- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 20, 2013

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Something seems off this winter, doesn’t it? The Washington Redskins have made plenty of news in the six weeks since their season ended, so that’s not it. But something undoubtedly is missing.

The Redskins‘ search for a quarterback usually makes this time of year interesting. For years it has been as much a part of the calendar as July Fourth or Thanksgiving. Redskins coaches, scouts and executives descend on Indianapolis for a week at the NFL scouting combine, and we break down all the quarterback prospects who might end the years of instability at the position.

This year is different, though. The intrigue is gone. These Redskins have their quarterback — repaired knee and all — and they have an NFC East division championship to show for it.

So go ahead and exhale. The Redskins don’t have to settle for Geno Smith or Matt Barkley or Landry Jones or any of the other guys who have prompted draft analysts to grade this quarterbacks class as the worst in years.

Washington’s aggressive trade last winter to move up in the draft to select Robert Griffin III continues to pay off, and this is the latest reward. With that critical puzzle piece in place, the Redskins can spend this week addressing other needs.

For starters, general manager Bruce Allen and vice president of football administration Eric Schaffer must meet with agents to devise how to get the Redskins under the 2013 salary cap. The exact cap number has not been finalized, but the Redskins are believed to be approximately $4 million over the projected amount, according to a source who requested anonymity because the NFL doesn’t publicize teams’ cap situations.

Schaffer worked wizardry to get Washington under the cap in offseasons before Allen ushered in this era of restraint. He’ll have to dust off his magic wand — or machete — to position the Redskins to enhance their roster when free agency begins on March 12 at 4 p.m.

He and Allen face this challenge because of another $18 million salary cap penalty, the second half of the $36 million hit imposed by the NFL last March. That the Redskins won the division last season despite the same hindrance is remarkable and deserves more attention.

Restructured deals or even pay cuts will be on the agenda for conversations in Indy’s hotel lobbies, bars and steakhouses.

Logical starting points include cornerback DeAngelo Hall’s $8 million cap number for 2013 and receiver Santana Moss’ $6.17 million. (Both figures are according to a league source.)

Hall and Moss significantly contributed to last season’s division title, but the Redskins must be forward-looking instead of sentimental in the face of the cap penalty.

Beyond that, there’s the main event: scouting and interviewing prospects. The Redskins don’t pick until 51st overall because they traded their first-round pick to move up to draft Griffin last year. They’ll welcome such a dull first draft day.

Washington needs to upgrade its secondary, especially free safety and cornerback. This year’s class of safeties is deep, according to NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock.

Don’t be surprised, though, if the Redskins use some picks to improve the NFL’s top-ranked offense in yards per play. A speedy running back would make their triple option even more dynamic than it was last season, when fullback Darrel Young and wide receivers ran it with Griffin and Alfred Morris.

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