Despite Big Ticket Additions, Holes Remain for Redskins
Team Still Needs to Shore Up Key Roles, Add Depth as Offseason Conditioning Begins
Monday, March 16, 2009; Page E05
Despite a record spending spree in which the Washington Redskins acquired Pro Bowl defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and moved to bolster the offensive line and secondary, the team still has holes to fill and lacks depth in key areas as the offseason conditioning program begins today at Redskins Park. Washington has no proven strong-side linebackers, only one defensive end with significant NFL experience and failed in an attempt to upgrade at right tackle.
But Coach Jim Zorn preferred to focus on the roster moves that have inspired optimism -- signing Haynesworth, re-signing cornerback DeAngelo Hall and bringing back guard Derrick Dockery -- as the Redskins prepared to resume work. Beginning his second year as a head coach, Zorn has a better understanding of everything around him, he said, and the Redskins should benefit from his experience and the major additions they have made.
"I feel very good about what we've done," Zorn said Friday. "Signing Albert was great. Re-signing DeAngelo and getting Dockery to come back, that was excellent. All these guys were being competed for."
Washington moved quickly before the free agent market opened. The Redskins retained Hall, who signed with them in November after he was released by Oakland and cleared waivers, with a six-year contract that could be worth as much as $55 million, including about $23 million guaranteed. The sides reached an agreement shortly before Hall could consider offers from other teams.
The team then lured Haynesworth, a two-time all-pro performer with Tennessee, with a contract that could be worth as much as $115 million based on his performance and includes $41 million in guarantees -- the highest total in league history. Haynesworth, who was indicted late last week on two misdemeanor traffic charges stemming from a December accident in Tennessee in which another driver was seriously injured, is scheduled to receive about $32 million in his first 13 months with the Redskins.
Dockery, a former Redskins draft pick and four-year starter at left guard who makes his year-round home near the complex, accepted a five-year contract worth almost $27 million to rejoin Washington after Buffalo expectedly released him in a salary cap move. The big spending on three players has left the Redskins only about $7 million under the $127 million cap for 2009.
The Redskins had hoped to use some of their remaining cap space to sign Seattle guard-tackle Ray Willis, who they believed would be a better option at right tackle than longtime starter Jon Jansen, but Willis rejected their offer and returned to Seattle. The team is determined to replace Jansen, league sources said, believing he was the weakest member of a unit that wore down during the 2-6 second-half collapse.
With little cap flexibility, the Redskins might have to turn back to third-year tackle Stephon Heyer, who has started 12 games over the past two seasons. The Redskins have had talks with the agent for defensive end Phillip Daniels, who missed the 2008 season with a knee injury, but Daniels remains unsigned.
Washington could move to address its need at strong-side linebacker in the draft. The Redskins hold the 13th pick and have only four picks overall. The team also has made overtures to veteran strong-side linebacker Marcus Washington, NFL sources said, who was slowed by injuries the last two seasons and released last month.
"I'm very excited about the acquisitions and I think we have a good nucleus," Zorn said. "Now, do we have other holes to fill? We're still trying. There are some places where we can still try to improve our football team, but I like what we've done."
Haynesworth, Hall and Dockery are among the players Zorn expects to participate in the program. Haynesworth and Hall have workout clauses in their contracts, said Vinny Cerrato, Washington's executive vice president of football operations, but Zorn is confident they would have participated in voluntary team activities even if they had not received extra financial incentives.
"All those guys know what it means to have some leadership responsibility on the football team," he said. "I think that's part of it."
Running back Clinton Portis, however, is not expected to be in Ashburn for the beginning of the program. After a strong performance in Washington's 6-2 start last season, Portis struggled with injuries and gained at least 100 yards only once during the long slide. He had fewer than 60 yards rushing in three of those games -- all losses.
"I fully expect him to be here participating at some point," Zorn said. "I talked to Clinton on the phone yesterday, and he knows what it means. He's just trying to work out his schedule. He's been working out his schedule."