According to ESPN.com, the Washington Redskins have been the NFL's oldest team the past two years. This year, the team's average player age reportedly is 27.33 years, noticeably above the average of the two next oldest teams - the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers. There are four good reasons for that. They're known as the Redskins 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2009 drafts.
Washington drafted six players in 2005. Of that crop, only Carlos Rogers remains with the squad. That's an ugly 16% retention ratio. The Redskins again drafted six players in 2006, retaining three of them in the forms of Rocky McIntosh, Reed Doughty, and Kedric Golston. The 50% ratio isn't bad, but when you're talking about that few total draft picks, you can't begin to expect to grow a team from the ground up. The same can be said for the team's 2007 draft. LaRon Landry and H.B. Blades are all that remain from that draft class, which totaled five picks. Last year the Redskins selected six players, retaining only Brian Orakpo and Kevin Barnes.
2008 was Vinny Cerrato's best draft year. With ten overall picks, the Redskins managed to add Devin Thomas, Fred Davis, Malcolm Kelly, Kareem Moore, Rob Jackson, and Chris Horton to their squad. While this group won't remind anyone of the Steelers' great 1975 draft class, it did produce at least two starters and several solid depth players. Unfortunately, 2008 was also one of the worst free agent signing periods in Redskins' history.
You think the big name free agent busts near the turn of the century were bad? At least Jeff George, Deion Sanders, and Mark Carrier were recognizable names whom you'd have reasonably thought could have helped get the Redskins within sniffing distance of a Super Bowl. Check out the 2008 free agent class: Jerome Mathis, Stuart Schweigert, Derek Devine, and Patrick Ghee. Ghee, a Cornerback, was released the same month he was signed. Devine, a Quarterback, lasted three months. Schweigert, a Safety, lasted two months. And last but not least, Mathis, a Wide Receiver, was with the team for five whole weeks. El stinko!
Let's face it, the practice of trading away draft picks left and right for free agents is not a prime formula for year-in/year-out success, even though the Redskins have signed some gems like London Fletcher, DeAngelo Hall, Casey Rabach, Phillip Daniels, Andre Carter, and Derrick Dockery, among others. Oh wait - not one of these guys was obtained via a trade. Well, we can always point to Number 5 as our hope that the Redskins have learned how to deal more wisely for free agents. He's still got some tread on him, but he ain't no spring chicken.
So, just how are the Redskins quietly getting younger? The team's Practice Squad is one measurable way they're doing so. Over the next couple months, I'll profile a different member of that group each week. I believe you'll see what I've observed - the Redskins have comprised a nice pool of young talent that addresses depth needs at several key positions. In the meantime, there's a little thing called the season opener to address. Stay tuned.