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Gibbs Hopes to Fill Needs in Free Agency

Head coach Joe Gibbs spent an hour taking questions and comments from fans on Tuesday night during a special edition of a Redskins Radio broadcast by the team's flagship station WJFK-FM (106.7).

Among the questions that Gibbs addressed during the hour-long session was how the Redskins' personnel officials and coaching staff were approaching free agency this offseason.

Gibbs said he hopes to address most areas of need in free agency so that they are not backed into a corner at any one position in April's NFL Draft.

"We would like to solve everything we can on our football team in free agency," he said. "That way you can go into the draft free-wheeling. You don't feel trapped. You don't want to be in a situation where you need to address a position and the players you wanted were taken ahead of where you picked."

Regarding cornerback Fred Smoot's status as a pending unrestricted free agent, Gibbs said: "If one player wants too much money, it costs us one or two other players that we're trying to sign. That's the reason why it's such a tough negotiation. And the player many times values himself at this point and the team is saying, 'We think you're [valued] here.'

"In Fred's case, we love him and he has a great attitude. We know he has a great presence in Washington. It's just that we're struggling with that right now. But rest assured, we're going to make a real effort to sign Fred."

Gibbs said that a lot of NFL agents are suggesting to their clients that they wait until just before the start of free agency--March 2--before negotiating a new contract with their current team.

"They're afraid now that if they go out and do a deal, they're going to get criticized for it," Gibbs said.

That may be one reason why the Smoot negotiations have not been completed yet, he added.

Gibbs also responded to questions about how long he expected to coach the Redskins. It was an issue that came up in recent weeks when some comments he made to a NASCAR media gathering were miscontrued.

"With my coming back here, I felt like I made a full-blown commitment," Gibbs said. "What is that [commitment]? I signed a five-year contract. At least five years, I said. Most people sign a three-year contract and I signed a five-year contract. So I came back because I want to make a difference and I'm in here for the long haul."

The program was hosted by Redskins play-by-play announcer Larry Michael.

"Coach said recently that he is looking for ways to directly interact with fans, and this is the first step," team spokesman Karl Swanson said. "We'll be adding more direct lines of communication as we head into the 2005 season."

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