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Redskins Give Deion $55M Deal


Deion Sanders joined the Washington Redskins today, the boldest move yet in an audacious offseason that has made the team a genuine Super Bowl contender.

Sanders agreed to a seven-year contract worth about $55 million, including an $8 million signing bonus, according to a team source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The 32-year-old cornerback was at Redskin Park at 7 a.m. today, working out with his personal trainer on the artificial turf field in Redskins gear. He then left with team trainer Bubba Tyer for a physical.

The Redskins scheduled a news conference for 6 p.m. to announce the signing.

Already this year, the Redskins have signed free agents Bruce Smith, Mark Carrier, Jeff George and Adrian Murrell. They also traded to get two of the top three picks in April's draft, choosing Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington and Alabama tackle Chris Samuels.

Sanders arrived in Washington on Saturday night and had dinner with owner Dan Snyder, director of player personnel Vinny Cerrato and longtime Redskins cornerback Darrell Green. Sanders stayed in the area and went to a local church Sunday, then underwent an MRI on his right knee. He had surgery on the knee Jan. 24.

Green was used to recruit Sanders, even though the 40-year-old, seven-time Pro Bowl cornerback may now lose his starting job because of it. Green signed a new five-year deal last week, but admitted he might have to make "the sacrifice of playing time" to accommodate Sanders.

Second-year player Champ Bailey is the team's other incumbent starting cornerback.

Sanders, selected to eight Pro Bowls, has often been called the most dominant defensive player in the game. As a speedy cornerback with dogged man-to-man skills, he can take away half the field from an opposing offense. He was the NFL defensive player of the year with San Francisco in 1994, even though he didn't join the 49ers until Sept. 15.

But Sanders also has a history of injury. The arthroscopic surgery on his knee hampered his attempt to play baseball with the Cincinnati Reds this year. He was assigned to a minor league team but left the club May 11.

Sanders is unlikely to play the entire seven years of the contract, but the Redskins had to make it a long one so it would meet his demands and stll fit under the salary cap. The $8 million bonus will be prorated over the seven years.

The Redskins made salary room for Sanders by releasing kick returner Brian Mitchell and fullback Larry Bowie last week.

Sanders has played for Atlanta, San Francisco and Dallas over his 11-year NFL career, which he has juggled at times with stints in baseball.

He spent the last five years with the Cowboys, but was released Friday. Dallas would have owed him a cap-bursting $23.5 million guaranteed over the next two years had he stayed on the roster.

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