This is somewhat difficult given the uncertain days we live in, but let's try to walk through a possible Redskins offseason. Of course we don't know whether free agency or the draft will occur first, and is at least possible that the season could be played under 2010 rules, which would mean that 5th and 6th year players are once again stuck as restricted free agents. But let's assume for the time being that free agency happens normally.
Let me clarify that this is not so much a prediction as it is how I would like to see the Redskins approach the offseason. What really happens will look nothing like this. We'll go position by position, and in the title of each section you'll find links to my post season position reviews which go into much more detail about how I evaluate the Redskins talent in each area. At the end of each section I will show how the depth chart for each position will look if the moves I describe occur. Don't try to make this add up to 53 guys as it is not meant to be complete - I'm only including guys we already know or recongizable names who could be added - I'm not going to try to guess every 7th round draft pick and street free agent. Also, we're ignoring special teams here.
Off we go:
This is based on the assumption that the relationship between the Shanahan’s and Donovan McNabb is irreparable.
Let’s let the high risk picks pass in the first round, then if Christian Ponder is still around in the second let’s grab him. He may have a limited ceiling, but by all accounts he is the most pro-ready quarterback in this draft other than Blaine Gabbert, who is unattainable. We cannot afford to waste a few years on a bust quarterback, so I am all in favor of the safest option here.
Rex Grossman is technically a free agent, but I doubt he’s going anywhere as Washington is quite clearly his best chance to start. And he’ll probably need to, as rookies can rarely contribute at this position in their first year, and anyway the likelihood of an abbreviated offseason program makes that problem even worse. The question is whether the Redskins consider Grossman a viable starter or just a decent backup (I go with the latter). As mentioned a rookie starting QB is even less likely than usual, so it is possible the Redskins will bring in a free agent to compete with the starting job – my guesses would be either Bruce Gradkowski or the likely-to-be-cut Alex Smith. It’s hard to get too excited about either one, but competition would only help. Of course John Beck’s only chance to survive is if the coaches have confidence in Grossman as a number one.
I’m going to assume for now that the coaches thing Grossman and Beck can get the job done in the near term, and for the purposes of this scenario will go with a Grossman-Beck-Ponder lineup for 2011.
2011 QBs: Rex Grossman, John Beck, Christian Ponder
Notably absent: That guy with the Capitol One ads.
Ryan Torain has potential, and Keiland Williams is already a surprisingly polished player whose well rounded skills set makes him an ideal third down back, and possibly more. If Shanahan wants to bring in a running back with a late round pick or sign an obscure street free agent then I’m fine with that – but please, with needs elsewhere there is absolutely no need to spend significant resources here.
2011 RBs: Keiland Williams, Ryan Torain, Andre Brown
Let Santana Moss walk, sign free agents Mike Sims-Walker and Steve Breaston. Armstrong is your starting flanker. Breaston steps in as a proven slot receiver. Sims-Walker is a rather unexciting possession-type receiver, but he can bring some size to the split end position, at which averageness would represent an enormous upgrade. At this point the Redskins would (finally) have a solid though not terribly exciting wide receiver corps, and all the top three would be in their athletic primes (ages 26, 26, and 28 - weird thing being Armstrong is the oldest). The beauty of it – adding both youth and quality at a struggling position with guys who would cost very modest money.
2011 WRs: Mike Sims-Walker, Anthony Armstrong, Steve Breaston, Terrence Austin, Brandon Banks
Notably absent: Santana Moss
Uh… nothing. I would tell you to hope that Fred Davis can win his way into Shanahan’s good graces sufficiently to get into the game plan, but I’m hoping upgrades at receiver make that less critical.
2011 TEs: Chris Cooley, Fred Davis, Logan Paulsen
Re-sign Jammal Brown to continue to provide mediocre right tackle play, which is much better than anyone behind him on the depth chart can provide.
2011 OTs: Trent Williams, Jammal Brown, Selvish Capers
Notably absent: Stephon Heyer. Because enough is enough. Seems like a great guy, but I’m afraid the fact that he’s gotten significant playing time over the last several years is a testament to how poorly the Redskins have built their offensive line.
Interior Offensive Line
Dump Casey Rabach, and let Kory Lichtensteiger and Will Montgomery compete for the starting center job – both of them would have much better chance of success there than they do at guard. Whoever loses that competition would be adequate as the primary backup for all three interior spots – but nothing more. So we need two new starting guards. Let’s start with the Bengals Evan Silva, who comes to my with the recommendation of Pro Football Focus (via twitter) as possessing the perfect athleticism for a zone blocking system and a modest price tag. And if you want a guy who already knows the system, why not steal Justin Blalock from the Houston Texans.
