In the last two weeks, we took a look at the off season moves of both the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles. Now we turn to the traditional division doormat, the Washington Redskins. First of all, thank God for Dan Snyder! He is probably the only owner in the NFL that can make Jerry Jones look like a good GM. The Redskins have spent boatloads of money on expensive free agents and have pretty much zip to show for it over and over and over again. As hard as it has been to be a Cowboys fan at times of late, there is no doubt it would be even more depressing and frustrating to be a ‘Skins fan. Nobody loves dancing on their NFL graves more than me! Maybe it is because I remember when the Redskins-Cowboys games were perrenial playoff previews and meant something. I was in Texas Stadium on December 16, 1979 when Roger Staubach hit Drew Pearson for a short touchdown pass completing a comeback from a 34-20 deficit with 4 minutes remaining, winning 35-34, and thereby winning the NFC East and eliminating the Redskins from the playoffs – perhaps the greatest football experience of my life! I hate the Redskins, the cross dressing “Hogs”, the annoying “Hail To The Redskins” theme song, little Dan Snyder, FedEx Field, everything that is the Washington Redskins. If they never won another game, that would be fine with me. I don’t like the Giants or the Eagles very much either as division opponents, but the hate burns brightest for the Redskins. So, please understand it is hard for me to show any objectivity and say something nice about their off season. But, I’ll try.
No one was more disappointed than me to hear that the Redskins had pulled the trigger on a blockbuster trade before the draft designed to get them what they had long sought – a franchise quarterback. Unsuccessful in free agency and clearly losing out on Peyton Manning from the start, Snyder decided instead to try going big in the draft. Washington moved up 4 spots to the #2 pick in this year’s draft by giving the St. Louis Ram’s their first round pick in 2012 (#6 overall), a 2nd round pick in 2012 and their first round picks in 2013 and 2014. Expensive! But, designed to get the rights to Baylor QB Robert Griffin III.
We’ll go through the rest of the details but this offseason for the Redskins starts and ends with RGIII. For the record, I think he is going to be a special player. He’s got all the right skills but even more importantly he seems to have his head on straight. It’s hard not to root for him to be successful. That is until he was drafted by the ‘Skins. I now get to hate him as much as any Redskin player and yearn for his complete failure while he gets to put a dismal franchise on his shoulders and hope to turn years of mediocrity into magic overnight. If anyone can do it, he probably can but the pressure will be immense and the results aren’t likely to be immediate (at least not as fast as most Redskin fans will want). It’s another boom or bust move by General Snyder and Coach Shanahan. RGIII becomes the savior of the franchise and they look like geniuses. Another bust, and the future of the franchise has been mortgaged to the hilt.
So, let’s take a look at what else the Redskins have done to improve their team so far this offseason.
Overview: The Redskins haven’t had a winning season since 2007 and are coming off consecutive campaigns 0f 5-11 (2011), 6-10 (2010), and 4-12 (2009). Despite that, they always seem to reserve their best effort for the rival Cowboys. The Cowboys swept the Redskins last season but both games were extremely competitive. The QB by committee between Rex Grossman and John Beck clearly struggled. The defense overall was solid and most of that unit is returning. Expect them to be tough again on that side of the ball. First, let’s look at the free agent moves they’ve made before looking at the draft – mostly a mix of players coming off significant injuries or targeted for backup roles but we’ll note a few key ones.
Jabar Gaffney, WR – Released by the Redskins after one season, signed with New England; a 10th year, journeyman receiver wouldn’t seem at first blush to be a big loss but he led the Redskins in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving TDs in 2010. They feel they have ample replacements but until they perform on the field the impact of this move may come back to haunt them. In the meantime, Gaffney now gets to catch balls from Tom Brady but will have to fight for receptions among a crowded and talented Patriots receiving corps.
Pierre Garcon, WR – from Indianapolis; the Redskins feel like this gives them the consistent threat opposite Santana Moss that they’ve been missing. Whether Garcon is still capable of contributing with the Redskins like he did when Peyton Manning was his quarterback remains to be seen.
