Owner Dan Snyder, HC Mike Shanahan, GM Bruce Allen
For the Washington Redskins, the 2011 NFL Draft once again indicated that there is a new regime in DC.
Shanahan and Allen traded back multiple times to add more picks, and to also compensate for previously traded ones. They traded up when necessary to take a player they coveted and carefully evaluated every player available to them when selecting players. The Skins addressed some key positions, and added youth and competition to several others.
Despite having a successful draft, many questions were raised on not drafting one of the most obvious and important positions: quarterback. Due to the handling of the McNabb situation last year, it was evident that the position needed to be addressed. Many thought that would take place in the draft.
When several QBs were available, and none taken, fans questioned the strategy. Despite the confusion, fans are willing to give Shanahan credit considering his track record of developing QBs and installing a culture change.
Only so many positions can be addressed in a single draft. Obviously if more positions need to be considered, the next step is free agency. In the past, big-name free agents were often targeted and offered lucrative contracts that gave fans a yearly reason for a winning culture. Eventually those same free agents showed no return on investment through their declining play, and with it another year was removed from adding youth to an aging football team.
Building on this mentality behind the draft, free agency will be handled in the same manner. Key positions will be addressed with players that will not demand lucrative contracts, fit the schemes Shanahan is installing and have a hard work ethic to spark competition and eagerness to be part of something special in Washington.
The following free agents will address some key positions and their priority to build a competitive roster in 2011 and beyond.
OG Davin Joseph TB
Redskins Nation has known for a while now that the offensive line has been in dire need of an overhaul. During the days of the "Hogs," the Redskins were known to have a dominant offensive line. Many have wished for this tradition to continue, but it has now become a major area of improvement, and Shanahan knows this.
Once Shanahan arrived, he began to address the line by taking Trent Williams with his first pick in his first Redskins draft. Williams will be a mainstay at the LT position for years to come. The Skins also took C/G Erik Cook and T Selvish Capers for youth and depth in later rounds. Shanahan also signed the versatile Artis Hicks to use at G/T and Jamaal Brown at RT.
In 2010, Brown manned the RT position better during the season, overcoming an injury, as Hicks was used in different spots along the line. Rabach's play declined, however, while Montgomery and Lichtensteiger showed impressive play. The group started showing signs of cohesion towards the end of the season, but still needed help on the interior.
Brown should be re-signed this offseason to solidify the RT position, and Rabach should be replaced. Lichtensteiger could move to center and Montgomery could compete at one of the OG positions. Signing Davin Joseph to man the other OG position could provide the offensive line, since he is just 27 and could come at a good value considering his season was cut short with a foot injury.
With questions surrounding the QB position, Shanahan will have to ensure the running game is a force. Joseph can help accomplish this. It doesn't hurt that Allen has roots in Tampa Bay.
QB Vince Young TEN
Again, the position that Redskins Nation expected to be handled in the draft is QB. When no quarterback was drafted, many questioned why, when and how Shanahan will address it.
After the draft, Shanahan praised third-string QB John Beck, indicating his plans for him being under center in 2011. This strategy raised many questions and concerns. The apprehension is valid, as Beck hasn't proven himself in the league. Not having started a game in a few years doesn't help that opinion.
However, a lot of people are warming up to the idea, since Shanahan has a knack for analyzing QB prospects. But Shanahan must not have liked anyone in the draft enough to make him the future QB of the Redskins. If Beck is garnering Shanahan's praise, he must have proven something that us as fans have yet to see.
Beck is the only QB currently under contract. I'd say McNabb, too, but we all know how that is going to end. Though Redskins Nation is starting to accept Beck as a candidate for the starting position, many feel he should still compete to earn it. Rex Grossman is a free agent, but should be re-signed due to his lack of knowledge of the offense.
To provide some added competition and depth, Shanahan should sign Vince Young. He's mobile, which Shanahan likes, and he's a winner. He'll be able to compete for the starting position, which would bring out the best in himself and the rest of the QBs. If he doesn't win the starting job outright, he would be a key backup. If the starting QB struggles during the season, many would feel at ease knowing someone like Young can step in. He does have some off-field issues, but it could help reduce his asking price. Signing Young to a two-year deal would be enough of a stop gap until a franchise QB is found.
