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Redskins Continue Free Agency Binge

March 1, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Washington Redskins maintained a whirlwind free agency pace Saturday as they signed defensive tackle Brandon Noble and reached a tentative agreement with defensive end Regan Upshaw.

The Redskins confirmed Noble’s signing and called a news conference for late afternoon ``regarding several free agent players″ _ presumably Noble, Upshaw and guard Randy Thomas, who agreed to a seven-year, $28 million deal late Friday.

``We have tentative agreement on a five-year contract,″ Drew Rosenhaus, Upshaw’s agent, said Saturday morning.

On Friday, the first day of free agency, the Redskins got St. Louis running back Trung Canidate in a trade and signed ex-San Francisco guard Dave Fiore to a four-year contract worth about $6.5 million, including a $1.5 million signing bonus.

Noble, Upshaw and receiver Rocket Ismail also spent part of the day at Redskins Park meeting with owner Dan Snyder, who has been working at breakneck speed.

``He’s been up working deals at three, four in the morning,″ director of player personnel Vinny Cerrato said Friday. ``He’s been getting a lot of things done over the telephone with all these agents.″

Seven-year veteran Upshaw could move in as a starter ahead of Bruce Smith, who is no longer expected to be an every-down player if he decides not to retire.

Upshaw played last season with the Oakland Raiders and missed the first three months of the season while recovering from knee surgery. He became a starter during the playoffs, but he had little impact. The Raiders cut him this week in a salary cap move.

Noble comes from the Dallas Cowboys, where he started every game over the last two seasons. The Redskins need a tackle _ possibly two _ because they were unable to re-sign Daryl Gardener and because Dan Wilkinson might be cut for salary cap reasons in June.

Thomas, a four-year starter with the New York Jets and the top guard available in free agency, got a $7 million signing bonus in his deal. With Thomas and Fiore, the Redskins addressed a position that has been a liability for several years. The team has started 14 guards over the last three seasons.

The Redskins now will have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL in Steve Spurrier’s second year as coach. They already have two top-notch tackles, Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen.

Thomas had planned to meet with six other teams, but Snyder’s offer made it certain he wouldn’t go anywhere else.

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