- The Washington Times - Monday, December 21, 2009

Since he bought the Washington Redskins in 1999, Dan Snyder has been all about splashes - signing big-name free agents whose best days were behind them, trading for star players in their prime, hiring a high-profile college coach and bringing a multi-Super Bowl winner/Hall of Fame coach out of retirement.

But Snyder’s decision last week to torpedo his front office (Vinny Cerrato out) and hire his first general manager (Bruce Allen in) has to rank near the top of his buzz list, perhaps only behind Joe Gibbs’ return in 2004 and how much he will pay Mike Shanahan.

Although the Redskins have three games remaining, including Monday night’s contest against the New York Giants, the focus around the organization already has turned toward next year.

Adding Allen is just the start of the Redskins’ reconstruction. Who’s the coach? Who’s the defensive coordinator? What about the quarterback and running back? The offensive line? The No. 2 cornerback?

With Christmas four days away, here’s a four-part to-do list that Allen (and probably Shanahan) must consider.

QUARTERBACK

What has happened: Jason Campbell has turned the proverbial corner since the bye week, posting three games of at least a 100 passer rating. The locker room believes in him and respects his toughness, and of late he has shown a knack for knowing when to scramble for the first down or hang tough waiting for a route to develop.

What is out there: If every quarterback with an expiring contract were an unrestricted free agent, Campbell would be at the top of the market. If there’s a salary cap, Campbell is totally free; if there isn’t, he’s restricted for one more year. If Allen and the new coach want to start over at the position, they will likely tender Campbell (if there’s no cap) and then use a high-round draft pick on a quarterback.

What they should do: Allen (and Shanahan for that matter) should ask: “If we want to try and win right away, what’s our best option at quarterback?” Easy: It’s Campbell. If the system is kept relatively the same, the transition won’t be as drastic for Campbell and his weapons. A veteran football executive like Allen and an experienced play caller like Shanahan should realize what they have in No. 17.

RUNNING BACK

What has happened: Clinton Portis was ineffective and then sustained a season-ending concussion. A favorite of Snyder and Cerrato since he arrived from Denver in 2004, Portis proved this year he’s hit the wall. Although 28 years old, he has a ton of tread on his tires - he averaged a misleading 4.0 yards a carry. Replacement Ladell Betts departed with a knee injury last month, and Quinton Ganther is the fourth starting tailback.

What is out there: It’s a lengthy list, although there isn’t a got-to-go-get name out there. Tampa Bay’s Cadillac Williams (who was drafted by Allen), San Diego’s Darren Sproles (likely to be re-signed if the Chargers part ways with LaDainian Tomlinson) and Minnesota’s Chester Taylor (who’s 30 years old) headline the group. If the Redskins want to revamp the running game, they do what Shanahan did in Denver - poach a back in the later rounds.

What they should do: Shanahan’s modus operandi with the Broncos was to have a workhorse back and then run him into the ground until he either got hurt or too expensive. Betts blew his chance by getting hurt, and Ganther is more of a backup type. The backs who have second-round grades are Stanford’s Toby Gerhart and Tennessee’s Montario Hardesty.

ENTIRE OFFENSIVE LINE

What has happened: What hasn’t happened? The Redskins have used seven different starting combinations. Chris Samuels’ career is likely over (neck injury), and Randy Thomas isn’t expected to return. During a four-game stretch at midseason, Campbell was sacked 17 times. The line has stabilized recently, but a massive overhaul has to be in the offing. The Redskins haven’t spent a first-round pick on an offensive lineman in a decade.

What is out there: In the draft, it’s a light class for tackles (Oklahoma’s Trent Williams and Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung are the only definite first-rounders) following a run on tackles in the last two drafts. Starting-quality tackles are tough to acquire in free agency because they’re usually extended or franchised, so the Redskins’ best option is using their high first-round pick on a lineman.

What they should do: Center Casey Rabach is a free agent and he must be re-signed; any kind of valuable in-house offensive line assets must be retained. The Redskins should re-sign Rabach, keep left guard Derrick Dockery for at least another year, give right guard Chad Rinehart a final shot and possibly re-sign Levi Jones and make him a right tackle.

FREE SAFETY

What has happened: The LaRon Landry experiment ended last week in Oakland when he returned to his natural strong safety position. Landry looked more comfortable close to the line of scrimmage, playing the run and worrying about one player - not one zone - in coverage. Reed Doughty replaced the injured Chris Horton as the other safety, and he was fine playing center field because of his knowledge of the defense.

What is out there: A lot of veterans, such as New Orleans’ Darren Sharper and Pittsburgh’s Ryan Clark (a former Redskins player they should have never let get away). Southern California’s Taylor Mays is the only free safety rated in the first round, but the Redskins can’t go to the defensive back well with their first pick for the fourth time in seven years.

What they should do: Landry is a strong safety, period, so play him there. Doughty is a sure tackler and can recognize concepts well enough to be a serviceable free safety. Safety is one place the Redskins have great depth with Landry, Doughty, Horton and Kareem Moore, so this position should remain the same.

No. 2 CORNERBACK

What has happened: DeAngelo Hall and Carlos Rogers started the season as a formidable duo, but Rogers was benched during the Denver game last month and regained his position only when Hall got hurt. Fred Smoot was been decent in a reserve role, and Justin Tryon has established himself in the nickel corner role. The Redskins still don’t get a lot of interceptions from their cornerbacks - 17 in the last 45 games.

What is out there: A bunch of old guys and few high draft picks. Although Rogers plays too much cushion and bites on patterns, it’s hard to find anybody else on the market who’s better and affordable. It will be interesting to see whether Shanahan brings in a new defensive staff and what it thinks of this group.

What they should do: Let’s start the speculation - the return of Shawn Springs. He hasn’t exactly thrived with New England (stuck behind young players) and is likely to be available when he parts ways with the Patriots. He could also help out at safety.

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