If Washington Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan awarded his prized starting quarterback job to the first guy who reported to work, he would know the answer to at least one of the many pressing questions he and his staff now face.
John Beck, who went to bed last December as a third-stringer and has awoken this summer as a possible starter, tried reporting to Redskins Park on Monday afternoon, shortly after NFL owners and players agreed to a new labor deal. Beck was turned away, though, by a security guard who didn’t recognize him.
“I’m okay with that,” Beck said. “I haven’t done anything yet.”
Beck, along with many teammates, will be able to report Tuesday, when players are allowed back into the Redskins Park weight room for the first time in five months. Meantime, coaches will be busy plotting training camp practices, and the front office can finally work on completing its roster. With the NFL reopening for business, the Redskins have begun the frenzied process of condensing an offseason’s worth of player moves and football activities into a few frantic days.
While players are expected to trickle into town Tuesday, training camp will formally begin Thursday. The team faces many questions in the next couple of weeks, perhaps none bigger than the uncertainty that surrounds Donovan McNabb and Albert Haynesworth. The Redskins haven’t been able to do anything about either player since the lockout began, but they’ll now surely weigh their options.
Beginning Tuesday at 10 a.m., teams can begin to negotiate trades. Haynesworth finished last season under suspension and McNabb finished it on the bench, so it’s doubtful either will fetch a high return. The Redskins could also opt to release either, or both. Teams are permitted to begin cutting players Thursday afternoon.
The Redskins don’t have to make a decision on McNabb until the first week of the regular season, when he’s due a $10 million roster bonus, so the front office might turn to more pressing needs first.
Shanahan can finally hit the field with his players beginning Thursday. The Redskins will conduct two days of practices with no pads and no contact and likely will have a normal training camp practice Saturday. That’s about the time the team’s quarterback battle will heat up. Rex Grossman, who started the final three games last season, is a free agent who will likely re-sign with Washington. Barring a trade, he and Beck should enter camp as the top candidates to lead the Redskins’ huddle.
In the meantime, the team’s front office will be busy, too. Teams are allowed to begin negotiating with free agents Tuesday at 10 a.m. Even if a deal is struck, it will not become official until Friday at 6 p.m. Free agents will not be able to participate in physical practices, though, until Aug. 4, assuming the NFL Players Association ratifies the new collective bargaining agreement before then.
Washington General Manager Bruce Allen last year shifted much of the cap burden into the 2010 books, which should give the Redskins a lot of flexibility in free agency this season. This year’s class is particularly large, which is good for a team such as the Redskins, whose needs are vast.
The Redskins likely will need to shore up their cornerback spot, deciding whether they want to re-sign free agent Carlos Rogers or chase four-time Pro Bowler Nnamdi Asomugha. They’ll have to resolve whether they think Ma’ake Kemoeatu is healthy enough — or good enough — to hold down the nose tackle spot in the 3-4 defense, or if they’re willing to pay for the services of someone like Aubrayo Franklin.
The top wide receivers on the roster are Anthony Armstrong and Malcolm Kelly. Shanahan could choose to re-sign Santana Moss, who’s 32 years old and has been the Redskins’ top receiver the past six seasons, and still chase a top-tier wideout, such as Santonio Holmes, Sidney Rice or, perhaps, Plaxico Burress.
The Redskins will also aim to address holes at defensive end, right tackle, inside linebacker and guard, and will be able to consider some of their own veterans who will hit free agency, including Jammal Brown, Kedric Golston, Reed Doughty, Rocky McIntosh and H.B. Blades.
Plenty of rookies will be reporting to camp, trying to fill some of those spots. Training camp rosters have expanded to 90, but no rookies can take the field until a contract is signed. Everyone from first-round draft pick Ryan Kerrigan to a slew of undrafted free agents will begin negotiating with the Redskins on Tuesday morning.
While players conducted their own workouts during the offseason, this week will mark the first time coaches get to see many players in person. If they report in shape, coaches can spend camp focusing on the playbooks and not worrying about conditioning.
“I’m sure you’re going to have guys that aren’t ready, but for the most part, I think we have a group of real professionals,” linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. “And if they’re not, it’s a good way to weed guys out.”