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Redskins Making the Best of Tough Off-Season Decisions

Let’s be honest for a minute Redskins fans – some of you are pretty disappointed in the first week of the 2012 NFL Off-Season.

Sure you are probably excited the Redskins made the trade that will “save the franchise” and hopefully bring RG3 to DC. But, missing on big name difference makers like Vincent Jackson or Eric Winston has been a tough pill to swallow.

Toss in watching a fan favorite and All-World Gym Rat Laron Landry walk out the door, and seeing Redskins targets like Aaron Ross and Eddie Royal sign elsewhere stings a little. Throw in the uncertainty of the London Fletcher situation and what happens next in NFL CapGate and I can see why the casual observer may be a little worried.

I mean, let’s be honest the Redskins always get their man right? Once a player is spotted around town with Snyder and Co. always been a done deal right? So what gives?

It is times like this when I am pretty happy there are grown-ups running the show in Ashburn.

Gone are the days of wining and dining superstar free agents and throwing cash at them until they have no choice but to sign on the dotted line.

Welcome to a new day in Redskins fandom – a day in which the front office is more interested in building a team then collecting superstars.

While some people have argued that the Redskins overpaid for Pierre Garcon or are “clueless” for letting Landry go to the Jets, I would say they are doing exactly what they need to build a complete roster.

Bruce and Mike are doing a fantastic job of stockpiling young players who are a perfect fit for the schemes the team is running. Forget the past where they would go get a superstar like Peyton Manning, who would have been an absolutely dreadful fit for this offense and force him into this system.

Forget scrapping young talent currently on the roster or blocking them with overpaid superstars, now we see the organization bringing in guys like Garcon who complement home grown talent and fit right into what Mike and Kyle want to do on offense. Garcon is a speedy receiver with big play ability who can stretch the field vertically and force defenses to account for him.

At the end of last season Kyle Shanahan spelled out exactly what he was looking for in regards to a playmaking WR. Garcon is exactly what Kyle was looking for so it comes as no surprise that at 4pm last Tuesday afternoon the first call Garcon got was Kyle Shanahan. 30 minutes later Garcon was a Redskin, and even though the initial price was considered high the truth is it was not bad considering a guy like Laurent Robinson just signed a deal $32.5 million. It is also worth mentioning that Garcon was willing to work with the Redskins to overcome the CapGate issues by costing only $2.5 million against this year’s salary cap, enabling the Redskins to bring in more players to fill out the roster.

While it has been tough for many local fans (especially the ones who represent Hokie Nation) to see Eddie Royal sign with San Diego instead of coming home, the truth is, it shows how far this front office has come in two years. Forget bidding wars, Bruce and Mike know what they are willing to give specific talent and are not going to over pay to get it. Instead of Salary Cap crippling deals like the one signed by Antwaan Randle El, they are able to bring guys in on team friendly deals like the Garcon deal.

The fact is, this team is making responsible decisions and is finally building this team the right way.

While it is sad to see a guy like Landry go considering he is among the best in the league when healthy, letting him go is a no brainier. The guy has not been healthy enough to stay on the sideline let alone the field and there is no room on this roster for a player who will has spent more time on the IR than in the game the past 2 seasons.

The biggest problem the Redskins have had over the last decade is making poor personnel decisions. Time and time again, they have set the organization back more than they have helped it compete and I for one am pretty happy it looks like they have turned the corner.

For the first time since Joe Gibbs returned 8 years ago, the future in DC is looking very bright.

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RG3 Should Cause a Chain Reaction in Redskins Off-Season Plans

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Rejoice Redskins Nation, it is a good time to be a fan of the burgundy and gold. Friday night’s announcement that the Redskins had acquired the 2nd pick overall in the 2012 draft to bring Robert Griffin III to DC brings something this team has not had since Lawrence Taylor ended Joe Theisman’s career – hope for a franchise quarterback.

Everyone and their brother has debated whether this was or wasn’t a good move (heck we even did just yesterday). So let’s get past the whole should they or shouldn’t they and look at what this does to the Redskins off-season plans.

