Washington Redskins: Playing GM, Part 1: The Offense
One of the enjoyable things about being a fan (other than basking in a championship) is pretending to be your favorite team's owner or general manager in the offseason.
Each free agent and possible draft pick brings hope that those players are the "missing pieces" to a championship.
After all, this past Easter felt like Christmas after the Redskins landed Donovan McNabb.
Did it get us to the Super Bowl? No, but it at least gave us some hope, hope that we desperately needed after the Zorn years.
So now that the Skins are officially eliminated from the playoffs, I can, one, stop trying to figure out all the scenarios that would get us in, and two, start thinking about offseason improvements.
At quarterback we currently have Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman and John Beck.
I'd keep McNabb as the starter because he is a good quarterback and a proven leader. Also, there won't be a better quarterback available—but I would be out there searching for my quarterback of the future, anyway.
John Beck could be that guy, I honestly don't know, haven't seen enough of him to speculate either way. But for the purpose of this article, we're just going to assume he's there as a worst-case scenario for injuries.
In that case, I'd wait to see what young quarterbacks would be available.
What on the offense needs to be the primary focus this off-season?
With Josh McDaniels out in Denver, there has been speculation on what Tim Tebow's fate will be. If the Redskins could trade very little to get him, or if he's cut, Tebow could be a fantastic understudy to McNabb.
He's got a ton of athleticism (like McNabb) and the only real knock on him is his throwing mechanics. So if McNabb stays healthy enough to stay around for three to five seasons, that gives Shanahan more than enough time to work on Tebow.
Also, this could create an Aaron Rodgers-type situation where one franchise quarterback retires and another steps up to take his place.
Along with Tebow, two other younger quarterbacks that could be considered are Jimmy Clausen and Alex Smith.
It's been said that Clausen isn't ready to be a starter in the NFL. The Carolina Panthers are in desperate need of a starting quarterback, and they don't have one.
They'll be looking long and hard for one in the offseason. The question is whether they'll look for a stopgap type of guy they can depend on for a season or two until Clausen is ready, or—with their probable top-five pick—go after a guy in the first round?
If they draft a guy, I don't see them holding on to Clausen. I mean, why have two young quarterbacks taking up roster spots and cap money?
Clausen could be just like Tebow for the Skins. If they can trade very little for him or sign him as a free agent, under McNabb, he'd be given time to develop. And when it's time, he could come in and make a huge impact.
The only other current NFL quarterback I'd consider to come in and sit behind McNabb would be Alex Smith of the 49ers.
With his up-and-down year with the team, and with his benching for a while, I think the 49ers are finally going to get out of the Alex Smith business, which is best for both sides.
Honestly, I don't blame Smith for his uneven play in San Francisco. Much like Jason Campbell here in D.C., Smith has had a new offensive coordinator almost every year in his five seasons with the 49ers.
His best season was under Norv Turner, before Turner got a third chance at being a head coach with the San Diego Chargers.
Smith would benefit greatly going to a team that has an older veteran to learn from for a couple of years, where he can have a consistent offensive scheme to learn and maybe get a second chance at being an NFL starter.
As far as the draft goes for quarterbacks, I don't think the Skins need to grab a guy with their first-round pick. McNabb should be here for at least three more seasons, so taking a guy in the second round to study under him could work out like it did in Philly with Kevin Kolb, who, if it weren't for injury, would probably have the Eagles in the same position that Mike Vick has them in now.
At running back, if the team can restructure Clinton Portis's contract, I'd keep him. He showed before his injuries that he can still handle the ball well, and on third downs, there isn't a better blocking running back in the game, maybe even in history.
I'd also keep Ryan Torain. Yes, he's had injury problems, but the Bucs game was just a preview of what he can do when the line blocks and he's healthy.
What I would add to the backfield is a burner. The Skins need a back who is gone once he gets past the first set of tacklers.
Honestly, I'd like to see that position filled by Brandon Banks. I'm actually shocked (outside of running the wildcat twice) we haven't seen him in the backfield or getting any end-arounds.
So, since Banks isn't in the backfield, I'll go out and get one.
