Good sign for Redskins: Safety Copeland in fold McGee and Byars come for a visit

The Washington Redskins, stung by the loss of four players in the first month of free agency, started a comeback yesterday. They signed safety Danny Copeland and had two other players -- wide receiver Tim McGee and tight end/running back Keith Byars -- in for a visit at Redskin Park.

Copeland, 27, got a three-year, $3 million contract. The $1 million average is $150,000 more than the $850,000-a-year contract the team's other starting safety, Brad Edwards, signed the day before the free-agency signing period started March 1.


The Redskins wanted to keep Copeland at Edwards' level, but after losing Jumpy Geathers, Gary Clark, Fred Stokes and Martin Mayhew, the Redskins evidently recognized that the skyrocketing salaries for free agents have created a new market.

Since the Atlanta Falcons were deciding yesterday whether to make Copeland an offer in the $1 million range, the Redskins decided to make what Copeland's agent, Frank Murtha, called a "pre-emptive strike."


Copeland is the second player to get more money than the team had anticipated giving. Defensive lineman Tim Johnson signed a three-year deal for $1.5 million a year last week. Last year, the Redskins re-signed their best lineman, Charles Mann, for a four-year deal for $1.4 million in 1992 and $1.5, $1.6 and $1.7 million the next three years. They hadn't anticipated giving Johnson a similar deal, but had to adjust to the new market.

Meanwhile, the Redskins have a good shot at McGee, the Cincinnati Bengals receiver who made $900,000 last year. He said the Redskins are his top choice.

"My criteria is [being with] a winner," McGee said. "I want to win the Super Bowl."

The Redskins apparently aren't concerned that McGee was called to testify last week during a civil trial in which Victoria C., a Seattle woman, says she was gang-raped by a number of Bengals in a Seattle hotel room in 1990. She is trying to overturn a $30,000 settlement she signed with several players. McGee, 28, has denied he was involved and Redskins general manager Charley Casserly said he investigated the case to his satisfaction.

Byars, the Philadelphia Eagles tight end-running back who also has met with the Green Bay Packers and the Cleveland Browns, made $900,000 last season.

"I want to be with a team that has a tradition of winning," said Byars, 29. "There's no question Washington fits the bill."

Byars may have to lower his price for the Redskins to get involved. He apparently wants more than $2 million and the Redskins refused to go that high for Clark.

The Redskins are expected to make an offer to linebacker Tyrone Stowe of the Phoenix Cardinals, who was in for a visit two weeks ago.


The Redskins also plan to meet tomorrow with linebacker Johnny Holland of the Packers and running back Harold Green of the Bengals and Thursday with running back Marcus Allen of the Los Angeles Raiders.

The Redskins also found out yesterday that one more team was added to the bidding for Reggie White when New York Giants coach Dan Reeves and owner Wellington Mara visited White in Knoxville, Tenn.

The Giants are now presumably the sixth team in contention, joining the Redskins, Packers, Browns, San Francisco 49ers and New York Jets. White is expected to visit the 49ers later this week.

The Redskins also found out where the fourth player they lost is going, as Mayhew signed a four-year, $5.3 million deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs outbid the Cardinals for Mayhew's services.