Whether you love or hate the move, there is no denying that it sent a shockwave through this organization (and pretty much the entire NFL). For a team that needs a lot on offense this set the table for tomorrow’s start of Free Agency.

Step one has to be giving the kid some weapons and the Redskins are targeting the most dangerous one in this year’s free agent class.

Since the season ended Mike and Kyle have both been on record stating they need a big time playmaker on offense, specifically at wide receiver. All reports point to the fact that a big receiver like Vincent Jackson will be the Redskins top target. To be honest at this point I would be absolutely shocked if they did not get him.

Let’s look at what we know.

Mike Shanahan is absolutely in love with Jackson. After coaching against him twice a year while in Denver he is more than aware of what Jackson can do on the field. Two years ago when Jackson was seeking trade from San Diego after being franchised, it was Mike Shanahan on the phone with AJ Smith trying to bring him to DC.

The Redskins were willing to pay a heavy price for that trade, believed to be at least a second round pick at the time. The typically tight lipped Shanahan even admitted to being involved in the trade talks once the deadline had passed without a deal.

Outside of the Shanahan infatuation Jackson has some family ties already on the roster.

During his college career at the University of Northern Colorado, Jackson was teammates and roommates with Redskins safety Reed Doughty. You have to believe the brass in Ashburn have had Doughty make one or two recruiting phone calls, perhaps they spoke of the arrival of RG3. The point being Jackson should and most likely already does have a good idea of what to expect in DC. The inside track could lead to a quick close on this deal.

In years past when you hear the Redskins were in love with a big time play maker you knew that they were going to throw money at said player until they agreed to come. The results were disastrous. Time and time again the team trotted out big names so consumed with counting their newly acquired fortunes that playing the game became secondary.

Thankfully those days are over.

Bringing in an explosive playmaker like RG3 takes Washington from being a team to go collect a paycheck to playing for a team that can be absolutely dynamic and that is extremely attractive to Free Agents.

Don’t get me wrong I still expect the team to pay a pretty hefty price, I would guess it should be somewhere in the range of 5 years 55 million. But the truth is having one of the most exciting players to come out of college football in over a decade locked up should go a long way in convincing guys like Jackson that DC is not just a place to get paid, but a place to win.

Rant Sports.com Has SOW on Redskins Off-Season Round Table Discussion

Our good friend Emmanual Benton over at RantSports.com invited SOW to be a part of their Redskins off-season round table discussion, hitting on three key questions concerning the team this off-season. You can check out the full article below but make sure you check out Manny’s work over at Rant Sports.

March 13th, 4pm ET, a new league year begins. Teams are gearing up for the frenzy we call Free Agency, with the hope of improving their rosters. For the Washington Redskins, offense will be the priority, and it starts with the Quarterback position. Washington must address the Quarterback position and surround the player with more talent. Fortunately, the Redskins have options, but it’s important they make the right decisions.

With free agency quickly approaching and the 2012 NFL Draft right around the corner, I reached out to 5 fellow Redskins bloggers/experts for a round-table chat:

R.D Smith, SonofWashington.com
Mark Solway, TheHogs.net
Kevin Edwolt, HogsHaven.com
Ricky Allen, RantSports.com
Rich Tandler, CSNWashington.com and RealRedskins.com

So, with help from my fellow RantSports Redskins blogger, Ricky Allen, I came up with 3 questions to give an outlook on the offseason.

Gentlemen, rev-up your engines, and lets Rant!

     1. Mike Shanahan believes the Washington Redskins had a playoff caliber offense in 2011. Do you agree or disagree? Why?

Emmanuel Benton: I believe offenses are only as good as their Quarterback play, and the Redskins production at QB was sporadic. With better play from the QB position, Washington’s offense can be highly functional. Unfortunately, depth is a major issue, and if you plan on making a run for the playoffs… you need depth.

R.D Smith: Perhaps Mike got confused and meant to say Defense? It’s painfully obvious that the Redskins Defense is LIGHT YEARS ahead of the offense. The only unit(s) on offense that seem to be set are running back and TE. When looking at every other unit, they’re nightmares. The Oline lacks depth,especially at tackle, and the Wide Receivers still do not possess a true playmaking threat. Playoff caliber offenses have some sort of depth at every unit (see the 2010 Green Bay Packers who had more injuries than the 2011 Redskins), not to mention one or two players at skill positions that strike fear into defenses. This team did not have either last year and it showed.

