Redskins Looking Up, Down, All Around

By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 22, 2007

With less than one week remaining before the start of the NFL draft, the Washington Redskins continue to assess varied options related to their first-round pick, the sixth overall. Team management has spent the offseason in repeated trade talks, involving both players and the pick, and will be in contact with several clubs through next weekend's draft.

Myriad scenarios could unfold this week and on draft day, with the unpredictable Oakland Raiders and Detroit Lions holding the top two picks, making it difficult for the teams behind them to assess precisely how the opening round will unfold. Some NFL executives expect the Redskins to go down to the last minute Saturday before making a trade or selecting a player, as their odds of completing a swap would be boosted if some of the top available talent slips beyond the top five selections. Washington has been exploring ways to move up in the first round as well, with wide receiver Calvin Johnson coveted by many in the organization, including owner Daniel Snyder.

But many coaches and scouts within Redskins Park hope they opt to trade down, league sources said, as the club currently lacks a pick in the second, third or fourth round and must replenish its depth after a 5-11 campaign that exposed its thinness, particularly on defense. The Redskins have engaged in private workouts and visits with most of the top-rated players, with safety LaRon Landry (Louisiana State) and defensive tackle Amobi Okoye (Louisville) considered the two best defensive players available by several members of the Redskins organization, sources said.

Washington has yet to address its unproductive and aging defensive line this offseason -- considered by some to be the club's biggest weakness -- and Coach Joe Gibbs has maintained throughout the past few months that the Redskins will "do whatever it takes" to improve the club, including trades, but also has repeatedly stated how difficult it is to complete such maneuvers. Washington still could obtain a veteran player during a draft-week deal -- they have pursed cornerback Dre Bly and linebacker Lance Briggs, among others, in previous trade discussions -- but in recent weeks, the team's front office has been focused on evaluating college players, with roughly 30 of them visiting Redskins Park.

Johnson is the consensus choice as the top overall talent in the draft, and despite Washington already investing a large percentage of its salary cap in wide receivers and acquiring two expensive veteran pass catchers a year ago, his mix of size, strength, talent and character is difficult to ignore.

The Redskins, who currently are about $3.9 million under the salary cap, could shop players such as cornerback Shawn Springs to move up -- he was offered to Denver previously this offseason, league sources said -- but Washington lacks the number of later picks likely required to move into the top two. Besides the sixth pick, Washington has just a fifth-round pick, two sixth-round picks and a seventh-round selection. Parting with next year's first-round pick would garner some interest -- the team has been criticized throughout Gibbs's tenure as team president for its willingness to trade high picks -- but even that might not be enough to rival other offers for Johnson. Washington has spent considerable resources scouting wide receivers Ted Ginn Jr. (Ohio State) and Dwayne Bowe (LSU) as well, and they could be options if the team trades down.

"They don't seem to have what it takes to get into that top two or three" picks, one NFC personnel executive said. "If it were any other team I couldn't see it happening, but with that coach and that owner, you never know. They like to make a big splash, and they have a way of getting their guy. I'd call it a long shot, but you can never say never with them."

Dropping deeper in the first round is no sure thing, either. Many other clubs in the top 10 are attempting to move back as well, with only a few teams expected to be seriously interested in trading up. However, should either quarterback Brady Quinn (Notre Dame) or running back Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma) fall to the sixth pick, Washington would undoubtedly field numerous calls, and its best leverage might come at the last minute. Buffalo (12th overall) wants Peterson, Miami (ninth overall) is pursuing Quinn and Atlanta (eighth overall) is targeting Okoye and Landry, according to sources.

Some parties involved in Washington's draft process have ranked Landry, Okoye and defensive ends Jamaal Anderson (Arkansas) and Gaines Adams (Clemson) -- in that order -- as the best defensive players available, and probably the only four worthy of selecting as high as sixth overall. While safety is not as pressing a need, Landry is seen as a dynamic game-changer and if the Redskins drafted with the sixth pick, they would then try to utilize trades or free agency to address the defensive line, sources said.

Several members of the organization said they also believe this draft has enough depth at defensive line for a quality player to drop outside the top 10 selections. Should the Redskins trade down, end Adam Carriker (Nebraska) could be their primary target, as he impressed defensive line coach Greg Blache at his pro day workout and is considered by some teams to be more of a sure thing than either Adams or Anderson, who both have greater potential to be stars, but also busts. Two NFL sources said Carriker would not last beyond the 17th pick (Jacksonville) and could go 11th (San Francisco).

Two NFL team executives who have studied Washington's roster came to the same conclusion about what they would do if they were selecting sixth overall for the Redskins. Both said they would take Okoye, who is just 19 and viewed by many as the top defensive tackle in the draft.

"Okoye is a great kid who you can plug in for 10 years, you know he'll make your line better and you're not going to have to worry about him," the scouting director for one NFL team said.

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