Though the Shanahans and Allens tend to be rather secretive about their draft plans, they have never been particularly secretive about their needs. To make Jim Haslett’s defense work, they need a complementary pass rusher. To make Kyle Shanahan’s offense work, he needs a quarterback.
They need these things now and these needs are the focal point of the team’s draft activity. You can trust my knowledge on this, the Redskins will address these areas on draft day. The weakness and necessity in both areas is backed by film review of the Redskins from the 2011 season. If they can only fill two needs, they should fill these two needs.
So let us assume its the day after the draft, and the Redskins have done what they promised: added Aldon Smith/Robert Quinn/Justin Houston/Von Miller on defense and Jake Locker/Christian Ponder/Blaine Gabbert/Andy Dalton/Cam Newton/Colin Kaepernick on offense. In addition, the Redskins also added a number of other players they really like through the draft. As we all know, adding players you like is not the same as filling your holes. The Redskins liked Rex Grossman as a backup quarterback, but they don’t exactly have no need at QB anymore because of Grossman’s presence on the roster.
Two successful picks at the top of the 2011 draft will give the Redskins a fighting chance to compete in 2011. Not a great opportunity to hang in with the heavyweights of the NFC East, but a fighting chance. To go for a playoff spot first — but primarily to position the team to compete in future seasons — the Redskins must go outside the draft to add key pieces.
The Redskins would seemingly have the LB corps set after the draft with just one addition, as it’s already a deep position, and the quarterback conundrum will likely be in focus one way or another. It will probably be a year before the Redskins truly know if they’ve solved that quarterback problem, but this will be the case no matter what route the team takes.
So now what? What moves would the Redskins need to make after the lockout is lifted to go from the level of a bad team that just (hypothetically) had a successful draft to a team with the ability to compete in a strong division? Even with such a draft, the Redskins would still need to add a pair of guards, a competent running back (the draft is a likely source for this), at least one receiver, plus a second who can be a contingency plan for the always-injured Malcolm Kelly, probably two defensive lineman which includes a more prototypcial nose type, and a competent nickel corner or at least a replacement for two unrestricted free agents: Carlos Rogers and Phillip Buchanon. Resignings at this position are more likely than not.
Finding a right guard who can play in 2011 may require the Redskins to swing some sort of low-cost trade, as all the right guard types scheduled to hit the market this year have been offered tenders by their current teams: Logan Mankins, Harvey Dahl, Davin Joseph, Marshal Yanda, and Chris Chester have all been tendered by their teams. At left guard, that leaves pretty much Robert Gallery as the only player with zone blocking experience who is likely to leave his current team in 2011. The free-spending Redskins could actually get priced out of the market for Gallery’s services at the figures he is looking for, so an improvement on Kory Lichtensteiger in 2011 may not be in the cards. The trade market on right guards tends to be a buyer’s market, for example, the Lions got guard Rob Sims from the Seahawks for a late round pick last year. Sims started 16 games for the Lions in 2010.
Wide receiver causes a similar type dilemma where there is one big name player likely to be available, in this case it’s New York’s Braylon Edwards. The difference in the receiver market is that there is a couple of other receivers avaiable to drive down the cost of Edwards. One of those players, of course, is Santana Moss. The other is Mike Sims-Walker of Jacksonville. I think it would be wise for the Redskins to pursue Edwards if they don’t add receiver help in the draft. Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: Braylon Edwards is a very grating kind of player. He’s loud, and he always seems like he has more ability than production. But if Sims-Walker and Moss reside somewhere below the average NFL go-to receiver, Edwards is considerably more valuable thanks to his ability to stretch a defense. He’ll drop the ball for sure, but he’s a good fit in this offense, and represents a big upgrade over what Moss has been able to give the Redskins and what Sims-Walker may bring. Beyond that, there’s interesting depth in the FA class including Legadu Naanee, Sam Hurd, Mark Clayton, and Brian Finneran, a group of which the Redskins should pursue no more than one. Then there’s the group of players who don’t fit the Redskins at all but will be available: Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, and Plaxico Burress. All three will play somewhere next year, and the Shanahans will, rightfully, avoid this group altogether.
That still leaves one major problem for the Redskins: finding players who can play on the defensive line next season. The best free agent defensive lineman is Cullen Jenkins of the Packers. The only other available 5-technique with starting experience will be Shaun Ellis of the Jets. Obviously, Jenkins is the guy the Redskins would want: he’s the most talented and is a difference maker on the inside. As far as nose tackle goes, the Redskins would have a few options, none of them young or particularly helpful. They can kick the tires on Aubrayo Franklin of the 49ers, or look at recently released nose tackles Shaun Rogers (who has already visited with the Redskins), or Kris Jenkins. Or they can make Albert Haynesworth play the position. It’s telling that the Redskins have engaged in trying to deal with these options, because it gives insight into their draft strategy: we’ve covered that above. This is just more evidence that the Redskins are planning to go that round.
I would hope to get either Jenkins or Ellis in the fold in Washington, but would leverage the late rounds of the draft for some competition with Anthony Bryant rather than signing either Rogers or Jenkins and hoping for the best.
Making one signing on the DL, and a signing or two at receiver plus a trade for an offensive lineman would qualify as a quiet offseason for the Washington Redskins, but if the draft haul is everything the Redskins would dream it to be, a quiet offseason would be ideal. Adding the OJ Atogwe move, the Redskins would be better at all three levels of the defense over 2010, which has to be the goal after a disappointing first season in the 3-4. The Redskins probably won’t be improved on offense no matter what they do because the key guys just aren’t there. The Redskins need to develop a quarterback, and they need to give Keiland Williams and Fred Davis the ball more. It would be great if a developmental prospect could come in and be more efficient than Donovan McNabb from day one but thats just not at all realistic. The Redskins passing game is likely taking a step back, even as the depth of the receiving corps behind Anthony Armstrong improves.
If the draft picks all turn out well, the rest of this offseason is more about window dressing for the 2011 season than rebuilding the Washington Redskins overnight. Players like Cullen Jenkins, Braylon Edwards, and Robert Gallery would make the Redskins a better team. But so would wisely-used cap space and contract dollars. The focus should be the long runs, and while the long-term forecast for the franchise can improve with key signings, they have to fall in the realm of smart and culture changing. That’s something that the Redskins are just starting to embrace: quality over quantity on the veteran free agent market.