AP sources: RB Washington to sign tender with Jets

Running back Leon Washington, a restricted free agent recovering

from a broken right leg, will sign his tender contract offer with

the New York Jets, two people familiar with the deal told The

Associated Press on Wednesday night.

Washington was traveling from his home in Florida to New Jersey

on Wednesday night and planned to sign Thursday morning. The people

spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been

signed.

Washington, a fourth-round pick in 2006, received a second-round

tender last month worth $1.759 million.

The former Pro Bowl kick returner suffered a compound fracture

of the tibia and fibula at Oakland on Oct. 25, and missed the rest

of the season. He has been training at the Athletes’

Performance-Andrews Institute in Pensacola, Fla., for the past five

weeks.

When healthy, Washington has been one of the league’s more

dynamic players, serving a dual role as a kick returner and running

back. He took his time after being tendered, exploring his options

before deciding to sign with the Jets.

Washington, 27, was injured on his first carry against the

Raiders when Oakland’s Tommy Kelly rolled up on his leg after a

6-yard run in the first quarter of the Jets’ 38-0 win. It was a

gruesome injury, which required a rod to be inserted into the

tibia, and many speculated about whether he’d be able to fully

recover or even play again.

Washington said in January that doctors told him he was way

ahead of the normal recovery rate. He is beginning to run, and will

continue his rehabilitation at the Jets’ team facility in Florham

Park, N.J.

Jets coach Rex Ryan recently said he was disappointed that

Washington was staying away from the team’s voluntary workouts,

choosing to rehabilitate closer to home after he was tendered.

Washington was the only player not at voluntary workouts at the

time.

“He may have reasons for not being here or whatever, but the

rest of the team volunteered to be here,” Ryan said last month.

“We would love to get Leon back.”

Ryan has also said he envisioned the versatile Washington more

as a kick returner and third-down back, behind Shonn Greene and

recently signed LaDainian Tomlinson, than an every down ball

carrier.

“Let’s see where he’s at,” Ryan said. “I’m not just going to

give him the ball 20 times a game coming off of that. He has to be

ready to take that kind of role. If he’s ready to take an expanded

role, then obviously we could see that.”

Before the injury, Washington had hoped to get a long-term deal

from the Jets after being selected as an All-Pro as a kick returner

for the 2008 season.

Washington made $535,000 in the final year of his rookie deal,

and was believed to have been looking for something in the range of

$5 million to $6 million a year. He sat out the first three weeks

of organized team activities last offseason before returning in

minicamp “in good faith.” He was a no-show when the rest of the

team checked in for training camp last summer, but was with the

team the next day.

Washington said he was unhappy with the situation and wasn’t

optimistic a new deal would get done, but never let it visibly

affect him on the field or in the locker room.

General manager Mike Tannenbaum has repeatedly said he wanted

Washington back, but one of the major stumbling blocks in getting a

long-term deal done was the uncertainty of the league’s collective

bargaining agreement. He said that without an extension of the CBA

– which has not happened – the Jets would be able to retain

Washington’s rights as a restricted free agent for far less than

what he was seeking.

Washington has run for 1,782 career yards and 13 touchdowns and

caught 123 passes for 969 yards and two scores since coming out of

Florida State in 2006. He has also returned four kickoffs for

touchdowns, including three in 2007.