After months of happy talk about it being a virtual certainty that Fred Smoot would return to the Redskins next year, things suddenly turned gloomy today. From WarpathInsiders.com's ace Redskins reporter John Keim:
Fred Smoot isn't optimistic about returning, even as the Redskins say he should be.
''Just say it's a gut feeling,'' Smoot said. ''A gut feeling.''
When asked if he felt that if there was no deal before season's end, then there'd be no deal at all, Smoot said, ''Yeah, that's how I think.''
Smoot stressed that he wants to return. Coach Joe Gibbs said, ''We really like him. He's a heck of a player and he has a great outlook on things. We'll make every effort to sign him. We were going hard at it and then it reached a point where there was a stalemate. Both sides reached a point where we both said we're better off waiting.''Perhaps this is the disappointing season and his current injury talking, but there certainly is cause for concern here. Rarely is heard a discouraging word from the mouth of Fred Smoot. If he says that doesn't like the way things are going in the contract negotiations, there must be some serious difference between the two sides.
The guess here is that Smoot and his agent have an inflated estimation of the cornerback's market value. He is a good corner, perhaps a very good one, but he's a cut or two below the elites in the league. If he's looking for more than seven figures in guaranteed money the Redskins are right to draw the line.
This may come down to Smoot testing the market in March. If he gets a crazy offer, he'll go. If not, he'll probably stay for the offer the Redskins have on the table right now.