Davis' Carries, Chances of Returning wane.(SPORTS)
Byline: Rick Snider, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
A pass-oriented offense that has running back Stephen Davis headed for his fewest yards and carries since becoming the feature back in 1999 makes his return to the Washington Redskins unlikely.
Davis will earn $8million in salary and bonuses in 2003 to nearly double his current salary cap number to $11.4million. Contract talks for a new deal have been fruitless, and sources close to Davis said he is resigned to playing elsewhere next year although he would prefer to stay.
Davis has even joked about the situation in recent weeks, though he refused yesterday to discuss his future. Vice president of football operations Joe Mendes also declined comment, in keeping with his policy of not discussing contracts.
The Redskins could save $5.2million against the salary cap by releasing Davis when free agency begins March4. While the team has most of its key starters under contract for next season - aside from unrestricted free agent offensive tackle Jon Jansen and defensive tackle Daryl Gardener - Davis' release could help the Redskins sign or retain several prominent players that might better help the team's continued rebuilding. Jansen is not expected to return, but Gardener indicated he'd like to stay. Regardless, Davis will cost $6.2million against the cap next year.
Davis' loss has been expected since he signed a blockbuster nine-year, $90million deal in 1999 that was essentially a four-year contract before dramatically escalating in 2003. The Redskins prepared for losing Davis when they drafted Ladell Betts in the second round earlier this year. However, Davis' three straight 1,300-yard seasons, two team single-season rushing marks and two Pro Bowl berths has made him irreplaceable. Davis trails Larry Brown by only 318 yards for the second most in franchise history behind John Riggins.
However, Davis has been unable to gain Steve Spurrier's confidence enough to change the coach's Fun'n'Gun's reliance on quarterbacks. Although Davis missed 21/2 games with a sprained knee, he's averaging fewer than 18 carries for 73.4 yards a game. Davis is on course to finish with 196 carries for 1,027 yards, which are 130 carries and 357 yards below his average over the past three years. …