With Wilber Marshall awaiting designation, the Washington Redskins introduced his probable successor at strong-side linebacker yesterday: Carl Banks, an old nemesis from their rivalry with the New York Giants.
Banks, a former Pro Bowl player who became an unrestricted free agent last Thursday, agreed to a multi-year contract with the Redskins late Sunday night. A source said the deal was worth $1.8 million a year for three years.
Banks became available in a curious shuffle last week. The Giants originally named him their transition player, only to rescind the title when they signed outside linebacker Michael Brooks to a contract worth $1.8 million a year.
A 10-year veteran who made the Pro Bowl in 1987, Banks turns 31 in August amid speculation that he is nearing the end of his career.
"By no means am I finished," he said during his introduction at the Redskins' training facility in Ashburn, Va. "I have a lot of football left in me. One of the criticisms I had in New York was that I turned 30 and had a bad year."
Banks made just 55 tackles and only four sacks in 15 starts last season for the Giants, but the Redskins believe he has some mileage left. So, on a day when they were required to make an offer of $1.6 million to Marshall, their reigning Pro Bowl linebacker, they were ready to make the move to Banks.
General manager Charley Casserly said the NFL office advised the Redskins to make the offer in advance of a decision from commissioner Paul Tagliabue about Marshall's status. The Redskins say they have a deal that sends Marshall to the Houston Oilers for first- and fifth-round draft picks, and that they'll chip in $150,000 to help meet Marshall's asking price of $2.9 million. The Oilers say they withdrew their offer of $2.75 million before a June 3 deadline.
"We never had a trade with them to start out with," said Houston owner Bud Adams. "I was not for the price or the 1 and the 5 [draft picks]."
Nevertheless, Adams did not rule out the possibility that he still might acquire Marshall.
"A lot could happen," he said. "We have until the sixth game of the season to trade."
Said Casserly: "Our contention is, Wilber is a Houston Oiler."
Tagliabue is expected to resolve the dispute when he returns next week from a vacation in China.
Would the Redskins welcome back Marshall if Tagliabue nullifies the trade?
"Certainly," Casserly said. "If Wilber would like to be here, we'd be happy to have him back."
The offer to Marshall protects Washington's rights to him if the trade is nullified. Under the NFL's new free-agency rules, any team can offer Marshall a contract, and the Redskins have the right to match it. If they decide not to match it, they would receive two first-round picks.
New coach Richie Petitbon sounded as though he already had penciled in Banks' name at left linebacker.
"I think Carl Banks is one of the best linebackers in football," he said. "I've always been a real admirer of him when he played with the Giants. He probably handles the tight end as well as anybody who played the game. The thing that separates him from a lot of players is, he's not only tremendous on the field, but he's tremendous off the field."
Petitbon did his best to steer clear of the Marshall controversy, though.
"That thing is out of my hands," he said. "It's in the commissioner's. . . . This had no bearing on Wilber. It was an opportunity to get a great football player, and I think you can't get enough of them."
Marshall aside, there figures to be a ripple effect with the signing of Banks. In plugging one hole, the Redskins may have inadvertently created another.
The agent for unsigned Andre Collins said yesterday the two sides were "very far apart" on a contract for the restricted free-agent linebacker. "It's been five months and [Collins] hasn't gotten a contract," said Baltimore agent Tony Agnone. "It took them five days to get a contract with Carl Banks."
Collins had a tentative one-year offer of $700,000 from the Redskins, who also have talked about a three-year deal in the $1.2 million range. If Collins signs a one-year deal for this season, he would become an unrestricted free agent next year.
"We want Andre Collins back," Casserly said. "We'll continue to work to negotiate the contact. This [Banks' signing] has nothing to do with Andre Collins."