By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 20, 2009
INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 19 -- The Washington Redskins plan to be active and aggressive when the NFL's free agent market opens next week, Coach Jim Zorn said here Thursday as he and other team officials began evaluating college players at the league's scouting combine.
Zorn stopped short of pledging that the club will return to the high-spending ways of some previous offseason shopping sprees overseen by owner Daniel Snyder and front-office chief Vinny Cerrato. He cautioned that the Redskins will look for players who fit their needs and won't be overpriced and even then, he said, some free agents could be reluctant to leave their teams.
The Redskins have been in the process of creating salary cap space, and others around the league doubt the club will pursue the most expensive available players.
But as the Redskins study the possibilities for improving a team that went 8-8 this past season in Zorn's rookie year as an NFL head coach, they aren't vowing, as they did a year ago, to be restrained in free agency.
"I think every team will try to be active," Zorn said, "and we certainly will as well."
Zorn said he is hopeful that the Redskins will re-sign two of their players who are eligible for unrestricted free agency, cornerback DeAngelo Hall and guard Pete Kendall. But he indicated he is not particularly optimistic that a deal with either player will be completed before the free agent market opens on Feb. 27.
Kendall's pending free agent status further complicates the decisions the Redskins must make about their aging offensive line. Right tackle Jon Jansen lost his starting job at one point this past season, and Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels and guard Randy Thomas are returning from injuries. Thomas underwent surgery early last month for a neck injury.
According to Zorn, doctors performed the procedure on Thomas to "relieve some irritation on the spine that was causing some numbness." He said he did not know further medical details but doctors expect Thomas to make a complete recovery and resume his career, according to Zorn. The injury was diagnosed during the season but Thomas continued playing, Zorn said.
A Redskins spokesman said that Thomas is in the midst of a three-month recovery. Zorn indicated that Thomas has been ordered by doctors to rest for now but is eager to begin running and performing other conditioning tasks.
But even if the veterans recover fully from their injuries, Zorn said the Redskins must get young players ready to play more prominent roles on the offensive line next season if needed.
"You would put me on the spot here to be negative toward the guys we've got, and I don't want to do that," Zorn said. "Those guys' careers are coming to a close. They don't necessarily have to start to be a part of our football team, that same starting group, if you want. I'm hoping that we can get the younger guys that we do have in our program up to speed to where they can compete with those guys. We just need to go further down the line in the football season with the offensive line intact. After eight games last year when we faced Pittsburgh, Baltimore, those guys are very, very physical. It took its toll on us."
Zorn said the Redskins remain interested in bringing back defensive end Jason Taylor for a second season with the team. He also indicated he is hopeful that tight end Fred Davis and wide receivers Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas will contribute far more next season as second-year pros than they did this past season as rookies. Kelly is expected to participate in a portion of the offseason practices, Zorn said, after undergoing knee surgery.
"I like who we have," Zorn said of his current group of wide receivers. "I could feel comfortable in that. Some of it is trying to go on potential. But we're optimistic about that potential. You can't ask for more than what Santana [Moss] did. We could probably try to get the ball more to Antwaan [Randle El] or whatever. But, gosh, the guys that are going to be coming on are going to be Devin and Malcolm. We have to hope that they do well."