Interest in Jags QB unexpectedly grows

Monday's meeting between coach Joe Gibbs and Mark Brunell may have inched the Redskins closer to trading for the quarterback. But news of a possible deal has generated interest from other teams that had expected Brunell to become a free agent, and that ultimately could delay their deal from getting done.

And that ultimately could delay Washington in getting a deal done.

Gibbs and Brunell huddled at an unspecified location -- sources told ESPN.com the site it was the Orlando area -- to get better acquainted and to gauge whether the Redskins and Brunell might be a good fit. The meeting was arranged over the weekend.

The meeting was interrupted when Gibbs had a medical emergency related to his diabetes. But after visiting a hospital, he returned to the dinner with Brunell.

Although the NFL has entered the moratorium during which no deals are allowed before March 3, the Redskins originally hoped to quietly reach a basic agreement to acquire Brunell this week.

But the Redskins' plans were revealed Saturday by ESPN.com. The result: Other teams interested in getting their hands on Brunell, but hoping the Jaguars would release him before he is due a March 1 roster bonus of $2 million, have entered the fray because they now realize the only way to get him is via a trade.

Much to the chagrin of the Redskins, who wanted to consummate a trade before other teams realized what was happening, they're up against many Brunell competitors.

Already it is believed that the interest of at least two other teams, Miami and San Diego, has driven up Brunell's price tag. Sources said Washington was originally prepared to part with a middle-round choice in the 2004 draft to land Brunell, but it now appears any team that adds the 11-year veteran will have to surrender at least a second-round selection.

There are some Jacksonville officials, now intent on slowing the process in order to get the best offers from all suitors, who feel they might even be able to land a first-round pick. That is, however, very unlikely. There have been various reports the Dallas Cowboys are party to the Brunell derby, but league sources have so far debunked that notion.

So confident are the Jaguars that they will fetch a high-round choice for Brunell that they will retain his rights through March 1, if necessary, and pay him the $2 million bonus that he is due then. Such a move would reduce the cap relief the club had planned on, but might also help to drive up its asking price.

League sources reiterated that the Redskins and Jaguars were very close to agreement on the trade parameters before Saturday's report. Said one source: "That got the attention of every other team interested in the guy. Suddenly, it dawned on them that they might have to trade for him. It's put the (Jacksonville) in an advantageous position and kind of turned it into a seller's market for them. They've got to be thrilled."

Not so thrilled by the news of a potential trade for Brunell is Redskins incumbent Patrick Ramsey, a two-year veteran and the club's first-round pick in the 2003 draft. ESPN.com has learned that Gibbs met with Ramsey last Friday to apprise him of the team's interest in an unnamed veteran quarterback. But as framed by Gibbs, the veteran would probably be a backup-type player who might compete for the starting job.

There is little chance Brunell, who basically controls his own fate since any team that deals for him will want him to sign a new contract, would accept a deal to a franchise that does not view him as its starter. Ramsey might well request a trade if the Redskins are successful in their courtship of Brunell.

That the 33-year-old Brunell would not return to the Jaguars in 2004 has been essentially known for more than a year. The 11-year veteran, who led Jacksonville to a pair of AFC championship game appearances, sports a salary cap charge of $10.5 million for 2004. That includes a base salary of $6.5 million but, more important, the $2 million roster bonus due on March 1.

It has long been a given that the Jaguars would release Brunell before that signing bonus was due. By dealing Brunell after March 1, the team will absorb just a $4 million salary cap charge, for a prorated signing bonus share and the roster bonus, and will recoup $6.5 million of cap room.

While he told the Florida Times-Union on Sunday that the Redskins interest in him is intriguing, and purported to be surprised by it, Brunell has known for at least a week that Washington might bid for his services.

If the deal is completed, Brunell almost certainly will sign a new, multi-year contract with the Redskins. Trade negotiations between the Redskins and Jaguars had accelerated in recent days. It will be left for agent Leigh Steinberg, who represents Brunell, to strike a contract accord with Redskins officials or those from any team that trades for him.

Brunell originally entered the NFL as a fifth-round choice of the Green Bay Packers in the 1993 draft. After two seasons in Green Bay, where he appeared in just two games and logged only 27 pass attempts, Brunell was traded to Jacksonville in 1995 for third- and fifth-round draft choices. He assumed the Jaguars' starting job shortly into his tenure in Jacksonville and held that spot for eight seasons.

In the third game of the 2003 campaign, Brunell suffered an elbow injury, opening the door for rookie Byron Leftwich, the club's first-round draft pick, to supplant him. Brunell never played another snap in a Jags uniform.

For his NFL career, he has completed 2,196 of 3,643 passes for 25,793 yards, with 144 touchdown passes, 86 interceptions and an 85.2 efficiency rating. In his three starts last season, he threw for 484 yards and had two touchdown passes and no interceptions.

He has started in 117 of his 122 appearances and was named to the AFC Pro Bowl team on three occasions. The former University of Washington standout, of course, holds all of the Jacksonville franchise passing records. Under his stewardship, the Jaguars advanced to the conference title game in 1996 and 1999, but lost both times.

Washington had not been previously mentioned as a potential suitor for Brunell's services but Gibbs is said to be seeking a more veteran quarterback.

Should the Redskins land Brunell, it will be interesting to see what the team does with Ramsey. The former Tulane standout started 11 games in 2003, completing 179 of 337 passes for 2,166 yards. He had 14 touchdown throws, nine interceptions and a passer rating of 75.8. Among the league's most sacked quarterbacks last season, Ramsey earned respect around the NFL for his toughness and grit and his potential is highly regarded.

Ramsey, 24, is under contract through the 2006 season and his salaries and cap charges are not exorbitant, meaning Washington could retain him and allow Brunell, in part, to serve as his mentor.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.