2011 Interior Linemen: Kory Lichtensteiger, Evan Mathis, Justin Blalock, Will Montgomery
Notably absent: Casey Rabach, Artis Hicks (unless he’s very, very deep depth)
And here’s where that first round pick comes in – let’s go with DE Cameron Jordan. A front seven player is both least likely to be a bust and, conveniently, fills a big need. And the rookie cap means this guy will cost a lot less money than what we otherwise would have to try to pay to Cullen Jenkins. I have full confidence in Adam Carriker at left defensive end, and am also quite content with Vonnie Holliday on the right. But Vonnie is over 30, and if Jordan can get onto the field quickly then Vonnie becomes very good depth.
2011 DEs: Adam Carriker, Cam Jordan, Vonnie Holliday, Jeremy Jarmon
Notably absent: Philip Daniels (could still be useful depth in a 4-3, but little to contribute in this defense), Kedric Golston (a shame, as I always liked him as a 4-3 DT – but the fact that he wasn’t benched by week 3 is the single greatest indictment of Jim Haslett I can think of).
It would be irresponsible not to at least give Aubrayo Franklin a look. But Bryant has shown potential and there are free agent needs elsewhere. There will need to be competition or at least depth at this spot, but assuming we upgrade the defensive end position it’s reasonable to get by with a low draft pick or obscure free agent.
2011 DT: Anthony Bryant
Notably absent: I don’t even want to talk about it.
Nothing. There are two reasons I’d rather go DE than OLB with that 1st round pick. First, I think Orakpo would be helped more by the interior line pinching the pocket and preventing the QB from stepping up than he would from another edge rusher opposite him. Second, I’m pretty confident we can find a good pass rusher from the current roster. Rob Jackson played well in the closing games of the season. And I have long been a fan of Chris Wilson. Given his severely limited role last year I was worried the coaches did not share my opinion, but the fact that they gave him a (unlikely to be enforceable) restricted free agent tender means they consider him worth keeping around. Between the two I’m pretty confident we can find a decent started and a good primary OLB backup. This will move Lorenzo Alexander out of a starting OLB spot and into the role at which he is most valuable – a backup for damn near everyone in the front seven.
2011 OLBs: Brian Orakpo, Chris Wilson, Rob Jackson, Lorenzo Alexander
Nothing again. London Fletcher did just fine in his new role. I assume Rocky McIntosh is a goner however, as he is likely a free agent and looked completely out of place in the middle. But I am a big H.B. Blades fan and Perry Riley was drafted for a reason, so I bet you we can find a good starter from that competition, and our primary backup as well.
2011 ILBs: London Fletcher, H.B. Blades, Perry Riley, maybe Robert Henson
Notably absent: Rocky McIntosh
Pretty much took care of this already with the (awesome) signing of O.J. Atogwe, who represents a big and low-risk upgrade to the free safety spot at a modest cost. Reed Doughty is a free agent but I hope he will be re-signed as a backup – if pressed into service he can be an acceptable free safety or a very good strong safety.
2011 Safeties: LaRon Landry, O.J Atogwe, Reed Doughty
Notably absent: Kareem Moore
Find a way to re-sign Carlos Rogers. Just do it.
2011 CBs: DeAngelo Hall, Carlos Rogers, Kevin Barnes, Byron Westbrook
So where would such an offseason lead the Redskins?
Quarterback remains a serious problem, and we would have to hope that Ponder develops quickly. But it's not like there's a lot of confidence-inspiring options on the market.
Running back would be solid, especially if Torain becomes a more complete player.
The receivers would be only decent compared to the rest of the league, but much better than they have been for God knows how many years.
The offensive line would be improved, though certainly not elite. With new faces and new positions, the interior line would have to gel rather quickly despite its upgrade in talent. And at tackle we would have to hope both Brown and Trent Williams improve significanlty over decidedly mediocre 2010 seasons.
The front seven might actually be in pretty good shape, at least if the gamble of not adding a big name nose tackle works out.
The defensive backs would be in pretty good shape with the retention of Rogers and the addition of Atogwe.
Cam Jordan and Christian Ponder would not be significant costs due to the likely rookie cap, so let's count up free agents:
One big expensive free agent: Retaining Carlos Rogers
Five moderately priced free agents: Sims-Walker, Breaston, Mathis, Blalock, retaining Brown
Two cheap free agents: Retaining Wilson and Blades
This is a lot of starters to add through free agency, but Rogers is the only potential budget buster among them. And I hope that his inability to make interceptions depresses his value enough on the open market that he falls down to an acceptable price range. And the others should be affordable because they are at positions where mere decency would represent an upgrade for this team. Despite all the new names, this offseason seems pretty attainable.