Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell prepares for season finale, and an uncertain future

Jason Campbell has career highs in passing yards (3,337) and touchdowns (18).
Jason Campbell has career highs in passing yards (3,337) and touchdowns (18). (John Mcdonnell/the Washington Post)
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By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 31, 2009

By this point in the season, the aches emanating from each joint blend with the pain that wraps around every limb. Quarterback Jason Campbell, sporting a 10-day-old black eye, can't pinpoint each throbbing sensation, and says he's "sore all over."

"It's been a long year, a long year for all of us," he said. "Everyone's looking for a fresh start -- to start over."

While the horizon is cloudy for most everyone at Redskins Park as the team prepares for its final game of the season Sunday in San Diego, Campbell's uncertain future is a particular subject of speculation.

Since he was drafted in the first round in 2005, Campbell has improved statistically every season. Before even taking the field in San Diego, Campbell enters Sunday's season finale having already tallied career highs in yards (3,337), touchdown passes (18) and quarterback rating (85.0). The 41 times he's been sacked this season also mark a career high.

Despite his growth, the team isn't committed to him beyond Sunday's game, and Coach Jim Zorn on Wednesday provided perhaps his most honest assessment yet of Campbell as an NFL quarterback.

"A lot of people want to just label every quarterback, 'He's got to be a franchise player.' I don't know if that is where he's at," Zorn said. "I don't think it is. But I think he continues to improve as a starting quarterback in this league."

Zorn was asked whether Campbell could grow into a franchise quarterback, and he responded with an "Uh" and a three-second pause before answering: "I think the way he works, I think his grit, his determination, he can. But in every instance, the QBs all have help from other guys. That remains to be seen."

Campbell's rookie contract expires at the end of this season, and there have been no indications the team wants him back. While that decision might ultimately be made by whoever coaches the Redskins next season, Campbell said he's had no conversations with Bruce Allen, hired two weeks ago as Washington's new general manager.

If the NFL team owners and the players' union reach a new collective bargaining agreement, Campbell would be an unrestricted free agent at season's end and free to sign with any other team. But if there's no agreement and 2010 is played without a salary cap, Campbell would be a restricted free agent because he has fewer than six years of service. That would mean the Redskins can match any other team's offer. But even then, the offseason dance could be a complicated one.

The Redskins have scouted college quarterbacks and with a first-round draft pick that could be as high as No. 5, they could choose to begin anew their search for a franchise quarterback. In that scenario, they may still want to keep Campbell around for one more season.

But if as a restricted free agent, Campbell is offered a two-year contract by another team, the Redskins may not want to match such an offer.

"If you're a restricted free agent, it's pretty much the team's choice, depends on what they want to do," Campbell said. "You never know how it's going to unfold so you have to be open to both situations."

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