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In Offseason, Redskins Could Follow Example of Ravens, Falcons and Dolphins
New Year, Same Dilemma
What type of team will the Redskins create? Some veterans thought significant roster turnover would occur after the 2007 season, but an improbable four-game winning streak, fueled in part by the emotional reaction to the shooting death of safety Sean Taylor, resulted in a 9-7 record and a playoff berth. Although some Redskins officials were convinced the team was not good enough to reach the playoffs again, Cerrato decided otherwise and spent about $30 million to rework contracts, keeping the team together at steep salary cap costs.
A year later, Cerrato faces the same decision.
"Nobody will ever talk about what an organization thinks that their window [to win it all] really is," veteran left guard Pete Kendall said. "But in reality I think they look at that all the time, and sometimes it's this year, or sometimes it might really be two or three years out. And you can't say to your fans, 'We're rebuilding,' and you can't say to your players, 'We're not trying.' And you can't say that this guy is not as good as that guy, but I think that's probably the reality of the way it goes.
"There's no future in 36-year-old guys; the future is now. But it is still a win-now league as well, so there is that decision that people charged with making those decisions have to make: Do you perhaps take a step back to get better [long-term]?"
Whether Zorn remains with the Redskins beyond the 2009 season could hinge on how well Cerrato answers that question. At the very least, if the Redskins retain their first draft pick, the player they select must make an immediate impact, both Cerrato and Zorn said.
Replacing Jansen, 32, with a more effective starting right tackle is a top priority, team sources said, though Jansen's contract will likely keep him on the team. Kendall, 35, will be a free agent. Samuels, 31, and right guard Randy Thomas, 33, underwent surgery for injuries again this season. Heyer, 25, is the only productive backup. Washington could also benefit from adding big-play potential. Although running back Clinton Portis rushed for 1,487 yards -- the league's fourth-highest total -- his longest gain was only 31 yards. In his last 794 rushes spanning three seasons, Portis has no carries of at least 40 yards. Wide receiver Santana Moss was Washington's sole deep threat, and his three catches of 40 or more yards were the team's only offensive plays of that distance. Only Cincinnati and Jacksonville had fewer big plays. "As an offense, you always want guys who can make big plays and put that fear in the defense," Campbell said. "Santana is definitely that type of guy, but Santana needs help."
That help was supposed to come from last year's second-round picks: wide receivers Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly and pass-catching tight end Fred Davis. Thomas was the most productive member of the trio and he had only 15 receptions for 120 yards, along with a 29-yard rushing touchdown. His immaturity and poor work ethic, team sources said, frustrated coaches and veterans.
"It takes some guys time to get adjusted and realize, 'Yeah, I'm still playing the game I always have, but this is my job now,' " said wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, who mentored Thomas. "And when it's your job, you have to always take that type of approach. You can't have days when you just don't feel like it."
Kelly had only three catches for 18 yards and was sidelined for most of the season because of knee problems that had hampered him since college. Davis's maturity was also questioned by some team sources, who noted that he often giggled in meetings. He missed the final day of minicamp, telling team officials he overslept. His lack of understanding of the offense helped prevent him from overtaking Todd Yoder as the backup to Pro Bowler Chris Cooley.
"I think they made progress," Cerrato said of the second-round picks. "When you look at any receiver, take Roddy White from the Atlanta Falcons. Everybody would have said after the first year, and he was a first-round pick, that he was a bust. He had like twenty-something catches . Now, in his fourth year, he's going to the Pro Bowl. In receivers, you've got to give them some time."
The defense ranked fourth in the league, but struggled in the fourth quarters of losses to Dallas, Baltimore, Cincinnati and San Francisco, and finished tied for 28th in sacks. Cornerback Shawn Springs, 33, strong-side linebacker Marcus Washington, 31, and defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, 32 -- all from the 2004 free agent class -- could be let go to create a salary cap savings of about $13 million. According to team and league sources, the Redskins are roughly $2 million over the projected salary cap.
"They'll be able to shed some contracts and have cap space to go spend again," a salary cap official said, "but I wouldn't be doing it on older guys again. You end up restructuring and keeping people based on the salary cap and not football decisions."