Spurrier shakes it up


Published: Saturday, March 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 28, 2003 at 11:39 p.m.

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) - Moving quickly on the first day of free agency, the Washington Redskins got St. Louis running back Trung Canidate in a trade Friday and filled a long-standing need by snagging free-agent guards Randy Thomas and Dave Fiore.

Thomas, a four-year starter with the New York Jets and the top guard available in free agency, agreed to a seven-year, $28 million deal with a $7 million signing bonus.

With Thomas and Fiore, the ex-San Francisco guard, the Redskins addressed a position that has been a liability for several years. The team has started 14 different guards over the last three seasons - many of them players who were signed late in training camp because the position had been largely ignored in free agency and the draft.

The Redskins will now 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.

"I never smoked anything in my life, and I actually took a puff of a cigar today," offensive line coach Kim Helton said.

Thomas visited Redskins Park on Friday and had planned to meet with six other teams, but owner Dan Snyder's offer made it certain he wouldn't go anywhere else. He won the starting job in New York during his rookie season and played in 61 games, all starts.

The Redskins also met with defensive tackle Brandon Noble, defensive end Regan Upshaw and receiver Rocket Ismail.

The Redskins gave up a fourth-round pick in this year's draft and guard David Loverne to get Canidate, a speedy 2000 first-round selection who had fallen out of favor with Rams coach Mike Martz.

"We have a home-run hitter in the backfield," offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said.

Canidate replaces Stephen Davis, who was cut Wednesday to meet the salary cap, and should be a better fit for Spurrier's offense. Canidate can explode for big gains and is a good receiver, while Davis is a straight-ahead bruiser more suited to a conservative attack.

Canidate will be penciled in ahead of Kenny Watson and Ladell Betts, who shared the running back duties last year when Davis missed four games with injuries. More than anything, the Redskins like him because he's fast.

"If we can't get the top guy who can run, we want the next guy who can run," said Jackson, summing up the team's free agent-philosophy on offense this offseason.

Canidate had 595 yards rushing and receiving in 2000 behind Marshall Faulk, but he had only 79 total yards last year, spending the season in what Martz called "the doldrums." He can also return kickoffs, fulfilling another need for the Redskins.

Fiore was a three-year starter with the 49ers and played all five offensive line positions. But he missed all but three games last season with torn ligaments in his right knee - the latest in a series of knee injuries that required at least five operations on both knees during his career. San Francisco cut him this week because of the knee problems, and to save money under the salary cap.

Fiore passed a physical Friday and pronounced himself fit. He said the Redskins lured him with a promise that he would play one position - left guard - without all the shuffling he had in San Francisco.

"That was one of the things that drove me to be here," Fiore said. "I thought I had a chance to play one position and stay with it."

Loverne was acquired in a minor trade with the Jets a year ago and was expected to be a backup. He ended up starting 11 games last season in the constantly shuffled offensive line.

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