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Raiders take gamble on defensive tackle Washington

Hoping to demonstrate again that one franchise's draft bust might become an Oakland bonanza, the Raiders on Tuesday signed free agent defensive tackle Donnell Washington, a two-year veteran released by the Green Bay Packers on June 9.

Washington, 25, was Green Bay's third-round choice in the 2004 draft, but he never played a single snap in a Packers uniform in two seasons with the team. Two different staffs grew frustrated at his chronic weight problems and apparent lack of motivation, and first-year coach Mike McCarthy finally decided to cut ties with the former Clemson star after a minicamp earlier this month.

Details of the contract that Washington signed with Oakland were not available. But it is expected to be a modest deal and, if that is the case, the gamble by Raiders officials might not be a bad one. Oakland lacks depth at defensive tackle behind projected starters Warren Sapp and Tommy Kelly and, should Washington ever play up to his enormous potential, the Raiders may have added a good player at a reasonable price.

The Raiders' history is full of examples of players who succeeded after Oakland officials granted them a second chance.

Oakland is also scheduled to meet with unrestricted free agent defensive tackle Grady Jackson, a nine-year veteran coming off a season with the Packers in which he registered a career-best 72 tackles, sometime this week. Defensive tackle remains, for most teams, one of the most difficult positions at which to create depth.

In addition to a third-round choice, the Packers invested $1.245 million in bonuses and base salaries in Washington. And for that, they got absolutely nothing, as Washington never appeared in a regular-season game.

For Washington to be effective and for him to salvage a once-promising career, the Raiders' coaches are going to have to find a way to light a fire under him and to get his weight to a manageable level. Despite their repeated efforts, the Packers could do neither.

So ardently did former Green Bay coach Mike Sherman covet Washington that he traded third- and fourth-round choices in the 2004 draft to move up 14 spots to select him. Washington missed his rookie season with a foot injury, however, and then did little in training camp last summer to justify his draft status. He was inactive for all 16 games in 2005.

He reported to an early spring mincamp at 345 pounds, at least 10 pounds more than the target the Green Bay staff had given him, and McCarthy forbade him from practicing at the time. His weight was better at a second minicamp, and Washington participated in that three-day session and in some ensuing organized team activities.

But apparently, Washington did not impress the Packers coaches and could not convince them he should compete for a roster spot. At 6-feet-5½, Washington has a prototype frame for a defensive tackle and his strength is terrific, with a career-best bench press of nearly 500 pounds. His time in the 40, slightly more than five seconds, is also impressive.

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