It wasn't surprising that the Washington Redskins yesterday left unprotected such high-profile veteran players as Don Warren, Jeff Bostic and Joe Jacoby on their Plan B list.
What was surprising was that the Redskins protected an obscure 11th-round draft choice named David Gulledge, a safety from Jacksonville State who spent the year on injured reserve.
The Gulledge move was typical of the roster maneuvering that goes on when teams put together their protected lists that were submitted to the league office yesterday.
The Redskins were willing to leave Warren, Bostic and Jacoby -- original Hogs who all started in the Super Bowl -- unprotected because they promised coach Joe Gibbs that they won't sign with another team.
"They gave Joe their word, and we're taking them at their word," general manager Charley Casserly said.
With those extra spots, the Redskins were able to protect players such as Gulledge, who was put on IR before the final 47-man roster was set and wasn't eligible to practice this year, and tight end James Jenkins, a free agent out of Rutgers who was activated for the final four games off the practice squad.
The Redskins don't even know if Gulledge can make their team this fall, but they liked his potential in training camp and knew that he can easily be lured away because he's due to make only $90,000 this year. It's more difficult to lure away a high-priced veteran who is comfortable with a team.
There's been more of an emphasis on protecting young players around the league since the Redskins signed Martin Mayhew from the Buffalo Bills three years ago and he became a starter at cornerback. Mayhew spent the 1988 season on the IR list, and the Bills figured nobody would show any interest in him.
The Redskins, who had 58 players on their roster including the IR players, were forced to leave 21 unprotected. Casserly said he wants them all back, although it is believed that guard Russ Grimm probably doesn't fit in their plans any longer.
Running back Gerald Riggs also could have difficulty making the team next year if he returns because the Redskins protected John Settle, a Plan B free agent from a year ago who spent the year on the IR list.
Besides Settle and Gulledge, three other players who spent the entire season on the IR list last year and were protected were offensive linemen Mo Elewonibi and Ray Brown and quarterback Cary Conklin.
Of their 58 players, 14 originally were signed as Plan B players -- four in 1989 and last year and six in 1990. They've signed a total of 31 -- 15, 12 and four.
Casserly said he'll convene a meeting of his scouts at noon today to review the Plan B lists of the other teams, but he said the number they go after will depend on the number they lose.
He said if he thinks the players available at a position are no better than the unprotected ones on his roster at that position, he'll tell his players that if they stay, they won't sign any players at that position.
Although the Redskins have had success signing Plan B players, Casserly said he thinks the quality of the players available has gone down every year as teams have done a better job of putting together their lists.
He also said he doesn't want to sign a player if his salary doesn't fit into the team's structure. He said he expects most of the signings to take place at the end of the signing period in the last two weeks of March -- the deadline is April 1 -- because agents are reluctant to commit themselves early.
Looking at his roster, Casserly said his top priorities will be t look for inside linebackers, defensive ends and punters. His punter, Kelly Goodburn, was left unprotected the second straight year, although he's not expected to leave.
"We looked at our roster and we said, 'We need this and this and this.' You'd never know we won the Super Bowl," Casserly said with a smile.
It's obvious that football people figure they never have enough players.
NOTES: After checking the Plan B rosters, Casserly's next major task will be looking at this year's crop of college talent at the scouting combine meeting in Indianapolis next weekend. . . . Casserly also said he's close to his first major signing of the off-season, RB Earnest Byner. Among the other key unsigned players are QB Mark Rypien, OL Jim Lachey, CB Darrell Green and WR Ricky Sanders.