New Year's Eve arrives next Monday morning at the stroke of midnight. At about that time, the Washington Redskins should know their fate for this year's postseason. But no matter how they fare against hated rival Dallas, the Redskins will forge ahead to 2013.
The offseason can wait, but the Redskins will plan for it anyway, in case it comes sooner than they wish.
In the following slide show, we will make a few bold predictions for next year. But before we do, let's raise a glass to this year's team, for making 2012 so memorable.
With a victory or tie against Dallas this Sunday night, Washington will win the NFC East. But if the Redskins lose, they can still slip into the wild card round with losses by Chicago and Minnesota. The Bears travel to Detroit and the Vikings host Green Bay. Click here, for more on the Redskins' playoff scenarios.
As for the offseason, it is inevitable one way or the other, so we should not be afraid to talk about it.
If it comes sooner than later, Washington will kick start it by thanking the current team for a magical late-season run.
It would only be fitting for the Redskins coaching staff to heap praise on a team that exceeded expectations. Football excitement is back in Washington and there are so many things to be thankful for. There is also a lot to look forward to, thanks to 53 dedicated men, who made the 2012 season a memorable one.
In November, CSNWashington produced a detailed list of current Redskins who are set to become free agents at season's end.
In his column, Redskins blogger Rich Tandler predicted what players are most likely to return to Washington. He also suggests a few that will likely to be shown the door.
I agree that the following players have proven their worth and should be offered new deals:
Unrestricted Free Agents:
DE Kedric Golston
LB Lorenzo Alexander
LB Rob Jackson
OL Kory Lichtensteiger
OL Tyler Polumbus
NT Chris Baker
TE Fred Davis
P Sav Rocca
Restricted Free Agents:
FB Darrel Young
TE Logan Paulsen
Bleacher Report Columnist Brian Filler goes one step further by providing Washington's financial parameters and a shopping list for help along the offensive line, at linebacker and in the secondary.
Some critics believe Washington has overachieved in 2012. But there is a lot to like about the makeup of a team that stuck together through thick and thin. Whatever the Redskins lack in talent, they make up for in heart and soul. And that may lead to some free agent bargaining power, if the team beats Dallas to capture the NFC East.
Our friends at RotoWorld do a masterful job of keeping an eye on the future. That's why I refer to them, at this time of year, for a list of the best available free agents.
From that list, the Redskins will search for players that fit their style. But perhaps more importantly, they will seek players that can fill the club's needs.
Please note that RotoWorld has a Free Agent Master List as well, which includes players that will likely be franchise-tagged by their respective clubs.
It will be extremely important for Washington to hit home runs in free agency because of a penalty they incurred on March 12. On that day, the Redskins got smacked with a $36 million fine for front-loading contracts in 2010, which was an uncapped year for each of the NFL's 32 teams.
Washington lost $18 million in 2012 cap space and will lose another $18 million when free agency begins in March. Therefore, the Redskins must be careful not to overspend if they decide to cast some bids.
Wallace has the experience and mobility to act as a viable backup to RGIII, if Washington decides to deal Kirk Cousins. Vince Young could also be a veteran fit, but he hasn't played a down since the preseason with Buffalo. Nevertheless, Young is "determined" to make a comeback.
Clifton was released by Green Bay after back surgery last April, but he is 36 and could be solid if he is healthy and would make a switch from left to right tackle.
Minnesota's Loadholt recently opened talks with the Vikings on a long-term contract extension. According to RotoWorld.com, the Vikings have "$8.546 million in salary cap space" and Loadholt's a priority because he has started every game but one at right tackle in his four-year career (53 games). In other words, the Redskins would have to act fast to lure Loadholt away from the Vikes.
Meanwhile, Goldberg was a 38-game starter at guard in St. Louis from 2009 to 2011. He is also versatile enough to serve as a backup tackle.
On defense, the Redskins must determine the future of captain and team leader London Fletcher. At 37, Fletcher may seek to retire after 15 phenomenal seasons. But he would be welcomed back with open arms, if he chose to play out the final year of a two-year deal he signed last April (for $10.75 million with $5.25 million guaranteed).
If Fletcher decides to hang up his cleats, Washington could try to lure former Minnesota middle linebacker E.J. Henderson. Other veteran free agents at the position include former Colts' star Gary Brackett, current New England and former Cowboys linebacker Bobby Carpenter and 2009 fourth overall draft pick Aaron Curry, who was recently released by the Oakland Raiders.