Josh Morgan, WR – from San Francisco; coming off IR after a promising start in 2011, it is totally unknown at this point if Morgan will be able to get back to 100% and find ways to contribute as a third option at receiver. Combined with Garcon and Moss, the trio may be a viable replacement for Gaffney’s numbers.
Brandon Meriweather, FS – from Chicago; released by the Patriots during final cuts in the 2011 preseason, Meriweather signed a one-year deal with Chicago. He had an inconsistent year with the bears playing in 11 games but only starting 4. The Redskins needed a replacement for the injured LaRon Landry and Oshiomogho Atogwe, signed Meriweather to a 2-year deal. It remains to be seen if he is able to become the starter in Washington.
London Fletcher, LB – not an addition, but re-signed by Washington; easily their most productive defensive player. Only question I have is what took so long? This guy is getting long in the tooth but is a monster. I would have loved to see him go to another team outside the division.
Tim Hightower, RB – also not an addition, but a re-signing by Washington; Roy Helu emerged as the likely starter after last season, but the Redskins need Hightower in their running back by committee approach. RGIII can’t hand himself the ball on every play (or can he?).
2012 NFL Draft
Round 1 – #2 overall: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor – franchise caliber quarterback – only question really is if the Redskins will be able to put the right kind of talent around him and if his skills translate effectively to the NFL game. Baylor certainly did not run an NFL-type offense and the history of the NFL is littered with great college quarterbacks who flamed out in the NFL.
Round 3 – #71 overall: Josh LeRibeus, G, SMU – largely viewed as a player with 5th round value, feels like a bit of a stretch here in the 3rd round (pre-draft grade of 64.7).
Round 4 – #102 overall: Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State – after taking RGIII with their first pick, taking another QB in the 4th round who many believed has starter potential left a lot of people scratching their heads. If nothing else, it may be “insurance” against a complete failure by RGIII but you have to feel sorry for this kid – #1 being drafted by Washington, a QB graveyard of late, and #2 drafted in the same draft by the team that took RGIII. Cousins better get used to practicing and holding a clip board for the next few years. Shanahan explained that he drafted the best player available in that slot but with all the holes this team has, not sure they could afford the “roster depth”.
Round 4 – #119 overall: Keenan Robinson, OLB, Texas – an edge player with good instincts (pre-draft grade 68.2) but he will be a special teamer and back up Kerrigan and Orakpo this year – more roster depth.
Round 5 – #141 overall: Adam Gettis, G, Iowa – probably a decent 5th round pick (pre-draft grade of 52.2) but will most likley remain a back up for his first few years.
Round 6 – #173 overall: Alfred Morris, RB, Florida Atlantic – a fairly low pre-draft grade of 47.5 but Morris is good at finding daylight in a zone running scheme which will make him productive in Shanahan’s system if he can make the team.
Round 6 – #193 overall: Tom Compton, T, South Dakota – pre-draft grade of 68.2, he’s huge at 6’5″, 314 pounds. But, he’s from a small school and remains to be seen if he can make the transition to the NFL. Some quality tackles have come out of the later rounds however, so it’s not unprecedented.
Round 7 – #213 overall: Richard Crawford, DB, SMU
Round 7 – #217 overall: Jordan Bernstine, CB, Iowa – more roster depth here in both Crawford and Bernstine but it is an area of need. The Redskins have a bunch of defensive backs coming into camp this year between free agents coming off injury years and draft picks – feels like rummaging through the bargain bin looking for a value. Feels a lot like Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, and company could have some big days against the Redskins secondary if they can keep Fletcher, Orakpo, and Kerrigan off of Romo.
The Redskins will be better on the offensive side of the ball with RGIII in the mix and the defense will again be solid. But, I don’t see anything at this stage that suggests that this team will finish 2012 anywhere other than 4th place in the NFC East. If 5th place were possible, they’d finish there – which is just fine with me!