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Snyder assembles stunning cast


Their recent drafts have created a nucleus of young stars for the future. Owner Daniel Snyder would seem to have provided for the present.

Snyder and his Washington Redskins were the talk of the NFL offseason, as they assembled the most stunning cast of free-agent stars since the salary-cap era began in 1993. Immediately, the Redskins were accused of trying to buy a title; of being the clear-cut choice to win Super Bowl XXXV.

This Sunday, the Jaguars host a Redskins (5-2) team that is on a four-game winning streak, but has yet to play its best football. If and when that occurs, they may be unbeatable.

"We have to learn to put people away. We can't allow teams to linger around, linger around, and then in the fourth quarter it's anybody's ballgame. We need to get a lead on a team and be able to dictate to them," says Redskins defensive end Bruce Smith, a certain Hall of Famer after he retires and one of the Redskins' big offseason free-agent purchases.

That list of free agents signed this year includes: Smith, cornerback Deion Sanders, quarterback Jeff George, free safety Mark Carrier, wide receiver Andre Reed, running back Adrian Murrell, guard Jay Leeuwenburg, defensive end Nolan Harrison and punter Tommy Barnhardt. Smith, Sanders, George and Carrier alone were signed to long-term deals totaling $115 million.

In 1999, Snyder's first year as Redskins owner, fullback Larry Centers, defensive end Marco Coleman, offensive tackle Andy Heck and strong safety Sam Shade were added in unrestricted free agency.

Combine those two crops with the addition of quarterback Brad Johnson via trade with Minnesota in '99, and two blockbuster draft crops that include cornerback Champ Bailey and offensive tackle Jon Jansen from '99, and linebacker LaVar Arrington and offensive tackle Chris Samuels from this year, and you have professional football's most powerful roster.

Creative accounting allowed Snyder to hide about $100 million worth of signing bonuses and salaries spent this season under the $62.2 million spending limit. The Redskins may have mortgaged future caps on the prospect of winning the Super Bowl this season, but their strong core of young stars would seem to insulate Snyder's team from disaster. They are a unique combination of high spending in free agency and high picks in the draft, the result of their big draft-day trade with New Orleans in '99 and the two first-round picks they received for having lost defensive lineman Sean Gilbert to Carolina in unrestricted free agency.

"We had an aggressive offseason. That drives expectations. We never had that as the goal. The goal is not to create expectations. It's to win," says Snyder, who's passion for winning drove him to supplant Dallas' Jerry Jones as the NFL's most controversial and high-profile owner last season.

"When you place blame, it starts at the top and trickles down," veteran wide receiver Irving Fryar said. "Credit goes the same way. (Snyder) has put the things in place for us to be a winning, successful team. It's up to us from here."

"He wants to win right now. He wants to get it done right now," defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield said of Snyder.

"Why go out and play if you don't have the goal of winning the Super Bowl," said Samuels, the impressive rookie from Alabama.

Now, skeptics await the results of Snyder's "can't-wait" approach to football. Non-believers are waiting for the Redskins to prove they are a dominant team, which may be difficult, considering the players they've already lost to injuries: wide receiver Michael Westbrook, guard Tre Johnson and center Cory Raymer.

Of course, if any team has the depth to overcome losses to injury, the Redskins do. Snyder has seen to it.

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