$100 Million of Impact: Haynesworth Expected to Make the Redskins Better All Around
Friday, September 11, 2009
Entering the first game of the season, the Washington Redskins' second-year coach has to constantly shun talk of the proverbial hot seat, and the embattled quarterback has to field never-ending questions about pressure to perform. But the talented defensive tackle, the $100 million chess piece that is supposed to help the Redskins contend in the NFC East? Albert Haynesworth doesn't seem to be worried about a thing.
"It's just business for me. Just go out and do what I'm supposed to do," said Haynesworth, the team's biggest offseason upgrade. "I know what I have to do, and I know I have to accomplish that."
Many will be watching the Redskins' season opener Sunday against the New York Giants closely, scrutinizing Haynesworth and how his presence affects a defense that was already ranked No. 4 in the league a season ago. Was he worth the money? Is he the missing ingredient? For the Redskins, Week 1 is pregnant with possibilities, as Haynesworth was limited in preseason and provided only a hint of what he'll add to a defensive line that is among the league's deepest.
"We all have expectations," defensive coordinator Greg Blache said. "Every one of us in here has expectations of something we bought, we purchased or whatever, and you come home and it's not always what you thought it was. I'm not saying that's going to be the case, but at the same time, until you open the box, you're not certain. So we're going to wait and open up the box, and then we'll talk about it once the box is open."
For his part, Haynesworth offers no brash predictions. He spoke with reporters in Washington and New York this week with a friendly, mellow tone that sounded as if he had hit the snooze button a couple of times.
"I can't sit here and say we're going to win every game or whatever. What I can promise [is] that I can do my job, and I'm pretty good at what I do," Haynesworth said. "They just expect me to play my game and play how I play and that's about it. That's all I can promise."
Coming over from the Tennessee Titans as a free agent, Haynesworth, 28, is expected to provide an immediate impact, bolstering the interior, occupying multiple offensive linemen and opening the defense for a variety of packages. If the Redskins didn't float so much money in front of Haynesworth, though, it's possible he'd be standing on the opposing sideline for Sunday's opener, wearing blue and white. He wouldn't reveal how much money the Giants offered, though it's believed to be less than the Redskins. "But it ain't too far away," he said.
That's a big reason there's not much contract envy in the Redskins' locker room. Given the alternative of lining up against Haynesworth, his new teammates are happy owner Daniel Snyder dug so deep into his wallet.
"I don't think anybody in this locker room would say that Albert wasn't worth $100 million," said running back Clinton Portis. "I think everybody in our locker room appreciates that the owner went and paid him $100 million and kept us from having to play him, and definitely kept the Giants or the Eagles from getting him."
With $41 million guaranteed, Haynesworth's deal set a league record -- since broken by Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford's $41.7 million guarantee. Haynesworth has said throughout training camp and the preseason that even though he's cashing bigger checks this season, he's the same player fans saw in Tennessee. Joking about his elite tax bracket, Haynesworth told New York reporters this week, "I feel like I probably made more in Tennessee than I am right now."
While Haynesworth insists the money didn't change the man, Redskins officials are hoping it's changed the team. Haynesworth was the centerpiece in a defensive upgrade designed to create more turnovers and wreak more havoc.
Though Haynesworth notched a career-high 8 1/2 sacks last season, his true contribution will be difficult to measure with statistics. Adding him alone could impact the entire defensive unit, as Haynesworth faces double- and triple-teams on most every down. The thinking goes: defensive ends benefit, so the linebackers benefit, so the defensive backs benefit.