Mark Solway: To say the Redskins had a playoff calibre offense is ridiculous. I don’t know of any playoff teams that struggled to score points like the Redskins did, and stats would bear that out. The Redskins were 26th overall in offensive points scored – only Tampa Bay, Indy, K.C., Jacksonville, Cleveland and St. Louis scored fewer – none of them made the playoffs either. When you additionally consider that the Redskins defense was above middle of the pack for points allowed (12th), it’s hard to see the reason for not making the playoffs as being anything but poor offensive production. If the Redskins had a playoff calibre offense in 2011, they would have made the playoffs.

Kevin Edwolt: I disagree, although I see where’s he coming from. I don’t understand how an offense with no WR threats or consistency can be playoff caliber. If I asked Shanahan to elaborate, he’d likely say “Well, we beat the Giants twice, almost beat the Patriots, blah blah.” The point is, Mike Shanahan, like all coaches, have a responsibility to keep fans believing their team has a shot to make it. There are tickets to be sold. The Redskins offense, when clicking, looked like a playoff caliber team, but I don’t understand how you have a team that turns the ball over as much as the Redskins did and say they’re playoff caliber.

Ricky Allen: Mike Shanahan’s Offense was not a playoff caliber offense in 2011. Their failures at the quarterback spot kept the offense in a series of changes that clearly reflects in their 5-11 season. There’s no way you’re going to ask an offense that’s already numb to quarterback/coach drama to make it to the playoffs with Rex Grossman, who is almost expected to mess up in the last two minutes of any game, and John Beck, a man who barely gets snaps. Then there’s the lack of effort to truly get Evan Royster and Roy Helu in the major scheme of things, which angered me on several occasions. Helu and Royster showed us they can do more when given the chance. Forget that they’re rookies for a minute and think about the last game. They were beasts. I forcast they will, if given the chance, easily break the 1,000 -yard mark in the next two seasons.

Rich Tandler: I understand what Shanahan was trying to do in putting a good spin on the offense. But even when everyone was healthy they just didn’t score many points and that is how you judge the caliber of an offense. The good news is that I don’t think that Shanahan is delusional. The bad news is that the offense needs a lot of works.

2. In your opinion, who should the Washington Redskins select with their 1st round draft pick?

Emmanuel Benton: Robert Griffin III over anything. The Redskins must address the Quarterback position, and RG3 is the best of many options for this team.

R.D Smith: No secret here, the Redskins have no choice, but to find a way to address the biggest deficiency they have had since the 80′s. The NFL is a passing league now – and this team needs a franchise QB. It will cost a lot for the Redskins to trade up to take St. Louis’s 2nd overall pick, but Mike Shanahan has no other choice. RG3 would be an amazing fit for the Shanahan offense; he has all the tools including the speed to run the QB boots that make this offense so dangerous.

Mark Solway: Robert Griffin III – The Redskins have to be willing to pay a lot, just not something insane. If the deal is anything similar to what the Giants paid to move up and get Eli Manning, as it should be, then I make that trade with the Rams as soon as I can. It can change the face of free agency for Washington.

Kevin Edwolt: The Redskins have to get a QB. I’m all up for trading up, but the Redskins MUST find a way to get this deal done without mortgaging the future. Including a player or switching picks in future drafts/rounds mitigates that. I’d be shocked if Redskins trade up and give away their top two picks this year and next year. For continued success, a team needs high picks year in and year out. If STL refuses to budge on wanting 4-5 picks, for example, then I absolutely would be trying to bring in Manning, let him run his offense, and trade down in the draft to acquire more picks affording us the luxury to bring in more young OL/CB/WR talent.

Ricky Allen: Hate to sound like the rest, but my first pick is RG3, with Kirk Cousins (Yes I’m still on that wagon) as an alternate. Both men are at the top of their game and could do wonders in a Redskins uniform.

