- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 4, 2007

The first two days of free agency for the Washington Redskins have turned into an expensive game of “Making Up For Past Mistakes.”

Much like previous offseasons, the Redskins have been in full scramble mode, trying to create enough salary cap space to be active in signing quality players while simultaneously seeing other holes develop because of market miscalculations.

Friday provided three more examples.

Still trying to find a replacement for Antonio Pierce two years after he joined the New York Giants for a $26 million contract the Redskins could have matched and because Lemar Marshall proved he isn’t a top-flight middle linebacker, they gave soon-to-be 32-year-old London Fletcher a $25 million deal.

Still trying to find a replacement for Fred Smoot two years after he joined Minnesota for a $30 million contract the Redskins could have matched, and because Carlos Rogers hasn’t developed as quickly as expected and veterans Walt Harris and Kenny Wright didn’t work out as nickel backs, they signed … Fred Smoot.

And because they were unwilling to overpay during the regular season to re-sign left guard Derrick Dockery, the Redskins entered the offensive line market by chatting with Arizona’s Leonard Davis. Dockery received $49 million from Buffalo — an outrageous figure Dan Snyder was wise not to match. But the Redskins could have locked him up with a significantly lower amount had they read the market more accurately in December.

One signing and two ongoing negotiations, none which needed to happen.

If Pierce never left, middle linebacker would have never developed into a problem.

If Smoot weren’t allowed to leave, the Redskins could have traded down to get Jason Campbell instead of sacrificing their 2006 first-round pick and then drafted a corner in the later rounds to team with Smoot and Shawn Springs.

If Dockery had been re-signed, the Redskins’ free agent efforts this weekend could have focused entirely on defense.

But this is what the Redskins do during the offseason.

They panic and overpay.

David Patten can’t stay healthy in 2005? They trade for Brandon Lloyd and sign Antwaan Randle El.

Ryan Clark misses a couple tackles in 2005? They give Adam Archuleta a record-setting contract.

Marshall struggles in 2006? They sign Fletcher.

Rogers regresses in his second year? They bring back Smoot.

Dockery isn’t re-signed? They need to pursue Davis, whose asking price undoubtedly went up when the Redskins became desperate for his services.

Yet coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday, “We’re one of the most stable organizations in terms of keeping our players.”

If he means special teams players and reserves, then Coach Joe is right.

But the trend of allowing young talents to get away — and having to overpay for their replacements — continues to haunt the Redskins.

Several teams operated last offseason knowing the salary cap would be in the $109 million range this year. That left San Francisco with $40 million of space, Buffalo and Minnesota more than $30 million to spend and perennial playoff participant New England with around $19 million available.

The 49ers and Bills spent Friday throwing cash around like it was Monopoly money. Buffalo signed three offensive linemen and San Francisco gave cornerback Nate Clements $22 million guaranteed and safety Michael Lewis $10 million guaranteed. New England followed yesterday by signing Baltimore’s Adalius Thomas to a $60 million deal.

The 49ers also have 10 draft picks in April and the Patriots have two first-rounders.

Those teams use free agency to upgrade their roster and the draft to deepen their talent pool so they have myriad in-house replacements in case of injury, ineffectiveness or departure via free agency.

The Redskins have only four draft picks (including just one in the first four rounds) because of haphazard trades. They have little cap space because of wild spending the previous three to four years.

Two years and two days after letting Pierce get away, it’s a move that is emblematic of the Redskins’ flawed strategy.

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