DT Cullen Jenkins GB
With Shanahan hiring Jim Haslett to install a 3-4 defense, a major position that was not on the roster was a true nose tackle.
To address this position, Shanahan added Ma'ake Kemoeatu. During last season, he did not play to his potential, mainly due to not being fully recovered from an injury. However, Kemoeatu is 32 and not the force he used to be. With Kemoeatu's performance in decline, Anthony Bryant was able to step in at times, and he showed signs of improvement toward the end of the season.
Though Bryant's play improved, the NT position is still a weakness. Adding DT/DE Cullen Jenkins would help tremendously. He dominates the line of scrimmage when he's on the field, something that Bryant does not. Unfortunately, Jenkins is injured often, having missed 17 games in the past three years. Because of that, Shanahan should be able to get Jenkins at a good value. Due to the injury history, Haslett should not have to play Jenkins every snap and can rotate in Bryant and Jarvis Jenkins. Cullen Jenkins could be signed to a 2- or 3-year deal until a permanent starter can be found.
CB Chris Carr BAL
Redskins nations knows Carlos Rogers is a solid coverage corner. Sadly, he's also known for not getting interceptions. Despite that, the Redskins have been appreciative of him, and Rogers was content on playing for the burgundy and gold.
Rogers' feelings changed, however, when Shanahan was hired. In this first year, Rogers was given a tender instead of being signed to another contract. Now that he is a free agent, Rogers is burning bridges with Redskins management in the media and it's probably best to assume that he will be on the way out. He feels that he is a shut-down corner—which he isn't—and should be compensated in a contract as one. Because of this, he'll be allowed to test the open market.
Obviously, his position will need to be filled. Shanahan should look to add CB Chris Carr to full fill the position vacated by Rogers. Carr doesn't look to be in Baltimore's future, after they drafted Jimmy Smith and expect Dominique Foxworth to come back from injury. Carr could be looking for a decent payday, which could drive the Redskins away. If that happens, the Redskins could look on the opposite end at Josh Wilson, another Baltimore CB who is a free agent, and only 26.
With D.C. so close to Baltimore, this might be an easy transition.
WR Mike Sims-Walker JAX
The 2010 season saw the emergence of Anthony Armstrong and another solid year by Santana Moss. Armstrong proved that he could be a starter in the league, and Moss had his best year despite the troubles under center.
As for the others, many feel that Terrance Austin can be given an expanded role, while some are still waiting for Malcolm Kelly to prove himself.
Adding to the corps, many were pleased to see Shanahan take WR Leonard Hankerson in this year's draft. He is the big, tall receiver fans have been wanting to see on the field for years. Niles Paul and Aldrick Robinson were also added to the substantial receiving corps.
Despite the talent at WR, all except for Moss have yet to prove themselves in the league. Moss is a free agent and could be on the way out. But he should be re-signed. If not, there will be a huge hole at the WR position. If Moss isn't re-signed, Shanahan can look to add Mike Sims-Walker. He's a proven veteran despite being 26 years old. He's been plagued by injuries in recent years, which could reduce his asking price.
Ideally, Shanahan should look to re-sign Moss, and sign MSW for a wide receiver tandem. In three-receiver sets, MSW and Armstrong would play on the outside, moving Moss to the slot. That could be punishing. Kyle would be able to open up his playbook adding Hankerson, Austin, and Paul to the mix.
K David Akers PHI
Last year wasn't for Graham Gano.
Some stats: 20-29 yds (9 of 11), 30-39 yds (4 of 7), 40-49 yds (11 of 14), >50 yds (0 of 3).
Any professional kicker should be automatic at less than 40 yards. Gano was 13 of 18 (72 percent). He did make 79 percent of attempts between 40-49; however, he did not make any over from over 50 yards, and this kid is supposed to have a leg.
Making only 72 percent of kicks under 40 yards is enough to be given the door. To remedy this, Shanahan should sign veteran David Akers. He'll have a chip on his shoulder considering how early Philadelphia took a kicker in this year's draft, indicating that he'll be released. Heck, he might even sign at a reduced rate just to play the Eagles twice a year. Plus, you can't knock field goal success rates of 82.5, 86.5 and 84.2 percents in the past three seasons.