- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Two pieces of advice for the Washington Redskins as they dive headlong into the wildest couple of weeks in NFL history:

1. Have a plan.

2. Stick to it.

The first part is fairly easy. Every team, after all, has an offseason plan, an organizational blueprint for dealing with free agency, the draft, the salary cap, et cetera (e.g. which veterans stay and which go). But then stuff starts happening, money starts flying around and it can be hard to stay disciplined.

It can be especially hard if you’re a club such as the Redskins — a club with an owner who enjoys writing large checks, a club that always seems to be playing catch-up in the NFC East. The Redskins are forever looking for that big free agent score, that franchise-altering trade, that one player who’s going to make everything right.

And they’re in that situation again this year. They’re coming off a hair-pulling 6-10 season. They have lots of holes to fill — and lots of cap dollars to fill them with. And they have, spread out before them like a gigantic buffet, hundreds and hundreds of available players, some of whom might actually be good fits for them.

But here’s the thing: It figures to be a crowded marketplace, more crowded than ever, what with the new CBA mandating that the owners spend almost to the limit of the cap. Clearly, the Redskins aren’t going to get everybody on their wish list. No team is. What’s important in such an environment is not to panic and overbid on a player, to have a Plan B and a Plan C and a Plan D. It’s particularly important for the Redskins, who need help at virtually every position and can’t afford to splurge on big names, as Dan Snyder has done so often in the past.

You see, when you put too many cap dollars in one basket — or in too few baskets — you wind up with “an X” (as Charley Casserly used to call them) here and there on your depth chart. You wind up, say, with an offensive line that can’t protect the passer or a secondary that’s lacking decent nickel and dime backs. An “X” is just a body. An “X” is somebody who has no business starting on a club that has playoff aspirations. The Redskins have had too many “X’s” in the Snyder era, too many areas they could be exploited. Until that stops, they can forget about becoming serious contenders.

The coming days will tell us a great deal about Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen, about their vision for the organization. We didn’t get much of a fix on them last year because, after the owners opted out of the labor agreement, there was only limited free agency. Shanny and Allen tried to do some patch work but, let’s face it, they weren’t very successful.

But now they get another bite at the apple. The draft — and magically turning eight picks into 12 — was a nice start. Will they continue in that vein, continue to think long-term, or will they fall victim to the big-splash mentality that has stunted the franchise’s growth?

Obviously, there’s a ton of temptation out there this year. Nnamdi Asomugha arguably is the best cornerback available since Deion Sanders was up for grabs in the mid-‘90s, and Santonio Holmes is a quality receiver still very much in his prime. If the Redskins are smart, though, they’ll take the approach Joe Gibbs did in 2004, the year of his return, when he fortified the defense from front to back with Cornelius Griffin, Phillip Daniels, Marcus Washington and Shawn Springs (while also adding Joe Salave’a and Ryan Clark). None of them got the megacontract Asomugha undoubtedly will command, and the Redskins were better for it.

Besides, with so many teams in a spending mode, it might be difficult for Shanahan and Allen to reel in that many desirable free agents. I also wouldn’t be surprised if many of the players they do get are players they have a history with — guys such as Houston wideout Jacoby Jones (who played under Kyle Shanahan) or Denver offensive tackle Ryan Harris (who was drafted by Mike) or Tampa Bay guard Davin Joseph (who was drafted by Bruce during his days with the Buccaneers). With such a short run-up to the season (read: no minicamps or OTAs), it would make even more sense to bring in players who already know your system.

Finally, if the Redskins really are determined to address their kicking problem, why not take a run at Green Bay’s Mason Crosby? The kid has shown he can kick under pressure — and in cold weather as well — and won’t turn 27 until September. (He has plenty of leg, too.)

What’s important to remember about this condensed offseason is that it’s totally uncharted territory. There’s no road map to follow, no standard operating procedure. Club decision-makers are going to be making it up as they go along, living by their wits. In the next few weeks, we should learn a lot about how creative, how improvisational, Shanahan and Allen are.



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