Haynesworth Signing Is Boom or Bust for Redskins

By Michael Wilbon
Saturday, February 28, 2009

We've come to expect these big splashes from the Washington Redskins as the calendar creeps toward springtime. Nobody can be surprised to see the Champs of the Offseason strike first -- and loudest -- during the free agent period. Nobody can be surprised that the Redskins spent the most money to land the biggest fish to elicit the biggest wow.

The recession may apply to little people, but nothing economic was going to keep Daniel Snyder from throwing tens of millions at Albert Haynesworth in that excessive, over-the-top manner that has become Snyder's signature as an owner.

Look, it could work. The Redskins more than anything else need linemen, on both sides of the line of scrimmage. And Haynesworth isn't just the best available lineman, he's the best defensive lineman in football. Once upon a time the Green Bay Packers signed the best defensive lineman in the league, a man named Reggie White, and he led the Packers out of mediocrity and to the Super Bowl, twice.

But it could fail spectacularly, too. Once upon a time the Redskins acquired a defensive lineman who plays the middle just like Haynesworth, a player who was coming off a defensive MVP season and entering his prime, a lineman who had already been in the Super Bowl. His name was Dana Stubblefield, and at the time it seemed like the Redskins were getting a player on his way to the Hall of Fame. There was nothing but joy when the Redskins got him.

A few years later, there was nothing but relief when the Redskins showed him the door after utter disappointment. The Redskins were the only ones, in retrospect, who didn't know that it was Bryant Young who made that 49ers' line great, and not Stubblefield.

Now, all the indications are that Haynesworth is the monster that made the Tennessee Titans' defense formidable. He's an offensive coordinator's nightmare and a pass rusher's best friend. All he does is consume interior offensive linemen and give everybody else along the defensive front more room than they've ever had to operate.

One could quite easily make the case that Haynesworth, not Kerry Collins, was the MVP of the Titans last season, when they spent a good deal of it as the best team in the NFL. There's no suggestion that somebody else was setting up Haynesworth or making his life easier. His coach, Jeff Fisher, is careful with praise and he has lavished plenty of it on Haynesworth over the last couple of seasons.

So perhaps the Redskins have finally acquired a free agent in his prime or close to it rather than another guy who has spent his best years elsewhere and is coming here to cash in. It's often said among veteran free agents-to-be in locker rooms around the NFL, "How do I get some of that Daniel Snyder money?"

Haynesworth got plenty of it, of course, more than any defensive player in NFL history. Time will tell whether the Redskins should have found two linemen -- one on the offensive side as well or a pass rusher, which the team still needs -- instead of spending it all in one place, as the Redskins are wont to do.

But for now the Redskins have done what the Redskins of Daniel Snyder do almost every season, which is to say grab the headlines as they rarely do during the season.

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