ASHBURN, Va. -- Former league MVP Shaun Alexander signed with the Washington Redskins on Tuesday, part of a flurry of roster activity in which the team ditched its punter, shuffled its safeties and displayed coach Jim Zorn's strong ties to his Seattle Seahawks roots.
Alexander, unemployed since being cut by the Seahawks in April, signed a one-year deal to back up NFL leading rusher Clinton Portis. Portis' usual backup, Ladell Betts, sprained his knee in Sunday's 19-17 loss to the St. Louis Rams and is expected to be sidelined two to four weeks.
The Redskins also cut sixth-round draft pick Durant Brooks, who ranks last in the league in punting, and replaced him with former Seattle punter Ryan Plackemeier. Plackemeier won a competition among four free agents flown in to audition at Redskins Park on Tuesday morning.
Brooks was technically listed as "waived-injured" because he has a nagging hip flexor and quad strain in his kicking leg, but Zorn made it clear Monday that Brooks' job was in jeopardy because of performance.
Reed Doughty, the Redskins' starting strong safety at the end of training camp, had his season end when he was placed on injured reserve. Doughty has been experiencing a nerve problem that started in his back and recently caused numbness in one foot. Doughty had already lost his starting job to rookie Chris Horton.
To replace Doughty, the Redskins added yet another former Seattle player, safety Mike Green. Little-used safety Justin Hamilton was also released.
A few years ago, a Portis-Alexander backfield would have been a bit much for any team to handle -- as both were considered among the elite backs in the NFL. Now Alexander, 31, was simply looking for work.
Alexander rushed for 1,880 yards in his 2005 MVP season, but a cracked bone in his left foot ruined his 2006 season (896 yards) and continued to hamper him -- along with a broken left wrist -- in 2007 (716 yards). This year, the Seahawks decided he was no longer worth the eight-year, $62 million contract he signed after the MVP season.
Plackemeier was also cut by the Seahawks this year, let go after he had a pair of 22-yard punts in the season-opening loss to the Buffalo Bills. He was Seattle's punter for two full seasons and has a career average of 42.3 yards with a 35.5 net average.
Zorn spent the past seven years as the Seahawks quarterbacks coach, so he knows Alexander and Plackemeier well. Green comes with an extra bonus: He was not only with Zorn in Seattle, but he also played under Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Blache when Blache held the same job with the Chicago Bears.
Green played six seasons with the Bears and two with the Seahawks, but his time in Seattle was marred by a severe foot injury. He was cut at the start of training camp in July.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press