The bye week was anything but settled and peaceful at Redskins Park. Coach Mike Shanahan spent the early portions of it trying to explain his remarks following last Sunday’s loss to the Carolina Panthers that the remainder of the Redskins season would be about seeing who “is going to be on your football team for years to come.”
Shanahan later told reporters, then his players, that he wasn’t giving up on the season. But now that the issue of the Redskins’ future has been raised, it is worth exploring. The nine games prior to the bye week showed that the Redskins have their primary building block in place in rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. But that nine-game stretch also demonstrated that they are far from having a complete team and it raised questions about their ability to morph into a contender not only this season, but next season and beyond.
It has become clear as the Redskins struggled to a 3-6 record that they have a shortage of play-makers to complement Griffin on offense and significant deficiencies on a defense that has been among the worst in the NFL. The problem is that addressing those issues won’t be easy. The Redskins have a shortage of top draft picks after paying a heavy price earlier this year to get Griffin, and they face a second year of salary cap restrictions after being sanctioned by the league in March.
“The salary cap thing is huge for them,” said Charley Casserly, a former general manager of the Redskins and Houston Texans. “When you trade draft picks away like they did, the way you compensate is through free agency and the cap. So that’s an issue.”
Casserly added that the Redskins can overcome those handicaps. “They’ve got to get lucky with some late-round draft picks, with some undrafted free agents,” he said. “They just have to scout very well and find some guys in other ways.”
When people in and around the sport are asked to list the Redskins’ needs they almost invariably list a wide receiver and a right tackle on offense. They also talk about the team’s glaring needs for a cornerback or two and a safety on defense.
“Their biggest problem is their defense,” said Tim Hasselbeck, a former NFL quarterback for several teams, including the Redskins. “In their defense, they’ve lost some good players [to injuries]. But other guys just haven’t played well.”
The list could grow to include a tight end if the Redskins don’t re-sign Fred Davis, and a pass rusher on defense if outside linebacker Brian Orakpo continues to have problems with the pectoral muscle that he has torn in consecutive seasons.
Many of those needs are significant. A cornerback with superb coverage skills is a valued NFL commodity, one that generally is filled only by using a first-round draft choice or writing a big check to make a marquee signing in free agency. The draft probably won’t be an option, at least in the foreseeable future. The Redskins traded their first-round draft selections in each of the next two years to the St. Louis Rams to move up in the first-round order to land Griffin in April.