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McNabb and the Redskins are headed for divorce

The word "disrespected" gets thrown around without warrant a lot in the NFL. Players often use perceived slights as ways to gain a little extra motivation.

Donovan McNabb is justified in viewing himself as disrespected this week in Washington. Benched for Rex Grossman? McNabb is way better than that.

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said he wants to find out what he has in Grossman now that the team has been eliminated from the playoffs. Grossman has been in the NFL since 2003. He hasn't gotten any taller, at 6-foot-1, since then. He has a career completion rate of an abysmal 54 percent. If Shanahan, after 35 years in the game, can't figure out what Grossman is, he has big problems.

McNabb has not been wonderful this season. He has 14 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. His passer rating is 77.1, his career low as a starter.

Now let's look at the rest of the Washington offense. At running back, the 'Skins went to training camp with three aging runners -- Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson and Willie Parker -- all with injury concerns. Portis lasted five games. Johnson and Parker were cut. The lead back wound up being Ryan Torain, a former fifth-round pick who hadn't played in two years before this season.

At receiver, the 'Skins top threats are Santana Moss and tight end Chris Cooley. They're both solid. But beyond them, the team went to camp with wideouts Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly and 39-year-old Joey Galloway. Galloway has done nothing. Thomas was cut in October. Kelly was put on injured reserve in August. The No. 2 wideout is former Arena Leaguer Anthony Armstrong.

The Washington offensive line has been a mess. Guard Derrick Dockery has appeared in only three games due to injury. Left tackle Trent Williams should eventually be a stud but has had rookie growing pains. Right tackle Jammal Brown, still bothered by a chronic sore hip, has been mediocre at best.

Throw in the fact the Redskins' defense is 32nd in the NFL, and there are plenty of reasons beyond the quarterback the team is 5-8.

You've got to believe a lack of chemistry between McNabb and 'Skins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, for whatever reason, is behind the benching.

Nevertheless, McNabb is a scapegoat. He's 92-49 for his career. He's 34. He still can elude the rush in the pocket. He still can play.

You have to wonder if the Shanahans, having decided they don't want McNabb, would rather set their sights on getting a higher draft pick in April. After all, they're already down in draft picks. Their third-rounder will go to the Saints for Brown. Their fourth-rounder will go to the Eagles for McNabb. (The 'Skins do get an extra fifth-round pick, from the Saints, in the Brown trade. Essentially the 'Skins will drop about 80 spots in the draft as a result of the Brown deal. They give up a high third-rounder and get a late fifth-rounder.)

This all could wind up being good news for McNabb. He lives in Phoenix in the offseason. The Cardinals desperately need a quarterback. McNabb will get cut, and Arizona looks like a perfect fit for him. The NFC West is awful. The Cardinals have some good weapons.

Here's hoping McNabb is back in the playoffs with Arizona 13 months from now.

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>Whitner's worth

What we're hearing is the Bills and Donte Whitner's agent are as much as $2 million a year apart in negotiating for a contract extension. Whitner is looking to be paid like a top-five safety, NFL sources say. That would put him in the range of $7 million a year. The Bills have been in the $5 million-a-year range in their offers, we're hearing.

Arizona's Adrian Wilson, Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu and the Colts' Bob Sanders all are slightly above the $7 million a year average. So is Chiefs rookie Eric Berry ($10 million a year), but his deal came due to the fact he was the fifth overall pick. Rolle's deal was the most recent. He signed in March and was coming off a Pro Bowl season. He got $37 million over five years, with $15 million guaranteed. Rolle had 12 interceptions his first five seasons. Wilson had 10 interceptions and 11 sacks his first five years. Whitner has five interceptions and one sack as he nears the end of his fifth season. Whitner also is leading all NFL safeties in tackles this season with 116.

It seems likely that Whitner's agent, Tom Condon, will be able to get his asking price when Whitner hits the open market. Whenever the new collective-bargaining agreement is signed, there will be new money in the NFL system.

