clark said.

He added: "You're never going to get what you want and the team's never going to get what they want, so you kind of come to a happy medium. You just hope the medium is more on your side than the other side."

Coming off a tumultuous training camp in which veterans, Mark Rypien, Jim Lachey and Darrell Green and rookie Desmond Howard held out, the Redskins seem headed toward more contract problems next season if the players get more free agency.

Of their 13 top players on defense, only Green, Fred Stokes and Bobby Wilson are signed for next year. That leaves three linemen (Mann, Tim Johnson and Eric Williams), three linebackers (Marshall, Collins and Kurt Gouveia) and four defensive backs (Martin Mayhew, A. J. Johnson, Danny Copeland and Brad Edwards) whose contracts will be up at the end of the year.

On offense, Clark, Monk, guard Mark Schlereth and running back Ricky Ervins are the top players whose contracts run out this year.

The Redskins don't concede that all these players will be free agents. They note the owners plan to put a new system in place by Feb. 1, although it's uncertain whether it'll stand a court challenge.

"A lot of things will happen between now and Feb. 1," general manager Charley Casserly said.

It's also uncertain how many Redskins will sign between now and then. Mann is close and Schlereth thought he had a deal at about $800,000 a year, but the Redskins then backed off.

Meanwhile, the Redskins don't know whether many players will leave if they get the chance. Since the Redskins win and generally pay well, they're not eager to leave. They'd mostly like use free agency as a negotiating tool.

"I'd always hope the Redskins would match whatever somebody else offered me," Clark said.

Said Collins: "I think there's a special group of players here. We're all able to be friends and we all entertain each other's families. I think it's a kind of situation where if a lot of us left, we wouldn't be comfortable on other teams."

For some of the veterans at the end of their careers, benefits and pensions are important. The players are still working under the benefits they got in the 1982 contract.

"I'd rather talk about health benefits and medical and retirement and the kind of stuff you talk about when you get old," Mann said.

Then there's Monk, who rarely gives interviews and wasn't about to divulge his thoughts about free agency.

"I'm not getting in that one," he said with a smile.

NOTES: WR Stephen Hobbs will miss his second straight game with a knee injury, opening the door for Desmond Howard to become the fourth wide receiver. Hobbs' knee isn't improving and he could be headed for IR. . . . DL Eric Williams, who has been out since August with a knee injury, played some in practice, but doesn't seem ready to return from IR for at least an additional week.

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