New coach Mike Shanahan 'very satisfied' with Redskins' first steps toward building 2010 roster

By Rick Maese and Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, March 12, 2010; D01

Though it's been a relatively quiet first week of free agency for the Washington Redskins, Coach Mike Shanahan said Thursday night he is "very satisfied" with the team's modest first steps toward building the 2010 roster and is looking forward to meeting his players next week when the offseason conditioning program commences at Redskins Park.

"We have a gameplan and it takes time," Shanahan said. "We've got a plan; it's not going to happen overnight. We just have to watch the plan take place. But we're going to try to get better every day."

In 11 years under owner Daniel Snyder, the team has forged a well-earned reputation for chasing the biggest fish on the free agency market. But in the first season under Shanahan and General Manager Bruce Allen, the team has instead focused on second- and third-tier free agents. It's all part of a plan that Allen and Shanahan presented to Snyder before free agency began.

"It's really not about the past now. It's about the future," Snyder said Thursday night. "When you look at the pedigree of Bruce and Mike and everything they're doing and their experience, we're in good hands."

Snyder and Shanahan met briefly with reporters prior to the annual dinner of the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation, the team's nonprofit, philanthropic arm.

Shanahan addressed a handful of topics, from the team's offseason conditioning program to free agency. He said that he expects running back Clinton Portis to be present Monday when players report to Redskins Park for the offseason conditioning program, which is technically optional, though highly encouraged.

"Oh, I guarantee you Clinton will be there," Shanahan said. "I know Clinton too well. He'll be there and kick off the offseason on the right note. I want my leaders to be there, and hopefully we'll have 100 percent participation and if not, I'll be disappointed."

Shanahan said he similarly expects defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and cornerback Carlos Rogers to show up. Rogers had expressed frustration after he was tendered as a restricted free agent.

They're expected to join a group noticeably different from the one that finished last season, more for the players who've left the team than the ones who've joined it. While the Redskins have parted ways with several longtime veterans, including Antwaan Randle El, Rock Cartwright, Cornelius Griffin and Randy Thomas, they've added few bona fide starters.

The team has signed three players since free agency began last Friday: offensive linemen Artis Hicks, nose tackle Maake Kemoeatu and tight end Sean Ryan, who signed with the team Thursday morning.

"You don't come in the first three or four days of free agency and say, 'Hey, we're done,' " Shanahan said.

The Redskins continue to meet with free agents. Running back Larry Johnson, who split 2009 between Kansas City and Cincinnati, arrived in town Thursday and is expected to meet with coaches on Friday. The team has been seeking a veteran tailback who could complement Portis.

"Obviously I've watched him from afar for years," Shanahan said of Johnson, who competed in the same division as Shanahan's former team, the Denver Broncos. "I coached Larry in the Pro Bowl. I like Larry. I'm a big fan of his."

Johnson, 30, has encountered problems off the field, but on it, he has managed to post two 1,750-yard rushing seasons. His agent said Johnson was "extremely excited" about the possibility of playing in Washington.

"He grew up a Redskins fan. He was born in the D.C. area, and he's a lifelong fan," said agent Peter Schaffer. "To some extent, this could be a dream come true for him."

The team also has hosted Willie Parker, a free agent from Pittsburgh, who left town Wednesday without a contract. He is not the only one to pass through town and depart empty-handed. The Redskins also hosted linebacker Larry Foote this week, and though he might have a place lining up alongside London Fletcher, he has continued his hunt for a new team.

Foote visited with Arizona Cardinals coaches on Thursday and told reporters there that the Cardinals are his No. 1 choice.

"I want to be a Cardinal and hopefully we can get it done," he told the Arizona Republic.

The only player the Redskins locked up Thursday was Ryan, a journeyman tight end who is signed with his sixth team in six seasons. Ryan is primarily a blocking tight end, which could mean that Todd Yoder, an unrestricted free agent, will have to look elsewhere for work.

Shanahan said he is looking forward to seeing his players on Monday, his first chance to survey his team first-hand and better evaluate what holes the team must fill in next month's draft. He is hoping for perfect attendance among players.

"You never know," Shanahan said. "Sometimes you get 100 percent. Sometimes you get 95 percent. I'm looking forward to the people that are there. People are there that want to get better, do everything they can to help our football team win in the future. Just kind of looking forward to spending some time and kicking it off on the right note."

And in the meantime, the Redskins' front office will continue scouring the free agent market. Most of the big fish already have landed with new teams, but the Redskins still think there are players out there who can help their team.

"It's a process," Shanahan said. "You're not going to do it overnight, but you have to try to do the little things the right way. Hopefully we can get it done."

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