When the Washington Redskins admitted that they had offered defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth to the Eagles in exchange for Donovan McNabb, it spoke volumes about Haynesworth's future in Washington, D.C.
Haynesworth and recently hired head coach Mike Shanahan have made it clear through the media that the two men do not see eye to eye.
Haynesworth made his name as one of the best 4-3 defensive tackles over the past few years and has stated that he wants no part in playing nose tackle in Shanahan's 3-4 system. Shanahan publicly declared that he "absolutely disagreed" with Haynesworth's decision to skip the team's voluntary offseason conditioning program.
FOXsports.com Senior NFL Writer Alex Marvez predicts that the conflict between the two men will lead to Haynesworth's departure from D.C. after signing a $100 million contract with the Redskins less than 14 months ago.
"I don’t see the relationship between Redskins coach Mike Shanahan and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth improving any time soon," Marvez wrote in an article published on April 12. "With the Redskins not having a second- or third-round pick, I could see Haynesworth being traded on the second day of the draft even though Washington paid him a $21 million roster bonus earlier this month."
In the days following the colossal McNabb trade, NFL.com's Jason La Canfora, The Washington Post 's Jason Reid, and ESPN's John Clayton were among the first to break the news that Haynesworth was available.
However, ESPN's Adam Schefter, who is close to Shanahan, issued a report that contradicted this.
"Despite multiple reports that the Washington Redskins are determined to trade defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, a high-ranking Redskins source insisted the team is not," Schefter's report said, "The source said Haynesworth is, and will continue to be, the Redskins' starting nose tackle."
This report led NBCSports' ProFootballTalk.com writer Mike Florio to speculate that the wording of the Schefter report was simply an "effort by the Redskins to get under Haynesworth's skin." Specifically, he considered the Redskins source's reference to Haynesworth as the "starting nose tackle" as a reminder to Haynesworth that what Shanahan says, goes.
Florio also pointed out that while Schefter's source with the Redskins says that Washington isn't trying to trade Haynesworth, they were certainly willing to admit that they had tried to deal him before April 1, when he was due a $21 million bonus.
"Schefter's source says that 'Haynesworth's name has not come up in any trade discussions since March 31,' which means that on and/or before March 31, Haynesworth's name did come up in trade discussions," Florio said, "Which means that the Redskins are letting the world know that, indeed, they have shopped the man who was the crown jewel of the 2009 free-agency class."
Shanahan's public comments about Haynesworth offered a similar style of denying the reports without actually closing a door on any possible deals.
"No, we're not going to trade him at all, unless someone gives us something we would have to consider," Shanahan told FanHouse's Thomas George on Friday, April 9.
Despite starting his sentence with "No, we're not going to trade him at all," the qualifier at the end of Shanahan's sentence implies that Haynesworth is available, but only for the right price.
Since the Redskins have not fully ruled out the idea of trading Haynesworth, the next question that arises is who would be a likely suitor. In the NFL, perception is reality, and the perception of Haynesworth is that he takes plays off and is unmotivated unless he's in a contract year.
Haynesworth's 2009 performance and the Redskins' willingness to get rid of him after only one year do nothing to improve his reputation, and this will limit the number of teams willing to trade for him. The fact that the Redskins, who have already paid him $32 million, are willing to get rid of him will scare most teams away from trading for him.
Two possible exceptions to this will be the Tennessee Titans, where Haynesworth made his name, and the Detroit Lions, coached by Jim Schwartz, Haynesworth's defensive coordinator with the Titans. Another option that has been mentioned by both La Canfora and Clayton is the St. Louis Rams.
According to these two writers, the Redskins have shown heavy interest in Rams defensive tackle Adam Carriker, who is well-suited to playing nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. However, if the Redskins manage to obtain Carriker via trade, it is hard to imagine Haynesworth being part of the package.
Acquiring Haynesworth is not a necessity for the Rams. If they truly felt they needed a dominant defensive tackle, they could draft Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy with the first overall pick instead of trading for a player with a bloated contract and potential baggage.
A player-for-player trade such as Haynesworth for Carriker would make little sense for the Rams to undertake. If the Redskins see Carriker as a better defensive tackle than Haynesworth, then the Rams have no reason to want to trade him for Haynesworth. Washington doesn't have a second-or-third round pick with which they could sweeten the deal either.
For these reasons, it would not be prudent of the Rams to trade for Haynesworth.
The Lions are a much more logical trading partner. Haynesworth would be playing for his old defensive coordinator and would be back alongside defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch. The risk of Haynesworth conflicting with the coaching staff is low, as Haynesworth has a good relationship with Schwartz.
