When Jerry Gray comes to town as the Buffalo Bills' defensive coordinator, he might need to bring some defensive linemen with him.
Pro Bowl nose tackle Ted Washington has refused the Bills' request for a pay cut, which could lead to his release. Free agent defensive end Marcellus Wiley might be gone as well if his contract demands aren't met.
A source who deals with the Bills said defensive end Phil Hansen also declined to take a pay cut. His agent, Jack Wirth, was unavailable for comment.
The Bills need to be under the NFL's estimated salary-cap figure of $67.4 million by March 2. They are about $13 million over.
Washington has the Bills' third-highest 2001 cap figure ($7.66 million) behind quarterbacks Rob Johnson ($8.29 million) and Doug Flutie ($7.75 million).
Washington took a $1 million pay cut last year. His agent, Angelo Wright, feels the Bills should look elsewhere this time.
"There's nothing to talk about," Wright said by phone Wednesday. "He's done his good faith part. He would love to stay in Buffalo. He loves it there. That's home. But he's prepared to move on if necessary."
Wright thinks the Bills should do what's needed to keep their defense intact.
Buffalo is close to offering free agent wide receiver Eric Moulds a reported six-year contract worth $58 million to $60 million.
"I know they want a better offense, but you need a good defensive team up there in that weather," Wright said. "Ted is still the best in the game if you need a guy to clog the middle and stop the run. You want to make him take a pay cut when he should be getting a pay raise.
"There's no animosity or acrimony. But if they think they can get by without him, fine. Maybe they're bluffing, but it really doesn't matter at this point. All I ask is if they are going to let him go let him go now."
Washington, 32, would be better off if the Bills cut him. Coming off a strong season and third Pro Bowl appearance, his market value couldn't be higher.
Even if Washington restructured his contract, it would almost guarantee his release after next season because any money saved now would be applied to his cap figure in 2002.
"He's coming off a Pro Bowl season, so teams will take a shot at him," said Wright, whose client list includes Bills nose tackle Pat Williams and the Baltimore Ravens' Pro Bowl defensive tackle Sam Adams.
The Bills want Williams to restructure the contract he signed last year, but Wright won't discuss that until Washington's situation is resolved.
Bills President and General Manager Tom Donahoe acknowledges the Bills face some tough decisions.
"You do get some players who like being a part of a particular team and will work with you," he said. "Then there are others that it's not a subject to approach them on. It varies from player to player, and I'm sure it varies from team to team. We'll try to work through it."
The Bills and Wiley haven't talked since December. Wiley's agent Bradley Blank said his client wants to stay in Buffalo, but he expects a hefty raise. Wiley averaged $501,600 on his first contract.
"I told (Bills executive) Jim Overdorf when we last talked, and I still mean it now, if things are relatively equal and they're willing to pay top of the market like a free agent would get, then very likely he would stay there," Blank said.
Blank feels Wiley could command a contract similar to what defensive end Michael Strahan got from the New York Giants in 1999. Strahan signed a four-year, $32 million deal with a $12 million signing bonus.
Wiley, 26, is not an established star like Strahan, but he's attractive to teams because he's young and plays a position in high demand. He's also coming off the best season of his four-year career with career highs of 104 tackles and 10 1/2 sacks.
Phillip Daniels got a five-year, $24.5 million contract last year from Chicago after four decent seasons in Seattle. Orpheus Roye, who never had more than 4 1/2 sacks in four years in Pittsburgh, got a five-year, $30 million deal from Cleveland in 2000. Miami Pro Bowler Jason Taylor reportedly was offered a seven-year, $51 million contract by the Dolphins earlier this week.
"I have no qualms in saying that Marcellus is better than Phillip Daniels and Orpheus Roye," Blank said. "Taylor is a totally different player than Marcellus. Taylor is a speed rusher. Against the run, he's not the player Marcellus is."
Donahoe said re-signing Wiley is a priority.
"He's a good, young player who we want to be a part of what we're trying to build here," Donahoe said.
If the Bills can't sign Wiley, they could prevent him from becoming an unrestricted free agent on March 2 by making him their franchise or transition player. Teams can make those designations beginning today.
Neither option is likely for Wiley. A franchise player carries the average salary-cap figure of the top five players in the NFL at his position ($5.39 million for defensive ends).
In the case of a transition player, it's the top 10 players ($4.177 million). In both cases, all that money is added onto the 2001 cap.
Other teams usually won't sign a franchise player because they would owe two first-round draft picks as compensation.
A team can match any offer its transition player gets, but wouldn't get compensated if he signs with someone else. It would be understandable if Hansen ($4.65 million cap figure) refuses a pay cut. At 32 and heading into his 11th year, he might never get another big contract.
"If I had my druthers, we'd have them all back," Donahoe said. "But that is just not possible to do that in today's environment. Everyone might not be happy with some of the cuts, but we have to get this salary cap situation straightened out."
Meanwhile, Donahoe will not make personnel moves until head coach Gregg Williams completes his coaching staff.
Williams added Gray, Ronnie Vinklarek (offensive line), Danny Smith (special teams) and Miles Aldridge (linebackers) on Wednesday.
Gray spent four years in Tennessee, the last two as secondary coach under Williams, the Titans' former defensive coordinator. His coaching career began in 1995 as defensive backs coach at Southern Methodist University.
Gray was a cornerback for nine years in the NFL, playing for the Los Angeles Rams (1985-91), Houston Oilers (1992) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1993). The Rams' No. 1 draft pick out of Texas in 1985, he made the Pro Bowl four times, earning MVP honors in 1990, and was voted the league's top defensive back twice (1989-90).
"I'm very excited and looking forward to this opportunity," Gray said. "I know the salary cap and things like that will affect who we have, but our goal is to get the most out of who we have to work with."
Vinklarek, who has nearly 20 years in coaching, spent last season as the Titans' defensive assistant and quality control coach. He was offensive line coach at Oklahoma State the previous two years.
Smith coached tight ends in Detroit the last two years. He spent the previous two seasons in Philadelphia, coaching the Eagles' special teams and defensive backs. He spent 17 years in the college ranks.
Aldridge was defensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee State the last two years, where he used the 3-4 scheme. He held the same position at Southwestern Louisiana (1998), Arkansas (1996-97), Clemson (1994-96) and South Carolina (1991-93).