Since this is a change-of-pace back, I'd look to the later rounds in the draft. Honestly, this position doesn't need to be filled by a name-type player. Just someone who can learn the offense and run like lightning.
Plus, as Shanahan has proved, once his zone-blocking scheme has the right linemen, we should be able to plug any back we want in there.
At tight end, no change. I know a lot of people have been thinking about trying to trade Chris Cooley for a third-round pick, and I think they all are crazy.
Cooley isn't old, and he's a better all-around tight end than Fred Davis. If I had to trade one of them, it would be Davis. Plus, given that Davis is younger, I think we'd have a better chance of getting a third-rounder for him than Cooley.
At wide receiver the team needs a lot of work. Santana Moss still has a lot of playmaking ability, but next season he'll be another year older, and his small size makes the durable receiver a little more injury prone.
Moss would still be on my roster, but he can't be my No. 1 guy. He's just getting too old, and though still fast, he isn't as fast as he used to be. He would be a great No. 2 option, though.
Anthony Armstrong has a lot of upside, but has been inconsistent, and in some games you forget he's even on the team.
He has downfield playmaking ability, but not a consistent enough presence to be a No. 1. Maybe he can compete with Moss for No. 2.
The Skins could find a receiver in the draft, but I'd do what I can to land Vincent Jackson. He'll be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and as long as the price isn't too high, he'd be the big No. 1 receiver this team has needed.
A later-round pickup would be welcomed, but the receiver has to be on the larger side—at least 6-foot-4 and above 200 lbs. The Redskins have lacked a big receiver for almost a decade now, and it needs to be fixed, whether that's through free agency or the draft.
One rumor I've heard is that the Skins are going to make a push for Larry Fitzgerald. I'm not sure if he's a free agent or if he will be acquired through a trade. However, if they can make it work without giving up the world for him, I would definitely welcome the addition.
And unlike Albert Haynesworth, there are no character issues with Larry. If he got "paid," all signs point to him still producing at a high level.
Now on to the biggest hole on the Redskins offense: the offensive line.
Trent Williams has had a few injuries and a couple of growing pains (he's a rookie, after all) but he is setting up to be a real solid left tackle. Jammal Brown has had a rough go of it coming off of injury, but he has been solid as of late at right tackle. Also, he's only 29.
At guard, the Redskins have Kory Lichtensteiger, who is only 25, and Artis Hicks. Shanny is very high on Lichtensteiger and feels he had the athletic ability necessary to play guard in the zone-blocking scheme.
Lichtensteiger has been beat on several occasions, but like Trent Williams, he's young and learning a new blocking scheme, so there are going to be rough patches. Also, like any good GM, I would defer to the coach if he feels a player on roster is a good fit for his scheme.
So given age and the fact the head man is high on him, Lichtensteiger would remain.
Hicks, as well as center Casey Rabach, would both be released. Both are up there in years, and frankly when he's played I thought Will Montgomery has played better at center.
At the very least, he hasn't stepped on McNabb.
However, I would be looking to draft at center and guard. If available, try and get some young free agent linemen, as well.
If there is one thing that should be learned from the Hogs of old, it is that they were so good because they all grew together.
They all came into the league around the same time and played together for awhile. They knew exactly where the others were going to be on every play, which is why they provided such great protection and opened holes you could drive a truck through.
If there is one position I want to get young on, it's on the line.
In fact, my main priority would be the offensive line. I think right now the Patriots are showing the league what you can do with a smart quarterback (which the Skins have) and a line that gives him time to look at all the options.
The only reason why we know Wes Welker's name is because of the protection Brady is given. Sure, Welker is good, but he started out as a third option with the Pats.
Had Brady not had the time to look through his options, Welker wouldn't have gotten his opportunities.
I don't think we've gotten to see Anthony Armstrong's full potential yet because McNabb hasn't had the time to get him the ball.
So there you have it, loyal reader, my rundown on how I would handle this offseason for the offense.
Tune in tomorrow to hear about the massive reconstruction on defense and what I'd do with the special teams, in particular our kicker.
Follow me on Twitter (@jomac006).
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