- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 28, 2007

As today’s NFL Draft unfolds, there will easily be more suspense at Redskin Park than there has been on draft day since coach Joe Gibbs returned to Washington in 2004.

Gibbs on Tuesday said the likelihood of completing the long-rumored trade for disgruntled Chicago Bears Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs was “one in a hundred.” Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said he wouldn’t make the deal, in part to spite its orchestrator, agent Drew Rosenhaus, but the teams were still talking last night.

The trade would send Washington’s top pick, sixth overall, to Chicago for the 31st selection and Briggs, who plays the weak side spot that Rocky McIntosh, last year’s second-round draft choice, was supposed to hold down for years to come. The Redskins have top veterans Marcus Washington and London Fletcher at the other linebacker positions.

While the Redskins would have to cut No. 1 cornerback Shawn Springs (hence the recent addition of corner David Macklin) to afford the 26-year-old Briggs’ $7.2 million tender on their salary cap, the bigger hangup is whether the Bears can persuade them to sweeten the deal with a second- and/or third-round pick in 2008.

third-round pick in 2008.

What’s more, Washington and Chicago were both finding no takers as they dangled that sixth pick in hopes of moving down in the first round and adding perhaps a second and a third today.

If the trade doesn’t happen and the Redskins — who don’t pick again until the fifth round — aren’t able to trade down, the intrigue would switch to whether they live up to their bravado from Tuesday’s pre-draft press conference during which the braintrust of Gibbs, owner Dan Snyder and vice president of player personnel Vinny Cerrato discounted the idea of drafting for need.

Although Washington’s defensive linemen combined for just 13 sacks last season and were a factor in the defense crashing from ninth in 2005 to 31st while allowing 4.5 yards a carry, Snyder and Co. sounded committed to the best available player strategy, implying that LSU safety LaRon Landry would be the choice.

“Look at our team,” Gibbs said. “Where could a player just step in and say, ‘I’m taking over’? Where is that?”

Aside from the defensive line, where left end Phillip Daniels is 34 and coming off three surgeries and where left tackle Cornelius Griffin, 30, has been plagued by bad hips the past two years, the Redskins are planning to start career right tackle Todd Wade at left guard and must choose between the disappointing Brandon Lloyd and fellow 2006 free agent addition Antwaan Randle El at No. 2 receiver.

Then there’s strong safety, where Pierson Prioleau, who missed all of 2006 after major knee surgery, is currently slated to start ahead of Omar Stoutmire, who will be 33, and Vernon Fox, who had started just five games in four-plus seasons until last Thanksgiving.

The 6-foot, 213-pound Landry, whose brother Dawan started at safety for Baltimore as a fifth-rounder in 2006, is two inches and 20 pounds smaller than Redskins free safety Sean Taylor. But Landry can still play the run. More important, he excels in pass coverage, the area where Taylor floundered last season.

If the Redskins do address their biggest deficiencies, there should be some appealing defensive linemen available at No. 6.

Amobi Okoye, who at 19 has a psychology degree from Louisville and should become the youngest NFL player in 40 years this fall, is everything a team could want in a tackle with the additional benefit of significant room for growth as Gibbs has acknowledged. The 6-2, 302-pound Okoye has the strength to handle double-teams and the quickness to record eight sacks and 15 tackles for losses last season.

If the Redskins want the draft’s best pure pass rusher, they need look no further than Gaines Adams, who runs 40 yards in 4.65 seconds and recorded 22 sacks in his two seasons as a Clemson starter.

If the 6-4, 258-pound Adams — who will be 24 in June — is too much like lanky right end Andre Carter, Washington could go for the draft’s most well-rounded end. Arkansas’ Jamaal Anderson is 6-5, 288 and sturdy against the run. Just 21, Anderson started just 19 of 36 games in college but still had 32 sacks and should keep improving.

Safety is considered of such lesser value that no team has ever drafted two safeties in the top 10 within four years. Washington took Taylor fifth overall in 2004. But since the Redskins seem to like Landry almost as much as they do Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson — who won’t last beyond Tampa Bay at No. 4 — and LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell — who doesn’t make sense for Washington with 2005 first-rounder Jason Campbell heading into his first year as a starter, the safety could well be the ticket at No. 6.

Washington also has its own picks in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds as well as Chicago’s sixth thanks to the trade that sent Adam Archuleta to the Bears.

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