Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Have the Redskins really changed?

Do you know a single Redskins fan who had a problem with the team's offseason strategy? OK, so maybe relying on Rex Grossman and John Beck wasn't the best of ideas, but not selecting a quarterback is also what enabled the Redskins to end up with several quality picks while selecting 12 players in last year's draft. The other moves?

- Dealt Albert Haynesworth to the Patriots for a fifth-round pick in 2013.
- Traded Donovan McNabb to the Vikings for a sixth-round pick in 2012 and a conditional pick in 2013.
- Signed Oshiomogho Atogwe to a five-year, $26 million deal ($9 million guaranteed).
- Signed Stephen Bowen for five years, $27.5 million ($12.5 million guaranteed).
- Re-signed Jammal Brown for five years, $27.5 million ($8.25 million guaranteed).
- Acquired Tim Hightower from the Cardinals in exchange for Vonnie Holliday and a late-round draft pick.
- Agreed to terms with Chris Chester on a five-year, $20 million contract ($6.5 million guaranteed).
- Signed Barry Cofield for six years, $36 million ($12.5 million guaranteed).
- Traded Jeremy Jarmon to the Broncos for Jabar Gaffney.
- Brought back Santana Moss with a three-year, $15 million deal ($6 million guaranteed).
- Signed Josh Wilson to a three-year, $13.5 million deal ($6 million guaranteed).
- Signed Sav Rocca.

I believe that's most of the Redskins' non-draft moves last year. Nothing too horrible, right? Getting anything of value for Haynesworth and McNabb was surprising given their awful tenures in Washington. The Atogwe signing doesn't look that great, and he may end up as a cap casualty (in part because of the presence of DeJon Gomes). It also doesn't help that he hasn't been able to stay healthy. Moss took a step back last season and finished with the lowest receiving yards in a season (584) since 2002-2003 when he had just 433. He also missed four games with a broken hand. Brown wasn't that special either and could be replaced if the Redskins draft a tackle or sign one via free agency.

But the Bowen, Cofield, Wilson, and Rocca signings were all upgrades, and Chester played competently at times in the Redskins' stretch-running attack. They also picked up Hightower and Gaffney for basically nothing since Holliday and Jarmon weren't going to make the final roster anyway.

So are you buying the argument that the Redskins aren't the "same old" team? ESPN's Dan Graziano argues that point and also that signing Peyton Manning wouldn't require a shift in this new, different philosophy:
In the meantime, there is free agency, and although the Redskins didn't make a big splash last summer, they did very well in free agency. Shanahan targeted specific players in the 27- to 29-year-old age group -- guys he believed were already established but still young and hungry enough to grow and develop with the team. He plans to use the same formula this year to address wide receiver, offensive line and the secondary. He's not after the biggest name out there. He's after the specific types of players he believes his team needs in order to build a consistent, year-to-year winner.

Which brings us back to Manning, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Shanahan's not going to give Manning a big, five-year, huge-money deal. I don't think anyone is, given the health concerns, but if the market gets that crazy, I don't expect the Redskins to play in it. It just wouldn't be smart. Bringing Manning in on a one-year or two-year deal with incentives to allow him to prove he's healthy is smart, because if Manning is healthy, he's worth as much as any quarterback in the league.
I'm on record as being against a potential Manning deal, but I also agree with Graziano that bringing in Manning could work, depending on the contract, its length, and whatever other moves the Redskins make in free agency and in the draft. If the Redskins do sign Manning, they also must draft a young quarterback at some point, along with not going overboard by simply building the team around Manning. After all, his career could be over in the near future, if it's not already over (which hopefully is not the case).

At the moment, I'm on board with the direction of this team. The Redskins weren't much fun to watch last season, but they also are building a young, talented nucleus -- something they haven't done for a long time. I loved just about everything from the 2011 offseason, but I won't be completely convinced in the direction of this team until seeing what they do in the next few months. There are several important choices to make, primarily what exactly to do at quarterback, but that's also why Shanahan is making big money.