Get Off the Bandwagon Then
By: Mark Solway 
Posted: 2005-03-10
Category: Washington Redskins News
Why is it that a team that has been so criticized for being too aggressive in free agency can be so equally criticized when they are not agressive? And how is it that with a month and a half before the draft is even held, that the Redskins can have had "one of the worst offseasons in recent franchise history" as reported by a "respected" news source?

Give me a break. It's March. Does anyone ever stop to think more than one day at a time?

It's easy to get caught up in the emotion of losing some decent players, but welcome to the world of free agency. While everyone is taking shots at the two players that were not re-signed, they flippantly disregard the fact that the Redskins have re-signed so many other players. Oh sure they are lower profile players, but on a team that has seen wholesale offseason changes come and go without any success, one would think some continuity would be welcomed. Lemar Marshall, Joe Salave'a, Ethan Albright, Mike Sellers, Chris Clemons, Ron Warner, Jeff Chandler, John Simon and Cedric Killings have all been re-signed. The Redskins also kept Tim Hasselbeck, Rock Cartwright, Demetric Evans and Andre Lott by tendering them offers; though they have not yet agreed to new contracts. Joe Gibbs also hinted that Ray Brown was returning in Wednesday's press conference, but it is not yet official.

Two players were not retained -- Fred Smoot and Antonio Pierce.

The loss of Smoot hurts the fans, but not the team so much. Great guy, good player. He got paid more than the Redskins were willing to pay. You can't have it both ways. If you're going to start curbing spending habits, that requires budgeting. And as with any budget, sometimes you are forced to make tough decisions. The Redskins didn't think it was right to pay Smoot more than they pay Shawn Springs. Fred got some nice up front money, but he may have got paid more than his skill-level dictates. Minnesota got a good cornerback, but they paid for a great cornerback.

The loss of Pierce also seems to sting the fans, but again it shouldn't hurt the team so much. He played great last year, earned a big pay cheque, and while it hurts that he went to a division rival, how can you pay him more than Marcus Washington? The Redskins will miss him only so much in that they'll have to rely on the guy originally intended for the job, being healthy enough to do so. The Redskins are watching Mike Barrow's rehabilitation closely (which is said to be on or ahead of schedule), but the Redskins also have until June 1st to decide if he will indeed be healthy enough to step in at MIKE. Lemar Marshall played well in relief of Lavar Arrington last year, and his recent re-signing mandates that he gets a chance to move to the middle and compete for a job. If Barrow and Marshall can share duties on running and passing downs respectively, they can actually make a nice combination. It's easy to discount and forget Barrow at 35 years old and having sat out the entire season, but he's a heady player that can definitely contribute if his knee allows it. Regardless, with a draft and 5 months of offseason left, there will be ample opportunity for the Redskins to pursue options outside their existing roster if Gregg Williams thinks that his defense will benefit.

The biggest loss this offseason is undoubtedly Laveranues Coles. While it hurts the fans less and less as Coles 'voices' his opinions now that he's in New York, it definitely hurts the team. But not on the field. Absorbing the entire original $13 Million signing bonus leaves Washington holding the bill on this one, a $9 million plus price tag in dead cap money is undoubtedly a stiff penalty for the Redskins to pay.

What about the additions that go along with the subtractions?

They received Santana Moss in exchange for Coles, a guy who has considerably more ability to spread the field for the offense as witnessed by his yards per catch numbers (compared to Coles). They also inked David Patten to a very reasonable contract. Coles may be more talented individually than either of these two, but it's arguable whether or not he is more valuable to Joe Gibbs' ball control offense.

The offseason action around the league on wide receivers has created a subsequent interest for Rod Gardner. Despite Gardner's recent struggles, teams are suddenly willing to part with the Redskins asking price of a mid-round pick. Three teams are said to be interested. What once seemed like a case of settling for just about anything suddenly looks like the Redskins might even be able to eke out a first day pick at the draft. With a glut of receivers already vying for a secondary role, Gardner doesn't fit in with the teams' plans and is expendable. A decent draft pick that could land a potential starter would be a nice offseason pick-up.

Washington also added a young buck center in Casey Rabach to solidify a line that will see arguably it's best component return from injury in Jon Jansen. Jansen and Rabach's addition subsequently puts offensive line coach Joe Bugel in the enviable position of having a little depth at his disposal. The line play was vastly improved by year's end and their continued improvement will go a long way in helping the Redskins' offensive woes. The Redskins also cemented their left tackle for years to come and while he received a lot of money, it was a huge difference from the 20 million that he was going to earn over the next two years without the extension. With so much money coming to him, Chris Samuels was the first player in recent memory to be mired in contract talks with 3 years to go in his deal. Hopefully Samuels will find security in his new contract and maybe even find his way back to the Pro Bowl along the way. Regardless, there are marked improvements coming for the offensive line.

And its still only March. The Redskins possess the 9th overall pick in the draft in April, which will give them the number one or two players at virtually any position of need. If the Redskins think they need a receiver on draft day, then they can pick up Mike Williams, Braylon Edwards or Troy Williamson. If they want to shore up an already steady defense, then they might be able to grab an Antrelle Rolle, Matt Roth, or Derrick Johnson. They may just take Heath Miller and give Gibbs a fantastic tight end to help advance the offense. Irrespective of whom they choose, the opportunity will be there to land a bona fide starter. Trading down for additional picks may prove difficult in a draft filled with talent but little superstar talent, although it would obviously be a good option for a team without a second round pick (Cooley draft day deal 2004).

Continuity and responsible spending are refreshing to some Redskin faithful. Experts may prefer to cast Joe Gibbs 'the president' under the bus for the 'worst offseason in recent memory', but they might do well to realize that it's very hard to judge the quality of an offseason before it is over, and before a game has been played to judge improvement on.

Make sure you get your Chicken Little suits dry cleaned before you all hop off the bandwagon.

-- BossHog
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