On Football

Les Carpenter On Football: Redskins' Signing of Haynesworth Is a Risky Quick Fix

By Les Carpenter
Friday, February 27, 2009; 11:29 AM

The signs this morning should scream "danger."

By agreeing to spend $155 million to sign Albert Haynesworth and keep cornerback DeAngelo Hall, the Redskins are heading down the same slippery, treacherous trail they have walked so many times before, only to lose their footing and tumble to the bottom.

Since Hall was already here and the team simply spent too much to keep him, the message the team sent with the early morning deal with Haynesworth is that Washington is merely a player away from overtaking the Eagles and the Giants to become the best team in the NFC East. The Redskins are not a player away. Not even close. Haynesworth helps; he may help a lot. He may be the best defensive lineman who was available. He might be the best defensive lineman in the league. But bringing him here alone and inserting him on the same shoddy defensive line that failed the Redskins so many times last season is not going to send this team to the Super Bowl.

The foundation here is fractured; offensive and defensive lines broken from so many quick fixes in previous years that one more quick fix isn't going to save everything.

While Haynesworth is a fantastic player and one who, when healthy and motivated, can break down the middle of offensive lines, opening the lanes for pass rushers from either side, he is far from a sure thing. The case against him has been stated many times these last few days as word trickled out that the Redskins were going to do any and every thing to sign him: He has never played a full season, he has a history of anger problems that finally manifested themselves in the infamous stomping on the head of Dallas's Andre Gurode in 2006 (leading to an unprecedented five-game suspension), he weighs 320 pounds, and his desire to be great has repeatedly been questioned.

This is not a London Fletcher the Redskins have bought. When Fletcher signed two seasons ago for $25 million, including a $10.5 million bonus, the deal made sense. Fletcher was a leader, he did not miss games, he was a quick fix that instantly made Washington's defense better. Haynesworth is not a team leader and has always missed games. If you lavish a contract as rich as the one the Redskins are handing Haynesworth, he must not only be the best player by far, but he must also be the one who can single-handedly pull the players together and drive the team to the Super Bowl. To date he has been none of these things.

Redskins Coach Jim Zorn should know the danger of his team's early-morning splash. He was an assistant coach, just starting out in the NFL, in 1997 when the Seattle Seahawks shocked the league with a similar move, swooping in to whisk away the top defensive player in free agency and hand him a then-unimaginable $7 million guarantee. The player was Steelers linebacker Chad Brown. And while Brown turned out to be a wonderful player who played behind a defensive line far better than the one the Redskins have, Seattle went 8-8, gazing longingly at more complete Kansas City and Denver teams. Washington's needs are still significant: two guards and a right tackle to negate the pass rush and perhaps a dependable wide receiver. With only four draft picks, the Redskins have plenty of holes and nothing left with which to fill them.

Quick fixes almost never work in the NFL. Again and again it has been proven that winning teams are built carefully, through the draft, from the bottom up.

All the Redskins have done today is place the biggest weight yet on a shaky foundation.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company