Trading a second-or-third round pick for Haynesworth would be a great bargain for the Lions as well. Trading for Haynesworth is a better idea for Detroit than drafting Suh or McCoy, because Haynesworth has the same physical skills they do, but he is already familiar with Schwartz's defense.
In addition to providing the Lions with a physically dominant defensive tackle who has played in Schwartz's defensive system before, it also allows the Lions to select a tackle with the No. 2 pick in the draft, thus protecting franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford and giving the Lions a better chance to win.
The Tennessee Titans are another option for Haynesworth. They don't have a second-round pick and would not trade a first-rounder to get Haynesworth back. However, Tennessean writer Jim Wyatt says he feels "pretty certain" that the Titans "would be willing to give up a third-round pick for Haynesworth, but if the Skins are desperate the Titans might get him for a fourth."
For the Titans, this move would be a help. Their interior pass rush was underwhelming last year, and their inability to rush the passer played a huge role in their defensive struggles during the 2009 season. Even though the Titans are widely predicted to take a defensive end with their first-round pick, former Titans defensive end Kevin Carter doesn't think that upgrade will help the line enough.
"If you do get somebody in the first round who is a big-time defensive end, you are going to need somebody on the inside that is going to balance out that rush," Carter told the Tennessean . "So who is to say you don’t bring back...Albert and draft a (defensive end)?’’
There are a lot of questions about Haynesworth's level of intensity when he plays, but the fact of the matter is that the Titans' defensive line was much better with Haynesworth in 2007 and 2008 than it was without him in 2009.
Titans head coach Jeff Fisher isn't quite ready to say he's against bringing Haynesworth back. From today's Tennessean :
"Asked if the Titans have inquired about Haynesworth, who was a Titan from 2002-08, Fisher replied: 'Albert is under contract with the Washington Redskins.'
"Asked if the Titans would be interested if the Redskins called, Fisher said 'I don’t deal in hypotheticals.'"
If the Titans wanted nothing to do with Haynesworth, Fisher could have simply said so. The fact that he didn't just flat-out say he's not interested in Haynesworth suggests that somebody in the front office hasn't completely ruled out the possibility of trading for Haynesworth.
The key issue here, as it usually is with the Titans, is money. The Titans are not the type of team to sign players to huge contracts, and Haynesworth is currently under a huge contract.
A lot of sources are reporting that after the signing bonus that the Redskins already paid Haynesworth, any team that obtained Haynesworth would only have to pay him $16.2 million over the next three years, with only $9 million guaranteed.
While this is true, it is also misleading. I emailed former Redskins Salary Cap Analyst J.I. Halsell and asked about the details of Haynesworth's contract.
"The 16.2M over the next three seasons does remain the same if Albert is traded," he told me. "However, what people fail to remember is that, thereafter, Albert is still under contract for another three years worth 52M with 20M essentially guaranteed at that point."
The $20 million in guaranteed money he is referring to is a Discretionary Signing Bonus worth $20 million to be paid in 2013. The following is taken from a March 4, 2009 posting on Halsell's blog "Inside the Cap with J.I. Halsell":
While the next three years of Haynesworth's contract are certainly affordable, the price gets a lot steeper starting in 2013. This type of price tag, especially in the later years of the deal, when Haynesworth will be aging and his skills could be in decline, might be a deterrent for the Titans.
Halsell also reported on his blog on March 22 that the Redskins had renegotiated Haynesworth's contract this offseason. No amounts were changed, but some maneuvering was done so that Haynesworth's deal would be more cap-friendly if the cap returns in 2011.
According to Halsell's original blog post, the Redskins added a provision into the contract that allows Haynesworth to void the remainder of his contract after 2010 if he repaid $16.8 million. Halsell later discovered that the amount to be repaid was even higher than that.
"Regarding the voidable provision, the long and short of it is that he's not paying back that money," Halsell said. "After posting my article, I later found out that the payback is actually 26M and not 16.8M. Moreover, he'd have to pay back the gross amount of 26M; keeping in mind that after taxes he'd net a lot less than that."
For all intents and purposes, Haynesworth cannot afford to become a free agent after the 2010 season, but the option was included in his contract to keep the $21 million bonus from being prorated into future years of the deal.
Free agency isn't an option for Haynesworth until 2015, so if he wants to leave Washington, D.C., it will have to be via a trade. In the days leading up to the draft, Washington will probably declare loudly that they're not interested in trading Haynesworth, but this will only be an attempt to increase Haynesworth's trade value.
The writing is on the wall. Albert Haynesworth will not be a Washington Redskin for much longer.