Free agent Harvey agrees to join Redskins

March 06, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

Linebacker Ken Harvey of the Phoenix Cardinals agreed to terms with the Washington Redskins yesterday on the NFL's biggest free-agent deal this year -- a four-year, $11 million contract.

The deal, which will average $2.75 million a year, is the second biggest in Redskins history, topped only by the $3 million-a-year contract quarterback Mark Rypien signed in 1992.

This year, Harvey also will receive the highest single-season payout the Redskins ever have made -- $5 million. He'll get a $3 million signing bonus, plus $2 million in base salary. He'll also earn $2 million in base salary in each of the next three seasons.

The way the NFL computes contracts, the $3 million bonus will be prorated during the four-year term of the contract, so the Redskins will have to count $2.75 million each season against the salary cap for his contract. That's about 8 percent of the $34 million the Redskins can spend each year under the cap on player salaries.

"He's really excited about coming to Washington," said his agent, Stephen Baker. Harvey will fly to Washington tomorrow to sign the contract.

"Washington was at the top of our list for a number of reasons," Baker said. "There's a commitment to winning and the attractiveness of staying in the NFC East. He has a very good feeling about the team. What's not to be impressed about the Redskins?"

Although the Redskins slumped to a 4-12 record last season, Baker said Harvey thinks they'll rebound.

A first-round draft choice in 1988, Harvey played six years with the Cardinals and earned $1.5 million last season.

Phoenix's new coach, Buddy Ryan, said he wants to keep Eric Hill and sign one of his former Philadelphia Eagles linebackers, Seth Joyner, so he couldn't afford to keep Harvey.

The Redskins said Harvey, who'll be 29 on May 6, will give them a pass-rushing linebacker who'll revitalize their defense. They hope he'll be the big-play linebacker they lost when they traded Wilber Marshall last year to the Houston Oilers.

Harvey had 9 1/2 sacks last year, but his role was limited because the team's former defensive coordinator, Fritz Shurmur, used a Big Nickel defense that didn't feature the linebackers.

When Harvey visited Redskin Park on Thursday, he said: "I just want to play. I want to play the whole time. I want to be a full-time player."

After the Redskins lost Marshall, they signed ex-New York Giants linebacker Carl Banks, but he turned out to be ineffective. Harvey likely will replace Banks as a starter. The Redskins probably will cut Banks' $1.5 million salary or release him.

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