JUDGE: Redskins poised to make more free-agent moves

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Clark Judge

It's not too soon to declare a leader in free agency. It's the Washington , who strengthened their defense one day after plugging holes in an inconsistent offense. The latest additions are defensive tackle and defensive end , unrestricted free agents who agreed to contracts Saturday. Both were expected to be introduced to the local media at an afternoon news conference. Noble, who started 16 games last year for Dallas, will take over at defensive tackle for free-agent Darryl Gardener, whom the will not re-sign and who could be close to joining Denver. Noble joins veteran at the position. Upshaw, who has 33-1/2 sacks in his career. was sidelined most of last year with a knee injury but returned to start the last five regular-season games and Super Bowl XXXVII. He is expected to start at defensive right end for a unit that last year finished fifth in team rankings. Upshaw and Noble, flown separately to Washington on owner Daniel Snyder's private jet, joined their new team one day after the took an enormous step forward with three additions — free-agent guards and and former St. Louis running back . Thomas, one of the top two guards in free agency, and Fiore fill Washington's biggest hole — the inside of the offensive line. The club entered last season with guard and quarterback as shortcomings and struggled for most of the season at both positions. That will change with the arrivals of Thomas — a four-year starter with the — and Fiore, who played guard and tackle with San Francisco. Though Fiore has a history of injuries, missing all three games last season with a knee injury, physicians who examined him Washington said his legs were in good condition. Then there was the trade that delivered the Canidate, a former first-round draft pick for St. Louis. He moves from a third-stringer in St. Louis to a starter in Washington, ahead of , a second-round draft pick last season. Canidate is a better fit for coach Steve Spurrier's "Fun N' Gun" offense than , whom the club cut this week. That's not to say he's a better back. Davis ran for a career-high 1432 yards in 2001 and had 17 TDs in 1999, but he never fit Spurrier's wide-open offense. Canidate will. "He has the acceleration, burst and speed they're looking for," said one pro personnel director. "You can drop it off to him on a check-down (pass), or give him the ball on screens and draws. I know he puts the ball on the ground, and that's what got him in (Rams' coach Mike) Martz's doghouse, but he will give them a different dimension. Steve (Spurrier) didn't want a big power back, and that's what Davis was." To acquire Canidate, who ran for a career-best 195 yards in his first pro start, the surrendered a fourth-round draft pick in 2003 and journeyman guard . "I think it's a great trade for Washington," said our pro personnel director. The still need a quarterback, but they seem confident that , the team's first-round pick last season, can take over there. Let's see. They're going to need wide receivers, too, and stay tuned. They can turn to free agency — and while they have no interest in , there's always — or, with the 13th pick of the draft use it on someone like Florida's Taylor Jacobs or Tennessee's Kelley Washington, both expected to be there when the choose. The draft's top two receivers, Michigan State's Charles Rogers and Miami's Andre Johnson, should be among the first six players chosen. Senior writer covers the NFL for and can be reached at his e-mail address:
Tagged: Rams, Giants, Jets, 49ers, Redskins, Ike Hilliard, Randy Thomas, David Loverne, Stephen Davis, Patrick Ramsey, Ladell Betts

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