- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 10, 2009

The past three-and-a-half games have exhibited to naysayers that Jason Campbell can be an effective NFL quarterback if given time to throw and complementary players who know how to get open.

Operating at arguably the highest level of his career, Campbell has thrown for 946 yards and five touchdowns since halftime of the Denver game, including a career-high 367 yards in last week’s loss to New Orleans.

And even though the Redskins are 3-9, rank 21st in yards and 26th in points, has Campbell positioned himself to return next year or depart for what he deems a better situation?

“Christmas [and not free agency] is creeping into my head,” he said Wednesday at Redskin Park. “I’m just staying positive and continue to move forward and look at things one day at a time. You have to continue to progress. We’re playing to build something, whether it’s here or somewhere else. You’re still building in some way.”

Campbell is keenly aware of his status: If there is a new collective bargaining agreement, he would be an unrestricted free agent; no CBA (and no salary cap), and he would be a restricted free agent.

To which one veteran player said, “He won’t be [an unrestricted] free agent.”

No chance for a new CBA?

“No cap,” he said.

That would leave the Redskins with a decision: Sign Campbell to an extension (doubtful), tender him at one of four levels (which means a team would sacrifice at least a first-round pick to sign him) or nontender him, making him a free agent.

“Those things, I can’t control,” Campbell said. “It doesn’t even make sense to take the time to worry about that.”

What does make sense is what coach Jim Zorn has preached since he arrived in February 2008: Learning a new offense takes time.

During a stretch of 16 games - the last half of 2008 and first half of this year - Campbell had one game with a 100-plus passer rating. He has two in the past four weeks.

“From [halftime of Denver], he’s been more confident in the pocket, he’s blocked out the distractions, which I think bothered him early,” said offensive assistant Chris Meidt, who coaches the quarterbacks. “He’s made better choices and obviously played better.”

Meidt said the quarterback meetings haven’t turned into a planning-for-2010 gab-fest.

“That isn’t an issue,” he said. “We understand we have four games left, and none of us are thinking about anything else.”

Who’s coaching the Redskins will play a huge part in determining whether Campbell remains the starter. Helping Campbell is that there doesn’t appear to be a Jay Cutler-type player on the market. Campbell, in fact, and Denver’s Kyle Orton would project to be the top free agent passers. After that, Chad Pennington? Kellen Clemens? Tarvaris Jackson?

The options in the draft aren’t ideal - Sam Bradford will be coming off shoulder surgery, Jimmy Clausen took a pounding at Notre Dame, Colt McCoy didn’t help himself in the Big 12 title game and Jake Locker may stay another year.

The Redskins should be planning to draft the best left tackle should Chris Samuels retire - not a quarterback - but stranger things have happened. (See the past 11 seasons for evidence.)

Simply put, the Redskins need more than a new quarterback, as Campbell has shown the past four games.

“The offensive line gave him ample time last week, and he threw for dang near 400 yards,” cornerback Carlos Rogers said. “When he can sit back there and read the coverage, he can play.”

Given one last chance to talk about the future, Campbell wouldn’t oblige, instead citing the performances of players around him.

“A lot of things are out of our control,” he said. “I’m definitely encouraged to see how Malcolm [Kelly], Devin [Thomas] and Fred [Davis] have come along the last few weeks and excited for the opportunity of our backup linemen who have worked themselves into position where they feel more comfortable.”

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