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Walters: Redskins Off-Season Plan – Phase Two

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Old 02-16-2006, 02:30 PM   #1
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Walters: Redskins Off-Season Plan – Phase Two

Redskins Off-Season Plan – Phase Two

With the Redskins roster freshly trimmed thanks to Phase One, the time to begin fixing the holes in the roster is upon us. Instead of a total overhaul, the emphasis this off-season is on adding a few players who compliment the roster in its current composition. Much like last summer, this should be a relatively quiet break for the Burgundy and Gold, save that this time that comparative silence is due in large part to the level of success the current core of Redskins has attained. But there can be an isolated splash here and there in the off-season waters and still maintain the low profile that is most likely to be the law of the land around Redskins Park this summer.

The first thing to do is to identify the areas of need. Without a first round draft selection, choosing the largest hole on the roster and filling it through free agency becomes the most prudent course of action. One need that is as obvious as Michael Irvin’s drug problem is the glaring absence of a legitimate second wide receiver on the Redskins roster. The compliment to Santana Moss coming into 2005, David Patten, went on IR late in the season due to a knee ailment and was barely visible even before his injury.

Given the obvious nature of the need, the Redskins public had clamored so loudly for Colts wideout Reggie Wayne that Indianapolis GM Bill Polian felt compelled to state publicly that not only would Wayne not hit the open market, but he more specifically would not be a Redskin next season. Wayne would have been the perfect compliment to Moss, but with him out of the picture, the Redskins are forced turn their eyes elsewhere in order to remedy the team’s biggest offensive problem from 2005.

Pittsburgh’s Antwaan Randle El was second highest on the collective wish list of many Redskins fans, and with good reason. His stellar execution on the wide receiver pass to Hines Ward in the Super Bowl has Washington followers far and wide daydreaming of a similar play repeating itself next season in Fed Ex Field with Santana Moss playing the part of Hines Ward. His versatility as a returner and potential as a third quarterback only further enhances his credentials. However his price tag and the mutual interest between he shares with the Chicago Bears combine to make him a long shot, especially given his status as the consensus top receiver still expected to hit the market.

So with Wayne off of the market and Randle El most likely about to join him, the focus of Phase Two shifts to other possibilities. In my mind, Koren Robinson is the guy that should be targeted to fill the second receiver slot. Officially an unrestricted free agent, Robinson may or may not fit into the plans of new Vikings head coach Brad Childress, especially given the abundance of wideouts on the roster held over from the days of boat trips that you’d never tell your mother about.

Though he will be just 26 in March, he registered a career high 1240 yards receiving with Seattle in 2002, and at 6’1”, would be the tallest receiver on the Redskins roster, giving Washington the big target that has been missing for some time now. His 26 yard average on kick returns would also breathe some additional life into a Redskins special teams unit that finished a respectable 11th in kickoff return average in 2005.

Robinson’s past productivity makes him the more desirable choice over other options such as Antonio Bryant or David Givens, while his youth makes him more attractive than other proven receivers like Keenan McCardell or Ike Hilliard. Perhaps, given his recent bouts with personal demons, he’ll never regain the form that temporarily propelled him into the upper echelon of NFL receivers. But he is a legitimate threat and signing him is certainly within reason, whereas Reggie Wayne or Randle El isn’t.

The potential snag with signing the former N.C. State standout is, as one might expect, of a contractual nature. Not only will his youth and past success drive up his asking price, but a peculiar clause in his current contract with Minnesota affords the Vikings the option of matching any offer Robinson receives from a potential suitor. Whether or not they would choose to do so likely depends on a number of factors, but the mere fact that the clause exists will escalate the cost associated with acquiring Robinson to higher than normal.

When not dodging batteries in Philadelphia, Childress and Head Coach Andy Reid managed a very efficient offense that rarely had more than one effective receiver. Keeping that in mind, there is certainly a chance that Robinson would be deemed expendable in the face of a solid contract from Washington or any other team.

Another area the Redskins should address via free agency is corner, where depth was at a painful minimum near the end of the 2005 season. Multiple complex packages and a premium on versatility make a veteran addition a must for a Gregg Williams defense. A rookie can and should be added as a fourth corner, but with injuries becoming more of a concern as the seasons add up for Shawn Springs, a solid veteran would be invaluable. This is why I believe R. W. McQuarters is the perfect fit.

McQuarters, who was the object of Washington’s affection during free agency in 2005, will not turn 30 until four days before Christmas this upcoming season. His experience and ability to play multiple positions in the defensive backfield make him an ideal target, especially when the fact that he hasn’t missed a game in due to injury in four of his past five seasons is factored in. Just as with last off-season, there is the possibility that financial constraints will get in the way of a possible contract. But if this season demonstrated anything, it was how valuable the third corner can be, it makes sense to bite the bullet and pay him a little more than one might like in order to get him signed.

Another aspect I would address through free agency is tight end, which became necessary when Robert Royal was shown the door in Phase One. Four-year veteran Chris Baker, currently of the New York Jets, would be a nice option to fill the role that Royal never really filled very well to begin with. Baker is the type of underachiever that the current coaching staff has such a long track record of helping to realize their full potential. With nearly 260 lbs. spread out over a 6’3” frame, Baker has the size to match up with bigger linebackers, and his above average speed would allow him to still be effective against smaller foes as well.

At only 26 years of age, Baker has also yet to reach his prime. Despite having not yet fully blossomed, new offensive coordinator Al Saunders is sure to remember Baker’s 124 yards receiving on seven catches in the Jets’ Opening Day loss at Kansas City in 2005, a game in which Baker’s touchdown reception accounted for the only New York points. For some perspective, Royal amassed only 131 yards receiving in 15 games last season. Baker would most likely never become an elite force as a receiver, but the potential he has shown for productivity would be a massive upgrade over a very weak area from 2005.

The final area to be addressed via free agency is kicker due to the fact that formerly strong-legged John Hall appeared at times to be kicking a medicine ball. Ryan Longwell, who had an uncharacteristically inconsistent season in 2005, would be a welcomed upgrade. Longwell has made 89% of his field goal attempts inside 40 yards in his career, and is at nearly 70% from 40 yards or greater. Joe Gibbs likes a proven veteran in nearly all aspects of the game, but he is especially fond of seasoned kickers. Longwell would provide that for the Redskins and would likely be all too happy to jump the sinking Packers ship to do so.

Aside from the needs that have been filled here, there are still a couple areas where the roster is thinner than the Hasselbeck family hairline. The defense needs an end that can get after the passer. Washington is also in dire need of depth along the offensive line. When the backup at both tackle and guard spots is a forty-something dinosaur who just called it a career, then the line needs depth worse than Leonard Little needs a designated driver. Scavenging the potential cap casualties for a veteran such as current New York Jet Pete Kendall, who has the versatility to play both center and guard, would be a tempting option to add depth along the line. But free agent or not, both lines can and will be addressed in the Draft Plan, which provides us with a perfect segue to Phase Three.

With the roster having been cleaned up in Phase One and then retooled with a few key additions through free agency in Phase Two, the focus in the final installment of The Plan will analyze the areas the Redskins should address in the draft. Depth and role players remain as areas of concern, and the six selections Washington owns this April should go a long way towards diminishing those needs.

Check back in next week for your weekly Redskins football fix. Hail to the Redskins!

Questions and comments can be sent to Trevor Walters at skins.fan@comcast.net

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