Smoot leaves Redskins
By David Elfin
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The Washington Redskins' third-ranked defense suffered its second major defection in six days as cornerback Fred Smoot agreed to terms with Minnesota last night.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that the Vikings will pay Smoot $30 million over the next six seasons including a signing bonus in the neighborhood of $10 million.
Smoot's departure, which had been expected since he rejected an offer with a similar bonus from the Redskins late last season, followed that of middle linebacker Antonio Pierce, who jumped to the New York Giants for a six-year, $26 million contract last Wednesday.
Meanwhile, on the eve of his becoming an ex-Redskin, disgruntled receiver Laveranues Coles told Sports Illustrated's Web site that coach Joe Gibbs runs "a dictatorship" and that he was threatened by Washington owner Dan Snyder when his unhappiness with the team became public last month.
The 25-year-old Smoot, a starter for Washington in all four seasons since being drafted in the second round in 2001, will join Antoine Winfield, a 2004 free agent pickup from the Buffalo Bills, as the starting corners for the Vikings, who were 28th overall and 27th in pass defense last year.
"I'm real excited," Vikings coach Mike Tice said. "That's certainly another playmaker we're adding. Now we have two down-the-field, speed, cover corners that tackle. Fred certainly brings a lot of energy which is something we're looking for."
The Redskins likely will replace Smoot with nickel back Walt Harris, an eight-year starter for Chicago and Indianapolis before coming to Washington in 2004 following major leg surgery. Harris' promotion would leave the raw Garnell Wilds, Rufus Brown and Ade Jimoh competing at nickel back. The Redskins could also try to replace Smoot by using the ninth overall pick in the April 23 draft on a top college corner such as Miami's Antrel Rolle or West Virginia's Adam Jones.
Coles, who signed a seven-year, $35 million contract with the Redskins when the pass-happy Steve Spurrier was their coach in 2003, told the Web site he didn't "feel respected" by Gibbs.
"He called the plays," Coles said. "We ran them. ... I realize it's a dictatorship, but there's only so much you can take. How are you supposed to be happy as a receiver when you go from a passing offense to a running offense? This wasn't what I signed up for."
And yet, Coles managed to not only catch a career-high 90 passes in Gibbs' more conservative scheme, but according to STATS Inc., he had more balls thrown his way than anyone in the NFC.
Coles said he met twice with Gibbs after the season but without any change in their frosty relationship.
"We concluded that it was best to go our separate ways," Coles said. "He basically said he didn't trust me and I said I didn't trust him."
Gibbs couldn't be reached for comment yesterday.
As for Snyder, Coles said the owner threatened him when his refusal to accept a trade without receiving an enhanced contract kept the Redskins from consummating a deal last month.
"[Snyder] said that if I stayed in Washington, he would turn me into another Terry Glenn," said Coles, referring to the receiver whose feud with New England coach Bill Belichick sidelined him for most of 2001. "He said he would send a flat-screen TV to my home because I'd be better off watching the games there. That was his way of saying I'd be sitting for the next couple years until they cut me."
Snyder didn't return a call seeking his response.
Coles, who has to pass a physical in New York today for the trade for fellow receiver Santana Moss to become official, said neither he nor the Jets are worried about his ailing right big toe despite the drastic falloff in his yards per catch since he was first hurt in Week 3 of 2003. Coles refused the Redskins' suggestion to have surgery because the operation can be career-ending.
"From what I've been told, it's not a problem as long as I'm running and cutting fine," Coles said. "Until it gets to the point where I can't walk, I don't need surgery."
Note -- Washington re-signed defensive tackle Cedric Killings, who was inactive for the final four games of 2004. Killings, 27, has spent time with San Francisco, Carolina and Minnesota.