Washington could upgrade along its defensive line with defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove. Hargrove was released by Green Bay in August, when head to serve an eight-game suspension for his role in the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal. Former San Diego Chargers defensive end Luis Castillo could also be considered, if he can return from recurring back issues.
At safety, the Redskins could try to reign in Jairus Byrd from Buffalo, but the Bills may want Kirk Cousins in return. Of course, Washington could pounce when Byrd becomes a free agent, but the Bills will likely slap the franchise tag on him, which would require the Redskins to give up a first-round draft pick that they don't possess.
Washington could settle for former Giant Deon Grant, who played an integral role in New York's 2011 Super Bowl run. Veterans Brodney Poole and Melvin Bullitt are also available in free agency, as is former Indianapolis star Bob Sanders. Poole is a long-time favorite of Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, while Bullitt and Sanders would have to prove that their injury-prone bodies can still withstand the rigors of the NFL.
Johnson never quite fit in with the Patriots, but he's itching to return to the NFL.
Last year, the Redskins snatched wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Joshua Morgan in free agency.
Garcon immediately became Washington's top pass-catching threat, but he missed a number of games due to a foot injury.
Meanwhile, Morgan has been proficient, but he made some bone-headed errors that cost the Redskins early in the season.
Washington should seek a talented receiver to take pressure off of Garcon next season. But they may need some luck in finding one.
This year's free agent list includes injury-prone players and a few aging ones with some serious shelf life.
Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe sits at the top, but he would command a hefty pay day. This past season, he reluctantly accepted a $9.5 million franchise tender to return to KC and was put on injured reserve two weeks ago with fractured ribs. In six seasons with the Chiefs, Bowe averaged 65 yards a game and snatched 39 touchdowns, despite some horrid quarterback play.
Other intriguing names that could flourish in the nation's capital include: Green Bay's Greg Jennings, Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace or more affordable wideouts like Domenik Hixon or Ramses Barden of the New York Giants.
Remember former Indianapolis Colts wideout Austin Collie? He could be had on the cheap, if he can fully recover from a torn patella tendon he sustained this season.
Between 2009 and 2011, Collie snagged 172 passes for 1,839 yards and 16 touchdowns. But a host of concussions derailed him before he suffered his knee injury. Four concussions is nothing to sneeze at, but Collie's most recent mishap has given him some additional time to get his noggin right.
Donnie Avery is another injury-prone Colt that will be a free agent. He last suffered a serious injury as a member of the St. Louis Rams, when he blew out his knee in a preseason game. But Avery may have found a home with quarterback Andrew Luck in Indy. I expect the Colts to re-sign him.
Don't get me started on Terrell Owens. He recovered from knee surgery and continues to be a physical marvel, but at 39, he seems destined for a life in celebrity television.
And then there's football's other celebrity. Well, at least in his own mind.
In 2012, Chad Ocho Cinco changed his last name back to Johnson, but a domestic battery charge hurt his chances for latching on with a new team. During his two years with the Pats, Johnson looked lost, but at age 35, he still has the speed and hands to be a difference-maker.
Johnson has learned some hard lessons and if he's sincere about changing his "me first" personality, he could have a re-birth in Washington.
Recently, I published a couple of slide shows that look forward to the 2013 NFL Draft.
The most recent one is entitled: Washington Redskins 2013 Mock Draft: How to Fix Biggest Problems in 7 Rounds.
Some of my suggestions may come true, but for more in-depth analysis on the country's best prospects, stay tuned to Bleacher Report for our annual Mock Drafts. They will give you all you need to know about "Who's Who" in 2013.
In the meantime, feel free to respond to the slide show above or to the following ones I published before that one.
Currently, the Redskins do not have a first round selection this year or in 2014 (due to the trade with the Rams for RGIII). Here are the rest of Washington's picks in April's 2013 NFL Draft:
Round 2: One selection
Round 3: One selection
Round 4: One selection
Round 5: Two selections (second one is from Washington's trade of Albert Haynesworth to New England on 07-28-11)
Round 6: One selection
Round 7: One selection
Joe Versage is an NFL Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He previously covered the Buffalo Bills, Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens as a television beat reporter. Follow him on Twitter at: @JoeVersage Takip et: @JoeVersage
Unless otherwise noted, all player information and statistics are courtesy of Redskins.com and the National Football League. Additional information was obtained from RotoWorld.com, Wikipedia.org and CSNWashington.com.