Rich Tandler: Not much explanation needed here: Robert Griffin III.

      3. Slot 1 new starter on offense and defense via free agency, draft, trade, or current roster:

Emmanuel Benton:

(Offense) Outside of RG3, I believe the Redskins will successfully add Vincent Jackson. I’m a bit wary of possibly making this acquisition, however, Shanahan loves VJax and wants to add a legit #1 WR to this offense.

(Defense) Jarvis Jenkins will likely be that guy. The coaches love everything about him. I had an opportunity to talk with Jim Hasslet about Jarvis back in January, and his face literally lit up. Hass said, “He may be our best defensive lineman.”

R.D Smith:

(Offense) I think the Redskins have to do whatever it takes to get Free Agent WR, Vincent Jackson. Jackson possesses the size, strength, and speed that makes him the play-maker they covet. Even though there are some concerns regarding Jackson’s DUI history, I have to believe that at 29 years old he has outgrown some of that.

(Defense) On defense I have to believe that the next new starter is already on the team. Prior to blowing his knee out against Baltimore last preseason, 2011 2nd round pick Jarvis Jenkins looked primed to set this defensive line on fire. All throughout camp the word from Ashburn was that the kid was the best player on the field, period. Some guys just naturally get it – and Jarvis fits that mold perfectly. Assuming the good reports of his rehab hold up, this is a kid that could not only be a starter, but also a force. Luckily his injury was early enough last year that he should be ready to go for camp. Watch out for Jenkins, he could make our already very good front seven an absolute nightmare for offenses.

Mark Solway:

(Offense) Assuming that it’s beyond Robert Griffin III being the starting quarterback, I’d like to see Ben Grubbs added at guard. There aren’t a lot of tackles in the free agent pool to fix the Redskins’ right side, and they aren’t likely to have a draft pick high enough to draft a guaranteed replacement (if they make the RGIII deal), so I would upgrade the interior. I would still bring Kory Lichtensteiger back to compete with Chris Chester at the other guard spot, and having the three of them along with Will Montgomery, drastically improves the entire depth chart of the offensive line.

(Defense) On defense, my new starter comes from the existing roster in defensive end, Jarvis Jenkins. Every rehab report has been glowing, and he was lighting it up last year before getting hurt. So I expect big things out of the youngster from Clemson in his second season.

Kevin Edwolt:

(Offense) I think the Redskins land Vincent Jackson.

(Defense) Redskins definitely need to bring in another CB and ILB. Wild guess, Chase Blackburn from the Giants to backup Fletcher and Riley.

Ricky Allen:

(Offense) Randy Moss on a shoestring deal (Yes I said it, come and get me America)

(Defense) Linebacker, Takeo Spikes from SD. He had over 100 tackles and would be a great addition coming in at 6’2”.

Rich Tandler:

(Offense) Besides RG3, I think they will be able to get Vincent Jackson on board (if they have the rights to RG3 in hand by the time free agency starts).

(Defense) I’ll go with free agent safety Dwight Lowery of Jaguars, signed to take LaRon Landry’s spot.

Make sure you give a follow to all the contributors on the round table over on twitter and let them know what you think.

R.D: @SonofWashington
Kevin: @HogsHaven
Mark: @TheHogsdotNet
Ricky: @UltimateRedskin
Rich: @Rich_Tandler
Emmanuel Benton: @Roccoskins


With Fletcher Redskins Need to Learn From Past Mistakes

Over the last decade the Washington Redskins have become known for many things — most of them not good.

They have been called: a laughing-stock, a shell of the team that once boasted three Lombardi Trophies, and bluntly -. losers. Most notably though, they have become known as the place where past their prime players go to collect their final, big pay-day.

Outside of 2005 and 2007 this team has been the embodiment of all of those things. However, there is a bad habit this team can’t shake which is worse than all of the things mentioned above.

During every off-season under Vinny Cerrato, the Redskins would open their wallet to big name free-agents in an attempt to build a real life fantasy football team, while letting home-grown talent walk away without batting an eye.

For every Adam Archuletta, Randel El, and Albert Haynesworth, there were equally painful Ryan Clarks, Antonio Pierces and Stephen Davis’s.

