- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 26, 2009

01 a.m. Friday.

Eighteen of their projected starters are under contract. The club restructured the contracts of four players, leaving it about $6 million under the $123 million salary cap.

Still, troubling issues loom: The Redskins lost six of their final eight games last season, and half those 18 likely starters will be at least 32 by October.

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What’s more, a major infusion of youth isn’t on the horizon - the Redskins have just four picks in April’s draft. And that $6 million of cap space won’t be enough to sign Albert Haynesworth, the All-Pro Tennessee Titans defensive tackle who is rumored to be a free agent target for the Redskins.

Vinny Cerrato, the Redskins’ executive vice president, declined to tip his hand Wednesday about the club’s plans for free agency.

“Any way of acquiring players we always look at, and this happens to be the first way to do it,” he said.

Free agency was the foremost way of acquiring talent for the club during the first seven offseasons of Dan Snyder’s ownership.

The past two years marked something of a departure. Linebacker London Fletcher and cornerback Fred Smoot were the only front-line signees in 2007, and both players already had played in the Redskins’ defensive scheme. Last year, the Redskins didn’t sign any starters.

Coach Jim Zorn, however, said last week he expects his team to be more active this March.

A few of the Redskins own players seem likely to hit the market on Friday: cornerback DeAngelo Hall, left guard Pete Kendall and defensive end Demetric Evans, who started much of last season in place of the injured Phillip Daniels and the ailing Jason Taylor.

Hall, a two-time Pro Bowl selection and the top free agent corner available, might prove too expensive for the Redskins to retain. Evans is looking for his first big payday, which he doesn’t figure to get from the Redskins. Kendall is the most likely to return in part because of the lack of proven replacements available.

That shortage also is the reason the Redskins aren’t likely to find a bona fide starter in free agency to bolster their aging line.

Carlos Rogers, a starter before Hall’s arrival in November, could take his place. The Redskins are less sure about H.B. Blades at strongside linebacker, where Marcus Washington became a cap casualty Feb. 20. And right defensive tackles Kedric Golston and Anthony Montgomery will be restricted free agents if Washington tenders them contract offers by the Friday deadline. If not, they will become unrestricted, so the Redskins can’t keep them by matching any offers they receive.

With Taylor set for a final season at age 35, the Redskins should still be in the market for a pass-rushing end or linebacker in free agency or via the draft. That’s still true if Daniels, who turns 36 in March and whose contract was voided this week, returns.

The group of available linebackers - led by 11-time Pro Bowl selection Derrick Brooks and the Baltimore Ravens’ Bart Scott - is fairly deep and strong. The crop of ends is much thinner.

The Redskins also could be in the market for a punter: The club cut Ryan Plackemeier this month and now don’t have a punter with NFL experience. Signing Hunter Smith of the Indianapolis Colts is a possibility.

Like Golston and Montgomery, kicker Shaun Suisham will be a restricted free agent. Cerrato wouldn’t confirm whether the Redskins would tender Golston or Montgomery, but the team did tender Suisham a $1.01 million offer Wednesday. Backup center Justin Geisinger and reserve linebacker Rian Wallace almost surely won’t be.

The Redskins have five other unrestricted free agents: little-used defensive tackle Ryan Boschetti, leading special teams tackler Khary Campbell, right guard Jason Fabini, reserve linebacker Alfred Fincher and backup safety Mike Green.

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