Tuesday, March 4, 2003
Updated: March 24, 3:53 PM ET
Redskins offer Bowen four-year, $6M deal
By Len Pasquarelli
The most active team in the unrestricted free-agent market has now begun what is expected to be a brief shopping spree among the restricted shelves.
ESPN.com has learned that the Washington Redskins on Tuesday signed three-year veteran Green Bay Packers safety Matt Bowen to a restricted free-agent offer sheet and filed the deal with the NFL offices.
The Packers now have a week to decide whether to match the four-year, $6 million offer sheet, which includes a $1.6 million signing bonus.
Should the Packers match the offer sheet, they will retain Bowen, and will assume the contract to which Washington signed him. If the Packers opt not to match the offer sheet, they will receive the Redskins' sixth-round pick in the 2003 draft.
Green Bay last week made a one-year restricted free agent qualifying offer of $605,000 to Bowen, who started six games for the Packers in 2002. That "tender" allowed the Packers to retain the right of first refusal, essentially, to be able to match any offer sheet the player signed with another team.
Washington officials, who have arduously reviewed videotape of Bowen, and regard him as a major upgrade for them at free safety, are hoping that the size and structure of the offer sheet precludes Green Bay from matching the deal negotiated with Bowen and agent Jack Bechta.
Bowen, 26, has played in 38 games with eight starts, and has 63 tackles, one interception, a forced fumble and nine passes defensed. Bowen is also a very good special teams player.
The former Iowa star was a sixth-round choice of St. Louis in the 2000 draft and played in all 16 games, with two starts, as a rookie. But then he suffered a broken right foot in the 2001 season opener, was placed on injured reserve and subsequently waived. Green Bay, beset by injuries at safety, signed him late in the season.
Washington is also expected later this week to sign another restricted free agent, New York Jets return specialist Chad Morton, to an offer sheet. The mighty-mite Morton, 25, averaged 26.0 yards on kickoffs in 2002 and ran back two for touchdowns.
His career average, on 114 kickoff returns, is 24.4 yards. Morton has also returned punts in his career and likely would be used in that capacity as well by the Redskins. He has 47 career punt returns for a 9.4-yard average, but had just four punt runbacks in 2002.
The Jets have retained a right of first refusal by making Morton a restricted qualifying offer of $605,000. The Jets would gain a fifth-round draft choice from any team that signs Morton to an offer sheet, provided New York does not match the contract.
Washington did not own a fifth-round choice in the 2003 draft until making a trade with the New England Patriots on Monday evening. The Redskins swapped a seventh-round pick this year and a fourth-rounder in 2004 to New England for the Pats' fifth-round selection in April. The deal was ostensibly made to set up the pursuit of Morton.
In the 10 years of the free-agent system only 42 restricted veterans changed teams, just nine in the last three springs, and only one in 2002.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.