By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 23, 2008
INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 22 -- Few, if any, NFL teams in recent years have awaited the opening of free agency more eagerly than the Washington Redskins. It became an annual rite for team officials to man telephones for midnight calls to the players they targeted and then to dispatch owner Daniel Snyder's jet around the country to whisk them to Redskins Park.
But the ritual won't be repeated when this year's free agent market opens at 12:01 a.m. Feb. 29, Redskins front-office chief Vinny Cerrato said Friday.
"Our [salary] cap situation is okay," said Cerrato, the Redskins' executive vice president of football operations. "I just think there's a limited number of guys in free agency. The price of what guys are going to be paid is astronomical. I don't foresee us being a big player."
Cerrato and Coach Jim Zorn said at the NFL scouting combine here that the Redskins hope to re-sign quarterback Todd Collins and running back and kick returner Rock Cartwright. But Cerrato said he expects both players to test the free agent market, and Zorn said emphatically that Collins will not be given a chance to supplant Jason Campbell as the starting quarterback.
"Jason Campbell is going to be the number one quarterback. . . . Jason Campbell must know that he is the starter," Zorn said. "I don't want him to go into this minicamp, I don't want him to go into training camp with him not knowing, or having this thing up for grabs. . . . I don't want Jason Campbell to feel like, 'Oh my gosh, if I make one mistake I'm going to be [replaced.]' "
Zorn said he's been told by the Redskins' medical staff that Campbell will be healed from last season's knee injury and ready to participate fully in all offseason practices. Zorn said he plans to work with Campbell on his footwork and throwing mechanics. He also expressed confidence the young quarterback will fit into the new passing game Zorn will be implementing while keeping the running game elements of the Redskins' previous offensive system. Collins led the Redskins to the playoffs last season after Campbell was hurt. The Redskins want Collins back as a reserve, but first he might see if there's a better opportunity for him elsewhere.
"I think he wants to see what's out there," Cerrato said. "I think he wants to see if there's an opportunity for him to be a starting quarterback. If not, I think he's very open to coming back."
Zorn said he spoke to Collins and told the veteran he would be the backup if he re-signs. Zorn said he hasn't ruled out re-signing third quarterback Mark Brunell, whose contract is set to void. Cartwright's contract also is about to void, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Zorn said he's had a couple conversations with Cartwright, and added: "I see him as a Redskin, and I hope he does, too. We'll see."
Zorn said he's been meeting with players and studying videotapes since being hired as the team's head coach to try to familiarize himself with his new players. He also has taken part in the Redskins' deliberations to prepare for free agency and the draft, and said he's begun to develop a feel for what the team's needs might be.
In addition to settling the backup quarterback spot, Zorn said he thinks the Redskins need to add depth on the offensive line and perhaps at cornerback and safety. According to Cerrato, cornerback Carlos Rogers probably won't be ready to come back from last season's knee injury until mid-September, after the start of the regular season. The Atlanta Falcons reportedly are trying to trade cornerback DeAngelo Hall, but an NFL source said the Redskins are wary of Hall's reputation as a locker room troublemaker.
Zorn praised the wide receivers on the Redskins' roster, saying he thinks Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El will be highly productive in the new system. Team officials would like to add another wideout, perhaps one who's bigger and sturdier than Moss and Randle El.
A source said the Redskins don't believe the Cincinnati Bengals will trade Chad Johnson. One possibility on the roster is Brandon Lloyd, the former high-priced acquisition who fell into disfavor under former coach Joe Gibbs. Lloyd could be a candidate to be released, but Zorn said he'd like to speak to Lloyd first.
"He's fresh on my mind because he's fairly new to the program," Zorn said. "He hasn't had success for whatever reason, injury or lack of opportunity. But I'd sure like to sit down with him and talk and see what his mind-set is and where he's at."
Redskins Notes: Veteran coach Don Breaux won't coach a position next season but will remain involved with the organization in a player evaluation capacity, Zorn said. . . . The new coach said he could envision occasionally using tailbacks Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts in the backfield at the same time next season.