- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 4, 2010

ASHBURN, Va. | The Washington Redskins unleashed a 30-something purge Thursday night, making the team significantly younger by cutting 10 players and clearing salary cap space for another aggressive run at free agency.

In the first major moves under the new brain trust of coach Mike Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen, the Redskins said goodbye to seven players 30 or older: receiver Antwaan Randle El, defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, guard Randy Thomas, kick returner Rock Cartwright, cornerback Fred Smoot, running back Ladell Betts and backup quarterback Todd Collins.

“Obviously, it’s a day of change for the Redskins,” Allen said.

The next big moves were expected to be put in motion at the midnight start of free agency, when the Redskins were again expected to be aggressive on the open market. Big-spending owner Dan Snyder has yielded roster control to Shanahan, but the coach and Allen have many needs to fill as they take over a 4-12 team and look ahead to a season with no salary cap.

“We’re going to be active on the phones tonight,” said Allen, who added he was under no spending restrictions from Snyder.

Not all of the longtime veterans were sent packing. Center Casey Rabach agreed to a three-year, $12.3 million deal to re-sign with the team rather than become a free agent. His return ensures at least a little bit of stability for an offensive line that will be looking to replace as many as three starters next season.

The Redskins also tendered several players, making them restricted free agents. Quarterback Jason Campbell and cornerback Carlos Rogers both were given first-round tenders, limiting their chances of being courted by other teams. The Redskins have the right to match any offer they receive and can demand a first-round draft pick as compensation.

Campbell and Rogers are victims of the lack of a new collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and players’ union. If the salary cap were still in place, both would become unrestricted free agents. Rogers, in particular, has voiced his disappointment over his tender and would prefer to play elsewhere after getting benched for parts of last season.

Allen shrugged off Rogers’ concerns, saying he sees both Campbell and Rogers as part of the team next season.

“We’re going to see players across the league that have concerns and issues with the current system,” Allen said. “I look at that as just the nature of the world we’re living in right now, and I don’t consider that a problem.”

Linebacker Rocky McIntosh, safety Reed Doughty, defensive tackle Kedric Golston, tackle Stephon Heyer and linebacker Chris Wilson were given second-round tenders. Defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery has a fifth-round tender, center Will Montgomery got a seventh-round tender, and defensive tackle Lorenzo Alexander was tendered but would require no compensation to sign.

The Redskins had the oldest roster in the NFL at the start of last season, with an average age of 27.60. A series of questionable personnel decisions led to an injury-prone roster with little depth, leading to the franchise’s worst season since 1994.

Thursday’s overhaul, therefore, was long overdue. It also came on the day that 32-year-old left tackle Chris Samuels announced his long-expected retirement because of a neck injury.

“Some of these players have been very good Redskins,” Allen said. “They’re good men, good citizens, but our plan was for 2010 and beyond.”

Three younger backups were cut: running backs Marcus Mason and Eddie Williams and defensive lineman J.D. Skolnitsky.

None of the cuts are big surprises. Thomas has been a solid lineman and a good locker room presence, but he had major injuries in two of the last three seasons. Randle El never played up to the value of the big-money free agent deal he signed in 2006. Cartwright was a team captain, but his role on special teams was reduced last season.

Smoot’s role also diminished during the 2009 season, Betts finished the year on injured reserve, and Griffin is on the downside of his career and not an ideal fit for the team’s new 3-4 defense.

One player spared was running back Clinton Portis, who was injured much of last year and no longer looks like the back who broke rushing records earlier in his career. Portis might have been saved by the fact that most of his 2010 contract is guaranteed.

“Right now he’s our starting running back,” Allen said, “and that’s what our plans are.”

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