The Bills have been so bad for so long, they are going to have to overpay to re-sign any player or to sign any player in free agency. So the question will be how bad do they want Whitner?

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>Lewis knocks T.O.

Terrell Owens vented his frustration over Cincinnati's 2-11 season this week when he said the Bengals were underachieving from "the top down." He also referenced a lack of aggressive play-calling.

Owens made 55 catches for 829 yards and five touchdowns in the first eight games. He has 17 catches for 154 yards and four touchdowns in the last five. He has reached two of the six $330,000 incentives built into his one-year contract that carries a $2 million base salary. It looks like he will reach one one more incentive and get $3 million for the season. If he hit all incentives he'd get $4 million.

At his age (37), Owens might be better off keeping his mouth shut, even if he's right about the Bengals' hugely disappointing season. After all, the Bengals threw Owens a life-line this summer by giving him a job. Coach Marvin Lewis obviously did not appreciate Owens' criticisms.

"When guys choose to pop off, whatever you want to term it look no further than yourself first and go from there," Lewis said. "In this case, no one was willing to bring you aboard for a long time and then we ended up doing it late. So don't hurt yourself in that situation as you go forward. Unfortunately once we say something we don't get the chance to take it back. We try but we don't get to and it's too late sometimes."

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>Pats and Clay

Green Bay visits New England tonight, and it will be the first time Packers linebacker Clay Matthews plays the Pats.

A lot of people figured New England coach Bill Belichick would draft Matthews with the 23rd overall pick in 2009. The Pats had a need at linebacker, and Belichick had coached Matthews' father, Clay Sr., in Cleveland. The younger Matthews, who actually is Clay III, just looked like a Belichick kind of player.

It didn't happen, and the reason is an example of the Patriots' brilliance in wheeling and dealing in the draft.

On draft day in 2009, Baltimore and Green Bay were looking to move up in the latter part of the first round. New England flip-flopped with the Ravens, taking Baltimore's 26th overall pick and adding a fifth-rounder from the Ravens in order to move three spots down. Baltimore took left tackle Michael Oher. Surely, people thought, the Pats would take Clay III at 26. But Green Bay made the Pats a nice offer, giving New England a second-rounder and two third-rounders in order to get to 26. The Pats gave Baltimore's fifth to the Pack.

With those picks, the Pats drafted cornerback Darius Butler (41st) and receiver Brandon Tate (83rd). They traded the other pick from the Packers (No. 73) to Jacksonville for a second-rounder in 2010 and a seventh in 2009 (receiver Julian Edelman).

Then in 2010, they shipped the Jaguars' second rounder and a sixth-rounder to Oakland for the right to move up two spots in the second round (from 44 to 42) and take tight end Rob Gronkowski.

The jury is out on Butler, who was benched early this season but still has promise. Tate has looked good. Gronkowski has looked great. Edelman had 37 catches as a rookie and is strictly a punt returner this year.

Matthews, of course, is a home-run pick, with 12.5 sacks this year. All of the Pats' outside linebackers have combined for 13 sacks. Would the Pats have been better off to stand pat and take Matthews? You could make a solid case for it. But they played the percentages, got a bunch of picks and a good haul of players.

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>Foster leads RBs

Texans RB Arian Foster aims to become the second undrafted player since 1967 to lead the NFL in rushing. Priest Holmes did it for Kansas City in 2001. Foster has 1,330 rushing yards and also leads the league in yards from scrimmage (1,834) and TDs (15).

Foster is one of only 10 undrafted backs in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards. The Bills' Fred Jackson joined that group last year.

Jackson needs 225 yards over the last three games to become the fourth undrafted back to post two 1,000-yard seasons. The other three are Holmes, Green Bay's Ryan Grant and former Steelers star Willie Parker.

Foster leads Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew by 52 yards in the race for the rushing title.

email: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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