Lorenzo Alexander loved being a Redskin. He loves Northern Virginia so much that the Bay Area native will make it his permanent home when he’s done playing football. However, Alexander is sad and angry that the Redskins abruptly lowered their contract offer on Monday, prompting him to sign with Arizona this afternoon.
“I was ready to sign back with the Redskins on Monday night, but it wound up not being close at all,” Alexander said in an exclusive, in-person interview at the NFL Players Association meetings in the Bahamas where he’s representing Washington. “They were offering $2.6 [million guaranteed] with an overall contract of $7.5 million over three years. The next day, they called back and said they would only guarantee $1.4 [million] of that. Dropping more than a million dollars overnight without any reason, I couldn’t take that money out of my kids’ mouths. Based on everything I’ve done [for] this organization, doing everything the right way, it was just a bad way to treat me. I understand the business, but … it didn’t sit right at all with me.”
A Redskins spokesman declared that Alexander’s “statement is not true,” regarding the offers, but either way, Alexander, the NFC’s Pro Bowl special teamer in 2012, his seventh season with the Redskins, including the first on the practice squad, is the Cardinals’ new starting will (weak side) outside linebacker with a three-year, $9.5 million contract that includes $3 million guaranteed.
“They were there from the beginning,” Alexander said of the Cardinals. “They really wanted me. They were head and shoulders above most teams financially other than San Francisco where I would have played mostly on special teams. The Cardinals have already kind of pegged me in a starting role which is very exciting for me. I’ll be a linebacker that helps out on special teams instead of special teams being my bread and butter. It’s going to allow me to grow as a player. I won’t be tired when I’m on defense.”
Two months from his 30th birthday, the one-time practice squad member in Baltimore, Carolina and Washington who played guard, fullback, tight end, defensive line and linebacker for the Redskins, is finally getting his due: a Pro Bowl and now a lucrative contract.
“Coach Shanahan said I was the best special teams player he’s ever been around,” Alexander said. “The way I play and go about my business, I would think I’m anybody’s guy, but ultimately they decided to go a different way. There’s not a reason I shouldn’t have been fought for. [Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett] loved me. [Linebackers coach Bob Slowik] loved me.”
So did Danny Smith, Alexander’s only special teams coach. But Smith left in January for Pittsburgh, whose offer didn’t come close enough to Arizona’s to make OneManGang a Steeler.
“I’ll miss the relationships,” said Alexander, who plans to keep running his Ride To Provide charity bike race and, with his wife Manjanique, will continue to operate a Northern Virginia Pilates studio with defensive end Kedric Golston and the latter’s wife. “I haven’t sat next to anyone else [in a locker room] in a long time other than Kedric. We’re like family. [London Fletcher] has been a huge influence on my life and what I’ve become as a player. My journey from a nobody to a team captain was a blessing.”
Alexander isn’t looking forward to having to find a new massage therapist and dry needle specialist (similar to acupuncture) in Arizona or leaving the Redskins just after helping them return to the playoffs in the wake of a 17-39 record over the previous three and a half seasons.
“I like my comfort zone,” said Alexander before heading to dinner with former Redskins kicker Graham Gano and their wives. “I knew what the coaches expected from me. I had my routine down. But it will be beautiful in Arizona year-round. At this point of my career, I’m looking at my end game. Last season was my favorite with where we came from and where we ended up, but just as easily as we turned it around, we can easily do it in Arizona.”
Already mixing up which team is we, ‘Zo, but then you already have a Cardinals logo on your Twitter. You’ll be missed, on and off the field. Too bad the Redskins didn’t properly understand that. Sure they’re salary cap-strapped, but they found the money to re-sign seven players and add a veteran during the past six days.
David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last three Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since March 2011. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidElfin