The Redskins have re-signed running back Ladell Betts to a contract extension, the team announced on Friday.
Betts, a fifth-year player out of Iowa, opted to stay a Redskin rather than test free agency next offseason. The Redskins drafted Betts in the second round of the 2002 NFL Draft and he would have been a free agent at season's end.
"I've had security here for the last five years, and I feel the coaching staff appreciates what I bring to the table," Betts said on Friday. "I feel like I have a chance to play an important role here, like I have in the past. I think it was a good deal and I'm ready to come back."
Added head coach Joe Gibbs: "I think [testing free agency] is something he could have done and I appreciate that he didn't. Ladell knows how important he is, how he fits in here and what his role is. I think he likes being here. He likes Washington and he likes the fan base, and I think that was part of the reason we were able to get this done.
"Ladell is a guy, with his production, we feel like he's a Redskin. He's our kind of guy. It's something where we don't have to worry about him going into the offseason."
Negotiations began to heat up the last few weeks, Betts said.
"I started realizing toward the end of the year that the Redskins wanted to bring me back," he said. "As the year progressed, with Clinton having injury problems, the talks kind of escalated."
Asked if he was tempted to test the free agent marketplace next offseason, Betts replied: "It's always tempting. From a competitive standpoint, everyone wants to be the man at their particular position. It was something I had to weigh. I had to weigh my value and the things I wanted to accomplish in this league. I had to consider security and being comfortable where I'm at.
"At the end of the day, this is the decision I came up with and I feel like I'm happy with it."
After years as a backup to the likes of Stephen Davis, Trung Canidate and Clinton Portis, Betts has emerged as a legitimate starting running back the last two weeks.
In a 17-13 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Nov. 26, Betts rushed for 104 yards on 24 carries. Last Sunday, in a 24-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, Betts set career highs with 155 rushing yards on 28 carries. He also had an 8-yard touchdown run.
For the season, Betts has rushed for a career-high 643 yards on 141 carries, a 4.6 yards-per-carry average, and two touchdowns. He has also caught a career-high 40 passes for 301 yards.
"I'm excited about [Betts re-signing]," said right tackle Jon Jansen, who has been Betts's teammate for five seasons. "Ladell has done a tremendous job of learning that the NFL is not a league where you can free-lance.
"You have to set up blocks, you have to realize where your linemen are going to be and you have to realize where the holes are going to be. He has done a great job of learning the NFL game."
Of course, as a Redskin next year, Betts would likely have to share carries with Portis, who is still widely regarded as the Redskins' franchise back. Portis is on injured reserve as he recuperates from a broken hand and shoulder surgery. Portis's rehabilitation is expected to take six month.
Betts said he expects to have a "large role" in the offense, but he understands that Portis will also get plenty of carries.
"It won't be carrying the full load, but I know I have to carry the ball and play my part in this offense," he said. "That's something I've had no problem doing over the last couple of years.
"As the year went along, I think it became evident that we needed two tailbacks. Most teams in this league are going to two tailbacks. Most teams have more than one carry the load."
Regarding Portis, Betts said: "I've enjoyed playing with Clinton, he's a first-class guy he works hard and he plays hard. I think we have one of the best one-two punches in the NFL when we're both healthy out there playing. I think it'll help us win ball games."
For his career, Betts has rushed 462 times for 1,914 yards and seven touchdowns. In addition he has 92 receptions for 808 yards in his five seasons with the team.