Where Do We Go From Here?
By: Fran Farren 
Posted: 2004-02-13
Category: Washington Redskins News
The Pro Bowl has passed. You do know what that means, donít you?

It might mean that Andy Reid, once again, had another shot at coaching an all-star game this year because in three consecutive years the Eagles just canít seem to get to the Super Bowl! It might mean that Redskins fans had something to cheer for at the end of the year, by rooting for WR Laveranues Coles, LB Lavar Arrington, and CB Champ Bailey.

But it's neither of those things... what it means, simply, is that another NFL football season is over.

Are Redskins fans doomed to watch figure skating, PBA bowling, NBA basketball and/or Nascar to fill my days? Is there no hope for us, fans chomping at the bit for the 2004 Gibbs Era II to begin? What shall we do......what SHALL we do?

Looking ahead, to fill this void, fans can just speculate at what the Redskins might do in the upcoming weeks. Who will they draft? Will it be S Sean Taylor, DT Tommie Harris, TE Kellen Winslow, Jr., DE Will Smith, or RB Kevin Jones? But wait! We canít think about that now! Thatís not until April for crying out loud! What are fans supposed to do from now until then?

What fans can do is to speculate which free agents the Redskins will seek out beginning in March Ď04. Last year, the Redskins did something unusual in that, in lieu of keeping a lot of their draft picks, they decided to give them up by signing a bunch of young free agent players (okay, mostly from the Jets). That experiment (for lack of a better word) was a tremendous success. Instead of taking risky picks in the draft, the Redskins picked up S Matt Bowen, RB Trung Canidate, WR Laveranues Coles, special teams ace Chad Morton, and OL Randy Thomas....among other free agents. Most of these players were major contributors in an otherwise mediocre 2003 season.

In 2004, look for the Redskins to do more of the same. But who will they go for this year? Well, it seemsthat the teamís major needs are at: Defensive End, Defensive Tackle, Running Back, Tight End, and Punter. Who should they take a serious look at in March?

Defensive End

The odds on favorite here is UFA Jevon Kearse from the Titans. The Redskins are in dire need of an effective pass-rusher and Kearse could easily fill that void. Since coming into the league in 1999 from Florida, Kearse has 47 Ĺ sacks, with 9 Ĺ of those coming in 2003. Kearse is clearly a favorite choice over other choices: UFA Grant Wistrom (Rams), RFA Adewale Ogunleye (Dolphins), and UFA Darren Howard (Saints). Hopefully, he will be the Redskinsí choice as well.

Defensive Tackle

The Dan Snyder of old would probably jump on UFA Warren Sapp faster than flies on . . . . well, you know. Hopefully, Mr. Snyder will avoid that temptation in 2004. Yes, itís very tempting to bring Sapp into the fold but, simply put, Sappís best days are behind him and, although he is still capable of making plays, he is not the direction the 2004 Redskins team should be going. Similarly, Ted Washington (Patriots), though large enough to take up 3 spaces on the line, is getting a little too "long in the tooth" to be seriously considered. Hopefully, the Redskins will take a long, serious look at UFA Brian Young (Rams). Young joined the NFL in 2000 from Texas El-Paso had he has been a consistent player thus far. He is averaging just over 22 tackles and 2.6 sacks per year, with 24 tackles and 2 sacks coming in 2003. He certainly is a solid young player with potential to grow with the Redskins.

Running Back

Donít be surprised if the Redskins donít be using their 5th pick in Aprilís draft on a running back. Instead, they will likely look to free agency to fill that need. Many people, for example, have been suggesting that UFA Duce Staley (Eagles) may be a good fit in D.C.. That may be true...but a better fit would be RFA Kevan Barlow (49ers). Barlow is a young player, coming into the league in 2001 from Pittsburgh, and has huge potential. In 2003, Barlow rushed for 1,024 yards (5.1 yards/carry) with 6 touchdowns. Barlow is also a good receiving threat out of the backfield, catching 35 passes in 2003 for 307 yards (8.8 yards/catch) and 1 touchdown. If the Redskins do make Barlow an offer even though heís a restricted free agent, the 49ers would be really stupid not to match it (if they can). If they do match it, donít be surprised when the Redskins should take their #2 priority: Duce Staley.

Tight End

Okay, itís been said by a lot of people that in lieu of picking S Sean Taylor in Aprilís draft, the Redskins will probably be picking TE Kellen Winslow, Jr.. If that is the way theyíre going to go, that will certainly make finding a tight end in free agency less likely. On February 5, 2004, however, the Skins just re-signed TE Leonard Stephens who is known for his blocking skills. If Byron Chamberlain can find his way to the work-out room more than to the refrigerator this off-season, he may also be productive in 2004. If that is the case, perhaps signing Winslow wonít be so crucial?

If free agency is the way to go, then the Redskins need look no further than UFA Jim Kleinsasser (Vikings). In 2003, Kleinsasser amassed 46 catches for 401 yards (8.7 yards/catch) and 4 touchdowns. Kleinhasser is not only a good receiver, but his blocking skills are also solid which should make him quite desirable for Gibbs.. If he is not available, a good 2nd choice would be UFA Erron Kinney (Titans). Whether the Skins will look to free agency to find a tight end, however, will depend on whether they want to fill this void via free agency or via the draft.

Punter

Finally....punter. Letís see a show of hands out there.....who wants Bryan Barker back next year? Well, Iím not seeing many hands raised....so where will the Skins turn? Signed by the Redskins on 1/29/04, will David Leaverton be the answer? Who knows.....but it is certainly clear that the Redskins should bring in (at least) one more punter to make it a 3-way competition. Looking at whatís available out there in free agency, the Redskins should certainly give UFA Tom Rouen (Seahawks) a serious look. In 2003, Rouenís punts averaged 41.2 yards with a net-average of 37.1 yards. (That tells you that opponents arenít returning his punts very far.) Rouen is also quite talented in pinning opponents inside the 20. Although anyone would be an upgrade at punter, donít be too surprised if the Redskins go for the veteran punter (Rouen) before placing much confidence on the less experienced punter (Leaverton).

Well, thatís a look at what is out there for the Redskins to pick and choose from. Hereís hoping they make the right decision in March!

-- Justice Hog


Editor's note:

Safety - While less of a need, Ifeanyi Ohalete is a RFA and other options may be pursued. Matt Bowen did a workman-like job in his first season as a starter, and should be able to fill one role. If there is an option at Safety this offseason, be it free agency, or the draft, the Redskins may also address this position along with the aforementioned needs.

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