Redskins give assistant Williams three-year deal

Gregg Williams, one of the league's most attractive candidates, and a man expected to have been courted by several teams seeking a new head coach, is off the market.

The Washington Redskins have signed their defensive coordinator to a new three-year contract that will pay him a salary commensurate to some head coaching posts in the league and which will preclude him from interviewing for any jobs until 2007. The deal reportedly makes Williams the highest paid assistant in NFL history.

Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported the deal is worth as much as $8 million.

Williams did not receive assurances from owner Dan Snyder, even implicitly, that he would eventually succeed current head coach Joe Gibbs. But Snyder certainly stepped up big to retain Williams, who was already on the short list of at least three teams with head coach openings.

"Gregg is a valuable and important member of our organization," Gibbs said. "This is a first step in recognizing his contributions and maintaining consistency among our coaches."

According to the agreement, Williams will be able to pursue a head coach job next year. By then Gibbs's future with the Redskins might be clearer. Gibbs is in the second season of a five-year contract.

Williams, 47, compiled a 17-31 record in three seasons (2001-2003) as the Buffalo Bills' head coach. He joined the Redskins in 2004, with his contract then making him one of the NFL's top-paid assistants, and has steadily rehabilitated his image. Most league observers feel Williams will be markedly better in a second stint as a head coach.

Williams is one of the game's most creative defensive minds. He has fashioned a scheme that elevates the performance of the players in it. The Redskins defense statistically ranked ninth in the NFL this year and third in 2004.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.