American Football: Signings look good for Skins

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THE chances of the Washington Redskins retaining their Super Bowl title in the coming season increased substantially this week when the team signed three formidable talents to multi-million dollar contracts.

Two of the team's best players, cornerback Darrell Green and offensive tackle Jim Lachey, have been in protracted negotiations after their previous agreements expired. Both have now signed, with Lachey becoming the NFL's highest-paid lineman, getting dollars 4m ( pounds 2m) over three years.

Wide receiver Desmond Howard, the Redskins' first-round draft pick, has also come to terms with the club, agreeing to dollars 6m ( pounds 3m) over four years.

With the season starting in 10 days' time teams are getting twitchy about their unsigned veterans. The San Francisco 49ers came to an agreement with wide receiver Jerry Rice, who will get between dollars 7m and dollars 8m over three years, making him the highest paid non-quarterback in the league. New York Giants linebacker Carl Banks has agreed to a one-year contract.

Several notable players remain unsigned, though, including: Andre Rison (Atlanta), Cornelius Bennett (Buffalo), Keith Jackson (Philadelphia) and William 'The Refrigerator' Perry (Chicago).