Level of need: Let’s play an analogy game.
Humans :: Oxygen
Fish :: Water
Redskins :: Quarterback
Where they stand: The quality of the Redskins’ quarterbacks over the last two-plus decades was such that they needed a strong supporting cast to lift them up. Entering coach Mike Shanahan’s third season, however, it’s clear Washington desperately needs the opposite – a quarterback good enough to make those around him better.
No matter how much Shanahan fortifies the supporting cast, beginning with the start of free agency on March 13, the Redskins would remain limited with Rex Grossman under center. Grossman was on Chicago’s Super Bowl team in 2006, but no team can win it all with a quarterback that turns the ball over 1.92 times per game – Grossman’s rate over 13 starts in 2011.
There’s only an outside chance Grossman will be re-signed. Instead, veteran Kyle Orton’s recent turnover history suggests he’s an upgrade. He averaged 1.22 turnovers per game in 2011 and 1.0 in 2010.
Shanahan must move his building plan to the next phase by getting a capable young quarterback in his program. The Redskins have the sixth-overall pick, and Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III are expected to be off the board by then. The Redskins could trade up – St. Louis is shopping the No. 2 pick – but Cleveland’s superior trade ammunition includes two 2012 first-rounders and a better position than Washington’s in the draft order.
There aren’t many quality free agent options. Teams don’t often let quality quarterbacks get away because they are too valuable and too difficult to find. New Orleans, for example, used its franchise tag to retain Drew Brees.
Indianapolis has until March 8 to exercise Peyton Manning’s $28 million option bonus. If the Colts release him, expect Washington to evaluate the health and strength of his neck and arm in deciding whether to offer him a contract. I’d be surprised if they offered a big contract to Green Bay’s Matt Flynn.
A college prospect such as Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill might not be an upgrade during his rookie season, but he must at least show promise. He must possess the physical tools – mobility, accuracy – and the mental makeup and work ethic to be a key part of an improved product over the long term.
Shanahan has missed on Donovan McNabb, Grossman and John Beck, so he has to get this one right. His job might depend on it.
PROS WITH EXPIRING CONTRACTS:
Kyle Orton, Kansas City
2011 stats (9 games): 1,758 yards; 9 TD; 9 INT; 2 FL; 59.5 CMP%; 77.8 rating
2012 Opening Day age: 29
Matt Flynn, Green Bay
2011 stats (5 games, 1 start): 518 yards; 6 TD; 2 INT; 1 FL; 67.3 CMP%; 124.8 rating
2012 Opening Day age: 27
Rex Grossman, Washington
2011 stats: 3,151 yards; 16 TD; 20 INT; 5 FL; 57.9 CMP%; 72.4 rating
2012 Opening Day age: 32
TOP COLLEGE PROSPECTS:
Andrew Luck, Stanford
2011 stats: 3,517 yards; 37 TD; 10 INT; 71.3 CMP%
Robert Griffin III, Baylor
2011 stats: 4,293 yards; 37 TD; 6 INT; 72.4 CMP%
Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M
2011 stats: 3,744 yards; 29 TD; 15 INT; 61.6 CMP%
Kirk Cousins, Michigan State
2011 stats: 3,316 yards; 25 TD; 10 INT; 63.7 CMP%
Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State
2011 stats: 4,727 yards; 37 TD; 13 INT; 72.3 CMP%