Sadly, Snyder’s obsession with bringing in big money guys has prevented the Redskins from re-signing their own guys for years.

This week Bruce Allen faces the biggest potential blow – and it is not his fault.

You have to go back a bit to fully understand what I’m talking about – so let’s jump back to 2009.

The Washington Redskins had just come off a very disappointing season that began with a brilliant 6-2 start, only to see the wheels come off as they finished 2-6 (8-8 overall).

During that 2008 season, there was one constant, the defense, led by Captain London Fletcher, which bailed out the offense week after week.

When the 2009 season started, it had become clear the Redskins wanted to strengthen their already strong defense. In the weeks leading up to Free Agency, whispers around the league began to point to the Redskins targeting All-Pro defensive tackle, Albert Haynesworth.

Haynesworth had just come off a strong season which helped lead the Tennessee Titan’s to being one of the most feared defenses in football. Considered being the best player available during the 2009 free-agency class, Cerrato was smitten and prepared to do whatever it took to bring the ‘most dominant’ defensive lineman since Reggie White to D.C.

Cerrato succeeded a few hours into free agency, throwing $100,000,000 at the lineman, which completed Haynesworth’s deal. Leading many around the league to question if the Redskins had tampered with then free-agent.

The Redskins also re-signed “superstar” defensive back Deangelo Hall to an impressive 6 year $55,000,000 deal with $23,000,000 guaranteed. The two players were supposed to take the defense from being good to being feared. While also “getting the team over the hump” and helping Jim Zorn bring a Lombardi back to D.C.

They failed, miserably… but you already knew that. Here is something you may not have known.

During that same off-season the team’s Defensive Captain, and unquestioned leader, London Fletcher, quietly approached Vinny Cerrato for a contract extension.

Fletcher, who had led the team in tackles since joining the Gibbs 2.0 Redskins in 2007, was looking for a deal that would see him through the end of his career. He had won a Super Bowl in St. Louis and wanted to bring one to D.C.

What he got was a blow off.

Constrained by 10 years of a miss-managed salary cap, Cerrato knew that Fletcher was under contract through 2011 and wanted to make a splash. Making an extension for London a non-priority. Just like the long list of talent that Cerrato let leave to find success with other clubs, he was more worried about getting big names than keeping one of his own.

Jump forward three years, a new Head Coach, General Manager, Defensive Coordinator, and Defensive Scheme, Albert Haynesworth has been cut, DeAngelo Hall appears to be regressing, while London Fletcher is coming of his third Pro Bowl and looks as good as he ever has. Washington is coming off back-to-back 10+ loss seasons, and are less than one week away from losing the heart and soul of not just the defense, but the team.

The fact that London could even see free agency is absolutely criminal, but you cannot really blame Bruce Allen or Mike Shanahan.

When the team switched from a 4-3 base defense to a 3-4, no one could have known how the undersized Fletcher would transition. After back-to-back seasons of 136 and 166 tackles, Fletcher has earned the right to make his money.

For the Redskins, it’s time to pay the piper.

It is believed that London is seeking a 3 year deal in the area of $25,000,00 – a deal that is worth every penny.

I know Fletcher is in the twilight of his career, but if this were Ray Lewis would anyone bat an eye?

Fletcher’s career statistics are nearly identical to Lewis’. Had he been more outspoken, you have to believe that he would have far more than three Pro Bowls, in fact I would call him just as easy of a lock for the Hall of Fame as Ray Lewis.

In today’s NFL, characteristics like passion, integrity, leadership, teamwork and consistency often get overlooked for entertainment. Selling jerseys and popularity is what brings in the money (see Tim Tebow).

The point is; the characteristics that make London boring to the outside observer are exactly what this team needs. To lose his leadership and the accountability he holds to this team would be devastating. You can not replace a guy like London Fletcher who is one of a kind.

George Santaya once said ”Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” 

If Bruce Allen never does anything else for this team, learning from the mistakes of his predecessor would be enough to land him in the Ring of Fame.

