Redskins free up Edwards pact Safety gets big raise on eve of free agency

Washington Redskins safety Brad Edwards got the benefits of free agency last night without even testing the free-agent waters.

Edwards came to terms on a three-year, $2.55 million deal with the Redskins, according to a source close to the negotiations, and will sign today.


That means Edwards will not be among the more than 300 players with five or more years of experience whose contracts have expired who will be eligible to sign with any team today when the new free agency period starts.

When Edwards came from the Minnesota Vikings to the Redskins in 1990 as a Plan B free agent under the old system, he signed a three-year deal for $1 million, an average of $333,333 per year, so his new salary is a boost of more than 2 1/2 times over his old salary.


Those kind of raises are expected to be common once the players start shopping themselves around.

But Edwards, who calls the signals for assistant coach Richie Petitbon's defense, decided he didn't want to leave the Redskins.

That is a positive sign for Washington, which is going to be forced to play a defensive game during the free agency period that ends July 15.

Banned by the rules from signing more than one player for more than $1.5 million (and none for between $1 million and $1.5 million), the Redskins can pursue only one high-priced free agent. Reggie White, the defensive lineman of the Philadelphia Eagles, figures to be their main target.

Instead of pursuing players, the Redskins' main interest will be in keeping their own free agents, including such starters as wide receivers Gary Clark and Art Monk, defensive tackles Tim Johnson and Eric Williams, linebacker Kurt Gouveia, cornerback Martin Mayhew and safety Danny Copeland.

The Redskins are hoping that most of them want to remain and will give them a chance to match their best offers once they test the market.

General manager Charley Casserly, who doesn't like to confirm deals until the contracts are signed, said he'd have no comment on the Edwards talks until today.

But Casserly won his gamble when he decided not to include Edwards as one of his two transition players. To do that, the Redskins would have had to offer Edwards $969,000, the average salary for the top 10 safeties in the league.


They wound up getting him under contract for $119,000 per year less than that.

The Redskins also found out yesterday that New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms apparently won't be available on the market.

In New York, there had been speculation Simms might be interested in the Redskins. But Simms said that new coach Dan Reeves asked him not to sign with any other team during the first week of free agency, a sign that Simms could be Reeves' choice at quarterback.

Reeves has talked to Jeff Hostetler, the Giants' other quarterback, and although neither has commented on their conversation, there was a published report in New York that Reeves suggested Hostetler, who's a free agent, should try to find himself another team.

Reeves said earlier he wants one of his two veterans to depart to end the team's quarterback controversy.