I know, it's a little early to be talking about the NFL draft. But with
so many questions facing the Washington Redskins I can't help but start breaking it down early.
Who are the Washington Redskins? What is their identity? Can you answer that? I, for one, cannot. This is a franchise that has been struggling for an identity for many years. This would suggest that the team is rebuilding, however, Washington until recently has not taken any steps that would indicate a team in the process of recreating its identity. On the contrary, until recently the team has made big name free agent signings, traded draft pick, and took the field as if they were a team in contention. The club wanted to be a contender so badly, that they proceeded as if they were a playoff favorite that only needed a few more pieces to put them over the top. With recent changes to coaching and management the atmosphere around the Washington Redskins has been of a different nature. They are now showing themselves to be a team in need of rebuilding, a team that will reinvent itself, and, when again ready to chase contention, it will be with a gameplan and identity all its own.
The term rebuilding mode, or transition period generally brings to mind thoughts of rookie quarterbacks, 2-win seasons, poor ticket sales, and uncompetitive play. This isn’t necessarily the case, but many times the shedding of veterans, and stockpiling of draft picks and young players leads a team to a few very poor seasons before paying dividends. With Washington appearing to head in the direction of rebuilding it is possible that ‘Skins fans are in for a couple of long seasons.
I don’t think that this is a necessity for this club. I think they can be competitive, can win games, and perhaps vie for a division title all while undertaking a rebuilding project.
Step one, resigning key players. Currently the Washington Redskins have only 35-40 players under contract for the 2012 season. Many of the current starters are slotted to hit the free agent market after the 2011 season.
2012 Notable Free Agents:
The above list includes a large portion of the team’s actual talent. Resigning Will Montgomery, LaRon Landry, Kory Lichtensteiger, Fred Davis, and Adam Carriker are absolute necessities. The team MUST retain these players. London Fletcher should be on the list of “must resign,” but he is an aging player, that is probably reaching the end of his playing career. I would love to see him resigned, but I certainly would hope that this team will begin planning for an heir to that position.
The Middle Linebacker is arguably the most important position on defense. He is the team leader, the quarterback of the defense. This is a need that must be addressed. I think the team would be better off not signing Rocky McIntosh. Remember how long they waiting in 2011 to resign him. He hasn’t taken well to being an interior linebacker in the 3-4 scheme. Another option may be needed. Several players that I’m personally very high on are slated for free agency and could very well be available. Geno Hayes is a free agent and with Tampa Bay looking to revamp it’s linebacking corps he may not be retained by the Bucs. Former Terp EJ Henderson is scheduled for free agency, and he has seemed a little out of favor with Minnesota recently. Not a dynamic play-maker but he has proven to be a tackling machine. And finally a name you may not recognize, Ikaika Alama-Francis of Miami is slotted to hit the market. The Dolphins have stockpiled quite a few line backers recently, I think he may be the odd man out. In any case, the Redskins need to address interior linebackers, and there are options available that can step right in and produce. With so many question marks already, the last thing the team needs is to be searching for a find late in the draft to start at Middle Linebacker.
Fortunately, with the emergence of Ryan Kerrigan and the dominance shown by Brian Orakpo, the Redskins have 2 great Outside Linebackers and will not be needing to address this position much. They have some depth with Markus White, Perry Riley, Rob Jackson, and Lorenzo Alexander under contract for the 2012 season.
In the defensive backfield, ONCE Landry is resigned, they will really only need to add depth as they will have DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson, and Phillip Buchanon all returning. And with OJ Atogwe and Reed Doughty both under contract this formidable group is set for the next few seasons. Again, this hinges on Landy being resigned. I’m confident that he will be back in burgundy and gold.
If the team resigns Adam Carriker, as I would suggest, the team will have a defensive line pretty much set. Stephen Bowen, and Barry Cofield are all under contract and Jarvis Jenkins returning from injury will have the D-Line in good shape.
Defensively the Redskins appear in good shape. Offense is another story. The offensive line needs depth in a bad way. This season seems to be slipping away, and a lot of it is due to injury along the O-Line. If the team resigns Kory Lichtensteiger and Will Montgomery they will have their starters in line. But there is so little depth there with Sean Locklear and Erik Cook being the only 2 reliable back-ups signed for next season. I would look for the middle to late rounds of next years draft to be spent looking for O-Linemen and for some depth where I spoke earlier of Middle Linebacker.
The Wide Receiver corps is okay. Not spectacular, but okay. There is an absolute throng of notable free agent Wide Receivers scheduled to hit the market. I look for Washington to get involved in the bidding. The only real qualifier that I would have for a free agent Receiver would be youth. Don’t sign them unless they will be here and productive a while. The biggest concern the Redskins have with signing pass catchers is at the Tight End position. Fred Davis has been exceptional this season. He is scheduled for free agency. He must be retained, but with Chris Cooley already signed it might make for negotiations. Cooley is the de facto starter, when healthy. But, with injuries in recent season, how reliable of an option is he? He’s another question mark. Fred Davis must be retained.
Running Backs face a lot of scrutiny in this league. Many times they are the scapegoats when a team struggles to run the ball; even when, many times, it’s poor line play that results in no yardage on the ground. This is an area where a little depth could go a long way. With Ryan Torain and Roy Helu both under contract for next season I would look for the team to add another rusher via free agency to be a complement to the backs already in the system.
Well folks, that about does it. Broke down about every position and…What’s that you say? I’m forgetting something?… Oh…Yeah…Quarterback. This one is simple, John Beck is the only quarterback under contract for next year. That means that you have to draft one. It’s an absolute must, 1st round, as early as you can get. Probably not getting Luck(y). But there are numerous Quarterbacking options available in the draft. Later I’ll be breaking down the quarterback draft class of 2012. But for now, suffice to say, Washington NEEDS to draft a quarterback. They need a face to the franchise on offense. They need a future. Even if Beck plays well, he will not be leading this team to a Super Bowl. Until the Quarterback position is filled long-term, Washington will struggle. They will still be without an identity. With so many quality options in the upcoming draft at the quarterback position, not taking advantage of the opportunity would be nearly unforgivable.