Taking a Look at the Redskins Roster Heading Into Free Agency

With rumors heating up surrounding the NFL draft & the Redskins plan to trade up, there’s been a lot of grumbling in Redskins Nation about giving up too many picks for RG3. I hear “We have way too many holes to fill” or “This could set our franchise back a few years if it doesn’t work”.

It’s imperative to note that Free Agency is BEFORE the draft this year, so I’d like to take a look at the state of the franchise to see if a big move for RG3 will hinder the team as some fear.

The Bright Spots: The last couple of drafts & Free Agent moves have the Redskins seemingly on the upswing talent wise. Offensively last year’s rookies Roy Helu & Evan Royster seemed have put a lock on the RB position. Fred Davis had a career year before the suspension & the team looks to have him back. Rookie Leonard Hankerson showed promise in the two games he started before getting injured, he showed #1 receiver potential. The offensive line really grew as a unit even with being decimated with injuries, undrafted Free Agent Willie Smith proved to be a pleasant surprise. Defensively the D-line was a very solid unit. Adam Carriker is a priority for the team to bring back coming off of a good year. Also of note Jarvis Jenkins will be returning from an ACL injury, he showed a lot of promise in training camp last year & looked like the team’s best lineman. London Fletcher was London Fletcher again, & Perry Riley turned a lot of heads with his play & looks to be a staple for many years as ILB for the Redskins. Rookie Ryan Kerrigan had a very good rookie year, forcing a lot of turnovers & making plays all over the field. Kerrigan & Orakpo should be a menace to opponents for years to come.

The Needs: It has been reported that the Redskins are set to be $47.5 million under the cap, that’s more than enough to address a lot of needs in free agency before the draft. The way I see it the biggest needs for the Skins are depth at Safety & a possible starter if Laron Landry isn’t brought back, an interior lineman, a play-making WR & a RT.

Other needs include a nickel CB that can be groomed as a starter & ILB to be groomed under London Fletcher. However, no need is greater than QB.

Who’s Available/Targets: At QB the name being linked the most to the Redskins is Peyton Manning. However Peyton is still under contract with the Colts, at least until March 8th & who’s to say Peyton would want to play for the Redskins? Even if by some chance the Redskins land Peyton, he’s at best a 2-3 year solution. Kyle Orton is a possibility to be a stabilizing veteran to pair with a rookie QB.

Looking at WRs, Vincent Jackson may be at the top of the Redskins priority list. Shanahan was interested in him a couple of years ago & he would instantly add a dynamic that’s missing on the Redskins offense. Marques Colston could be a backup plan if the Saints don’t re-sign him. Dwayne Bowe seems to be a longshot as the Chiefs will likely Franchise Tag him. Eddie Royal is someone I think they’ll like to bring in as Shanahan is very familiar with him, he worked great in Shanny’s offense in Denver.

Interior Linemen on the wish list would include Carl Nicks & Ben Grubbs. The Saints may not have cap room to offer Nicks the deal he’s looking for, him & Grubbs are above average offensive lineman that fit what the Redskins like their OL to do.

If the Redskins decide they need a starting cornerback, they’ll likely look at Brandon Carr or Cortland Finnegan. However, new defensive backs coach Raheem Morris said he needed a guy to play against the slot. So some of the 2nd & 3rd tier guys will be looked at as well.

Safety position, as noted there is a big cloud over the front office’s head with a decision on Laron Landry looming. If he’s not brought back the team could look at Michael Griffin to fill that void. But another concern of course is the depth at the safety position. For the last few years the Redskins have carried 3 SS’s & 1 FS & injuries always seem to haunt the team at this position. This has to be addressed this offseason.

The Conclusion: Looking over this, if you add a couple of pieces noted in the Available Target section as well the talent that’s on the team, there’s potential for a QB like RG3 to step into a great situation. The Redskins aren’t “1 player away” but RG3 with added help will certainly make this team much better than last year. Mike Shanahan can’t afford to wait another year for his QB, he may not make it through another year if not. The Redskins are one of the few teams in my opinion that can survive a “sell the farm” type of trade for a player of this special talent & at a position that’s plagued this franchise for years, you have to make this move.