Ted Washington's career began with the San Francisco 49ers. Thirteen years later, he's back in the Bay Area.
Washington, 35, whom the Patriots acquired last preseason in a trade with Chicago but failed to re-sign, was an unrestricted free agent for mere hours, agreeing yesterday to a four-year, $14 million contract with the Oakland Raiders.
Oakland plans to employ the 3-4 as its base defensive front and play a lot of the "46" under new coordinator -- and ex-Patriots outside linebackers coach -- Rob Ryan. The Raiders, 4-12 last year, finished last against the run and 30th in total defense. New England, 31st in run defense in 2002, went to the 3-4, got Washington to play nose tackle, and improved to fourth against the run. Oakland will pay Washington $5.5 million this year ($4 million signing bonus, $1.5 million in base salary) in the hope that history repeats itself.
Oakland may not be done raiding the Patriots. The Raiders, according to industry sources, also are interested in signing free agent defensive end Bobby Hamilton. His agent, Brian Levy, said Oakland contacted him regarding Hamilton's availability not long after midnight yesterday, the official beginning of free agency. Levy said Jacksonville also called about Hamilton, 32.
New England and Washington's agent, Angelo Wright, began discussing a three-year, $8 million deal in November. The Patriots finally caved in to Washington's demands before he was to hit the open market, and were willing to pay him $3 million up front with a first salary of $760,000. But Washington, annoyed with the slow progress of negotiations and an erroneous report Monday that he and the Patriots had come to terms on an extension, turned down the offer, knowing that a bigger pay day awaited him in free agency.
Had news of an extension not been leaked, the deal likely would have been finalized Monday. Instead, Washington was in Oakland by early yesterday morning and officially an ex-Patriot by midday. The Raiders are Washington's fifth team. He was a first-round pick of the Niners in 1991.
"Our hope was for Ted to remain a Patriot, but in the end, it didn't work out," said New England coach Bill Belichick through a team spokesman. "He was a significant contributor for us last season, and we wish him well in the future."
At present, the Patriots' future does not include a true nose tackle. Jarvis Green, Richard Seymour, and Ty Warren all have played over center, but seem better suited for end. Dan Klecko saw most of his time at nose tackle in passing situations. . . .
The Lions haven't been competitive since 2000, finishing last in their division three years straight. The offseason is a different story.
Detroit hosted free agent offensive lineman Damien Woody yesterday. The Lions, reportedly $14.8 million under the salary cap as of Monday, are poised to offer the soon-to-be ex-Patriot guard/center the largest contract ever for an interior offensive lineman, according to several industry sources. Chicago center Olin Kreutz received a record $7 million signing bonus in 2002. The Lions are said to be talking $8 million up front for Woody.
The Dolphins also are hot after Woody -- in fact, early yesterday morning they tried to broker a deal with his agent, Ben Dogra, in an attempt to dissuade Woody from traveling to Detroit. Miami, which lost out on Kreutz two years ago, reportedly also is prepared to give Woody $8 million to sign. Woody is scheduled to meet with the Dolphins today and expects to land with a new team by this weekend.
The Cowboys, Falcons, Giants, Chargers, and Cardinals also have expressed interest in Woody, 26, although no visits have been scheduled.
Woody, the second of New England's two first-round picks in 1999, out of Boston College, turned down a six-year, $22 million contract with the Patriots that included a $6.6 million signing bonus and would have paid him a little more than $10 million over the first three years. The two-time Pro Bowl alternate is looking to earn closer to $12 million over three.
If Woody were to sign with Detroit, he would go from a team that has won two Super Bowls in the past three years to a franchise that has won 10 of 48 games during that span. But he likes the idea of playing for Steve Mariucci, the fact that the Lions opened a new stadium (Ford Field) and facility in 2002, and the overall direction in which Detroit is headed with a young nucleus of players that includes quarterback Joey Harrington, receiver Charles Rogers, and Pro Bowl cornerback Dre' Bly, whom the Lions signed last offseason. Detroit also hosted former 49ers cornerback Ahmed Plummer yesterday. . . .
As of last evening, New England had not inquired about another of Levy's clients, free agent running back Charlie Garner. The Patriots instead appear to be looking in another direction -- as in, their backyard. According to an industry source, New England was close to re-signing running back Kevin Faulk.
Faulk's agent, Raymond Brothers, did not return a call from the Globe yesterday, though he has gone on record saying Faulk would prefer to remain a Patriot. Faulk finished second on the team last year with a career-high 638 rushing yards, and second with 48 receptions.
New England does not have a running back under contract, as it declined the 2004 option on Antowain Smith a week after the season and has not re-signed unrestricted free agent Michael Cloud. Fullbacks Larry Centers (contemplating retirement) and Patrick Pass are also unrestricted free agents. Fullback Fred McCrary is the only member of the 2003 backfield still on the roster. . . .
The Patriots announced they had re-signed receiver J.J. Stokes . . . Also, according to NFL Players Association documents, the Patriots have reduced linebacker Roman Phifer's base salary the next two years to $760,000 in 2004 and $800,000 in '05. He was scheduled to earn $3 million each season.