- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 4, 2003

You'll never guess who I saw shopping at Wal-Mart over the weekend. Dan Snyder! I first noticed him in the defensive linemen aisle, loading Regan Upshaw and Brandon Noble into his cart. A short time later he was in the offensive guard section, grabbing Dave Fiore, Tre Johnson and Lennie Friedman off the shelves. Then I spotted him rummaging around in the "Priced to Sell" bin, from which he plucked Trung Canidate and Rob Johnson.

I hear he also spent some time at Neiman Marcus, splurging on yet another guard, Randy Thomas, and an established kicker, John Hall. For the most part, though, he sought bargains rather than expensive, name-brand merchandise an encouraging change from his previous spendthrift ways. So maybe Dan the Man is educable, after all.

The Redskins are calling their offseason approach "aggressive discipline," but "aggressive discipline" sounds a lot like "jumbo shrimp," if you ask me. Besides, adding nine players in three days eight in free agency, one (Canidate) through a trade is more reminiscent of "Desert Storm" than a surgical strike. In fact, I can't remember a comparable blitzkrieg in the 11 years of free agency. Perhaps we should start testing Snyder for ephedrine.

By the way, I loved the comment he made in the Opposition Newspaper yesterday. "I hate the [bleeps] who said we didn't have a plan," he whined to personal bodyguard Tony Kornheiser. "We had a plan. We're executing it now."

For the record, I was one of the "bleeps" who said the Redskins lacked a plan last season which, of course, they did. If they didn't, why would personnel boss Vinny Cerrato have told The Washington Times' Jody Foldesy recently, "The biggest thing [in free agency this year] is that we had a plan"? But anyway …

There's no question the Redskins helped themselves offensively with some of their acquisitions. Thomas and Fiore will shore up the two guard spots, which caused the club nothing but grief last season, and Friedman and Tre Johnson will provide alternatives should Fiore's knee fail to hold up. Canidate, meanwhile, is faster than a Snyder sales pitch, and Rob Johnson has the tremendous advantage of, uh, not being a former University of Florida quarterback.

The Redskins are probably kidding themselves, though, if they think Canidate is going to magically turn into Charlie Garner or Ahman Green for them. He's a potential piece of the puzzle is what he is, another toy for Steve Spurrier to play with. But it wouldn't be a surprise if Kenny Watson and Ladell Betts still did the bulk of the ball carrying while Canidate snagged passes out of the backfield a la Kelvin Bryant.

The real issue, however, is this: What did the Redskins have to give up on defense to get better on offense? Answer: Daryl Gardener, for openers. He was their best defensive lineman last year, a guy who got after quarterbacks and still took care of the run. But he was deemed too expensive and/or fragile by management, and Noble was brought in to replace him. A major trade-down, to say the least.

Gardener was the one member of the line who demanded a double team. The defense has no one of that caliber now. Renaldo Wynn, Dan Wilkinson (if he sticks around), Bruce Smith (ditto), Delbert Cowsette, Noble, Upshaw who among them requires special attention?

(And what of the pass rush? If Smith leaves or retires, the Redskins won't have a single defensive lineman who had more than 2½ sacks last season. That's not good, either.)

Then there's the chance Fred Smoot could be traded for a receiver (or for an earlier first-round pick used to draft a receiver). The Redskins have already dangled him in front of Detroit, which has the second overall selection. Losing Smoot and his coverage ability would be another step back for the defense.

Finally, Marvin Lewis is gone, and you have to wonder if the unit will function quite as smoothly without him. His successor, George Edwards, has never been a coordinator before, and there's a learning curve for everybody. No Gardener, no Lewis, possibly no Smoot it will be hard for the defense to finish fifth in the league again under those circumstances.

So, yes, the Redskins have improved their offense this offseason. Maybe now it will begin to resemble the circus act Spurrier had at Florida. But free agency giveth, and free agency taketh away. In making life more livable for Patrick Ramsey, the Redskins have complicated matters for LaVar Arrington and Co. Of course, only a "bleep" would point that out.

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