- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 28, 2011

Albert Haynesworth already was a star when the Washington Redskins signed him to a record-setting $100 million free agent contract in February 2009. He was a quarterback’s nightmare on the field and twice had been named an All-Pro defensive tackle.

That acquisition, however, turned out to be one of the worst in NFL history. Haynesworth refused to adapt to new strategies, never matched his salary with production and ultimately personified the dysfunction that has hampered the franchise for more than a decade.

So after Haynesworth’s disastrous tenure concluded Thursday morning when he was traded to New England, it was clear why the Redskins agreed to terms with an unsung free agent defensive lineman for the second time in 36 hours: They’re trying to get younger and hungrier in the trenches.

Washington agreed with former Dallas Cowboys defensive end Stephen Bowen on a five-year deal worth $27 million with $12.5 million guaranteed, according to his agent, Pat Dye. ESPN first reported the deal.

“People are going to see that I’m very strong,” Bowen, 27, said. “I’m quick at the point of attack. I play the run well, and I really can rush the passer. I’m very good at collapsing the pocket. I’m a well-rounded 3-4 defensive end, so I think that’s why they brought me in.”

Bowen will join Barry Cofield, who was acquired Wednesday, on the Redskins‘ revamped defensive line this season. Cofield also is 27.

Not only did the Redskins trade Haynesworth for a 2013 fifth-round pick, they released veteran defensive end Phillip Daniels and nose tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu. Daniels, 38, joined the Redskins in 2004 after coach Joe Gibbs came out of retirement.

“They just said they’re going younger,” he said. “I just wish sometimes that age wouldn’t be a deciding factor on how you play. I see they signed a guy from Dallas whose career [includes] 11 starts. I start seeing stuff like that and I wish I was 10 years younger.”

Shanahan said several times during the offseason that he wanted to infuse the roster with younger players following a 6-10 debut campaign. Now that league business is back to humming at full speed, he is applying that plan directly to the trenches.

Bowen started 11 of the 32 games he played for Dallas the last two seasons, while players such as DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff commanded the spotlight there. That leaves Bowen eager to prove himself.

“In Dallas, I always wanted a bigger role, but being a team player, I tried to play my role to perfection,” Bowen said. “But Washington is giving me an opportunity to reach my full potential and show everybody I can be a dominant player.”

Perhaps the strongest evidence of the Redskins‘ commitment to youth is that they agreed to terms with Bowen instead of 30-year-old defensive end Cullen Jenkins. Two sources said the Redskins never earnestly pursued Jenkins, who played last season for Green Bay.

Bowen believes the Redskins will play him at right defensive end, which means Cofield would play nose tackle. Cofield will replace Kemoeatu, who is 32.

Cofield was a full-time starter on the New York Giants’ line for the last five seasons, but — similarly to Bowen’s plight — pass rushers such as Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora garnered the public’s attention.

“I’m excited to play with Barry,” Bowen said. “I’ve seen him through the years, and when I was in Dallas they would be worried about Cofield. To team up with him and try to go and dominate everybody, I think it’s going to be special.”

Daniels, meanwhile, struggled to see how his niche no longer existed.

“I just know that what I can give to the team as a backup, what I did last year in goal-line and short yardage, no young guy can do that,” he said. “I understand they’re going young, but the way they handled it, I just thought it would be different.”

The youth movement wasn’t restricted to the defensive side. The Redskins released veteran center Casey Rabach and agreed to terms with former Baltimore Ravens interior lineman Chris Chester.

Chester, 28, agreed to a five-year, $20 million deal according to the NFL Network. He reunites with Redskins offensive line coach Chris Foerster, who coached him in Baltimore during his first two NFL seasons in 2006-07.

Rabach, 33, was the Redskins‘ starting center for all but one game since 2005. His play slipped last season, as he was too frequently pushed back at the point of attack.

“They’re looking to go younger, and they obviously have the depth at the position to do that,” Rabach said.

It’s unclear who will replace him. Chester has experience playing center, and so does incumbent starting left guard Kory Lichtensteiger.

Daniels, Kemoeatu and Rabach were among seven players that the Redskins released yesterday. Receiver Roydell Williams, running backs Chad Simpson and Andre Brown and punter Sam Paulescu also were cut, according to various sources and published reports.

The Redskins also agreed to terms with veteran punter Sav Rocca, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles. Rocca averaged 43.8 yards per punt in 16 games last season. By comparison, Redskins punters averaged 40.2.