By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
With wide receiver D.J. Hackett having joined the Carolina Panthers, the Washington Redskins likely are finished pursuing free agents in this market, team officials said yesterday. The Redskins have shifted their focus to the draft to fill needs, and they're confident in an unusual approach for them.
"It's always changing, so you don't know how it's going to be from year to year, but we just weren't going to do something for the sake of doing something," said Vinny Cerrato, Washington's executive vice president of football operations. "Last year, we said we needed a middle linebacker. We had to have a quarterback on defense, which is hard to find in the draft.
"To get a guy with that experience, who can walk into your locker room on Day One and everybody says that's our leader, there aren't a lot of those guys out there anywhere. We went out and got London Fletcher because he is one of those rare guys. . . . Yeah, we were interested in Hackett, but it had to make sense."
Hackett, to whom the Redskins offered a contract last week, agreed Monday to a two-year, $3.5 million deal with Carolina. The Redskins had hoped to sign a dependable, big, veteran wide receiver, and Hackett is 6 feet 2, 208 pounds.
The Redskins had concerns about Hackett's durability in his first four seasons in the league with Seattle. Hackett, the lone free agent to visit the Redskins, was limited to only six games last season because of a high-ankle sprain. He missed his entire rookie season and has never played in more than 14 games in a season.
Coach Jim Zorn, formerly the Seahawks' quarterbacks coach, recruited Hackett for the Redskins and "is excited for D.J. because I know him and he's a good receiver. He's off and running now."
The Redskins have little interest in the remaining options at wide receiver in this market, team sources said, though the team still is waiting for Reche Caldwell to decide on their contract offer. They have no more visits scheduled with free agents, Cerrato said.
"If something comes up, we'll run it down," Zorn said. "But there isn't anything that I'm hot after, there's nothing on the hot list, per se."
In addition to seeking to bolster the defensive and offensive lines and hoping to add a pass-rushing end, the Redskins also will turn to the draft for a wide receiver, Zorn said. "I don't know if I want to say 'big' is the prerequisite," he said. "It can't be a 5-8 guy, I don't believe, but that's something [selecting a wide receiver high in the draft] that has to be definitely considered. I think it'll depend on who's available."
Because the Redskins are about $8 million under the salary cap (they also have set aside about $5 million to sign draft picks and players during the season), their lack of activity has raised eyebrows, considering they have been among the most aggressive teams in recent years.
Cerrato, however, dismisses speculation that the Redskins are cutting back. "That has nothing to do with it," he said. "If there was a player we felt we needed out there, that would make the difference for us, we would go out and get him. It's as simple as that."