We're three days into free agency and the Redskins have already taken drastic steps towards fielding a playoff contender for 2003. With many holes to fill, it was uncertain how the Redskins would go about filling their needs in the offseason. Apparently the answer is... quickly.
Day one of free agency saw the Redskins first complete a trade with the St. louis Rams for RB Trung Canidate. Canidate has star potential but had fallen into coach Mike Martz' bad books, so the Rams graciously gave him to the Redskins for David Loverne who would have inevitably been cut and their 4th round draft pick. On Sunday, the Redskins reportedly gave Canidate a new 4 year contract worth $6.5 million with a $1.5 million signing bonus but it was apparently untrue.
The Skins also filled their most glaring need and most recently ignored need on the first day of free agency. One of the best available free agents on the market and undoubtedly the best guard available, Randy Thomas, signed a 7 year $28 million contract. Young, talented, and a leader in the dressing room, he will be a force beside tackle Jon Jansen for years to come. Thomas received a $7 million signing bonus.
But why stop at one guard, when you need two? Dave Fiore signed a 4 year $6.5 million contract with a $1.5 million signing bonus. While not quite the level of Thomas, he provides the Redskins with a potentially menacing offensive line dare we say it... worthy of the name Hogs. Is this the birth of the Hogs III? They may not conjure up the powerful, bruising imagery of past Hogs units but they certainly have the potential to be devastating.
Day two of free agency and the Redskins are active again. Having addressed the offense it was time to look at the defense. Regan Upshaw played only five games for the Oakland Raiders due to injury last season but he is a tough defensive end who is a decent pass rusher and a very good run blocker. He will take over at right end for Bruce Smith and hopefully Smith will not retire and will return as a 3rd down pass rush specialist. Having the two ends will hopefully allow Upshaw to stay healthy and give Smith a shot at the sack record.
With Daryl Gardener looking like he's going to be a Bronco early next week, Washington needed to find a solid DT and looked to former Cowboys NT Brandon Noble. While not the dominant player that Gardener is or able to provide the same kind of penetration, Noble is a wide load, good run blocker that can occupy one or two blockers at the line of scrimmage. Noble said he told his agent, "Just get it done. Get me there. I think it's an up-and-coming team. I'm pretty tired of losing down there in Dallas. I'm ready to go." He signed a 4 year $7 million contract. His style of play will be a nice complement to Jeremiah Trotter if Trotter can regain the form he was playing to before getting injured last year.
Day three, if there was any doubt at all of their commitment to securing the guard position, the Redskins also signed Lennie Friedman and re-signed Tre Johnson on Sunday to backup at guard. Johnson brings leadership and attitude, combined with bruising run-blocking skills. Friedman gives the Redskins incredible depth having started in 14 games the season before last for the Broncos. A thumb injury early in 2002 limited his action to just two games but he is a solid blocker with good feet who could probably play center as well. One thing's for sure, the Redskins don't have offensive line listed as a question mark anymore. It has the potential to be the team's best unit.
Other deals on Sunday included kicker John Hall who signed a 5 year $7.16 million contract that included a $1.6 million signing bonus. He will bring consistency to the kicking game that has been missing for quite some time. The Redskins also signed the much maligned Rob Johnson to backup Patrick Ramsey. Contract details were not yet known but were said to be $1 million per year on either a 2 or 3 year deal. Johnson has good physical skills but has struggled in both Buffalo and Tampa Bay.
Nine free agents in three days, absolutely astounding blitz by the Redskins management team. Quick, smart moves. The only large contract of the nine being to Thomas. Obviously dedicated to fielding a playoff contender, the Redskins find themselves with the enviable position of being able to draft the best available player in April, not having any glaring needs to fill. The defensive tackles are the class of the draft and choosing one with the 13th overall choice would probably preempt the Redskins from re-signing Dan Wilkinson. There are a number of impact players that would look good with Upshaw, Noble and Renaldo Wynn and will still be available. If the Redskins don't sign Ismail, Taylor Jacobs the speedster out of, you guessed it... Florida... could become a target come draft day.