Then, in an unusual move, Redskins director of player personnel Vinny Cerrato said he was suspending negotiations with Davis until mid-July. Davis' agent, Steve Weinberg, responded by saying he will actively market his client to other teams.
"I am just speechless," Weinberg said. "If that's where the Redskins are at, then hopefully another team will sign Steve to a fair contract. They don't seem to care if they have him or if they don't have him. ... The only people that are against Stephen is the Redskins front office."
The franchise tag means that any other team would be forced to give up two first-round draft picks to sign Davis, who rushed for a team-record 1,405 yards this past season. Meanwhile, the Redskins have to offer Davis a minimum one-year tender for the average salary of the top five running backs in the league, approximately $3.5 million.
Cerrato made the tender Thursday, and said he won't reconsider the matter until days before the start of training camp. If a deal can't be worked out then, Davis will have to play for the one-year deal assuming no other team has given up the two first-round draft picks to sign him.
"Nothing will happen on that one until the middle of July," Cerrato said. "That one's done and put to bed."
Had the Redskins not made Davis a franchise player, he would have become an unrestricted free agent when the free agency signing period begins Friday.
The Redskins have offered Davis, who made $934,000 this season, a six-year, $31 million deal that includes a $5 million signing bonus. Weinberg doesn't like the deal because it's back-loaded with just $10 million spread over the first three years and $21 million over the last three.
Cerrato disputed Weinberg's contention that the offer was back-loaded, but would not give details.
"With our offer, he would have been one of the six top-paid running backs in the league this year," Cerrato said. "Meeting certain incentives would have put him in the top two."
Weinberg said Cerrato's math didn't add up.
"I don't know how he figured that," he said.
Weinberg has proposed with six-, eight- and 10-year offers aimed at making Davis a Redskin for the rest of his career. His latest proposal is $51 million over eight years, including $16 million over the first three, and a $10 million signing bonus.
"They've yet to offer us a lifetime contract, which is what we're offering," Weinberg said.
Davis has also said he's disappointed with the Redskins' initial offerings. Weinber said the team appeared intent on playing hardball by threatening the franchise tag even before negotiations began.
"That's been Vinny Cerrato's comment from day one," Weinberg said. "That's left a bad taste with us this entire time."
Davis is one of five free agents the Redskins targeted to re-sign, but only one player, fullback Larry Centers, has signed a new contract. Defensive end Marco Coleman, center Cory Raymer and guard Keith Sims will become free agents Friday.
"We are still negotiating with all of them," Cerrato said.
The Redskins are also one of several teams talking to the Seattle Seahawks about a trade for receiver Joey Galloway. Galloway was designated the Seahawks' franchise player Thursday after an arbitrator declared him eligible for free agency.
The Redskins have discussed giving Seattle the lowest of their three first-round picks in the 2000 draft, the No. 24 overall, for Galloway.
"We told them we'd be interested at a certain price," Cerrato said.
Meanwhile, the Redskins interviewed Kirby Wilson for the running backs coach job vacated earlier this week when Bobby Jackson left to join the St. Louis Rams. Wilson spent the last three years with New England.
The Redskins will also have to find a new tight ends coach after Michael Pope departed Thursday to accept a similar job with the New York Giants.
©2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed