Faced with another bleak draft that includes only two picks in the first five rounds, General Manager Bobby Beathard said yesterday he would seriously pursue offseason trades in which the Redskins would give up players for his choices.
Beathard said that the team's three main draft priorities will be defensive line, offensive line and running back. Unlike last year, when Washington picked in the middle of the pack in the first round, the Redskins could have the second pick in the draft, depending on how they finish the season.Beathard said he is scouting all the top quality college seniors in the country.
Beathard indicated he would be interested in defensive lineman Bruce Clark, last year's No. 1 choice who opted to play in Canada instead of signing with the Green Bay Packers. Because of the league's rules on tampering, Beathard says he has not pursued the matter.
Beathard declined to say what players might be traded. Only the secondary and, possibly, linebacker posiitons are stocked well enough to provide trade bait.
Last May, when Washington obtained cornerback Jeris White from Tampa Bay, team sources said veterans Leman Parrish and Joe Lavender could be involved in future deals. When White did not report to training camp, any talks involving either of those players were dropped. White has a new Washington contract, giving the team some trading leverage at the spot.
At linebacker, Washington has three solid young players and a talented veteran, Brad Dusek. Probably only Dusek would bring a third or fourth pick in return, but there is no indication Washington is willing to part with him.
Washington likely will try to trade fullback John Riggins, if he decides he wants to play next season. But the Redskins' bargaining power is limited by Riggins' contractual veto power over trades and because of his age and large contract demands.
Beathard said another possibility would be for the Redskins to swap their high No. 1 pick for a later-round No. 1, plus a No. 2, or maybe two No. 1s. That was the approach San Francisco took in this year's draft, figuring it was smarter to sacrifice a little quality to obtain two highly rated players.
Trades are the reason the Redskins are lacking high choices. They surrendered No. 2 for Wilbur Jackson (along with No. 2 in 1982), a No. 3 as part of the Dan Nugent deal with Los Angeles and a No. 4 for Tony Peters (along with a 1980 No. 5).
"We certainly aren't in the shape we'd like to be for this draft," Beathard said. "It's great to have your No. 1 but those other early rounds are vital, too. You can pick up some great players in the second through fourth rounds and this year is no exception. We need all the choices we can get."
Beathard said he would prefer to trade for draft choices rather than players "because it seems like when you give up something good for a player you only get back something temporary in return. There are exceptions, like Wilbur Jackson or Jeris, but with draft choices, I think you have more of an idea what you are getting in the long run."
Ironically, the more games the Redskins lose, the better their draft position will be. They are tied with four other teams for the third-worst record in the league. New Orleans is all but assured of the first pick, and the Jets, at 2-9, are a game ahead of the Redskins, San Francisco, the Giants, St. Louis and Cincinnati for second spot.
If Washington were to select second, Beathard would have great leverage. South Carolina halfback George Rogers and Pittsburgh defensive end Hugh Green, who is projected as a linebacker, may be the first two players taken in the draft. If Rogers went first and Green were left, Beathard might want to swap his choice to a club that needs a linebacker in exchange for additional selections.
"We are still in the process of looking at everyone and we really haven't sat down and said, 'this guy is the best,'" Beathard said.
The draft is strong in linebackers, tight ends, running backs quaterbacks and defensive backs. Save for running backs, those are not high priority areas for Washington.
Joe Theismann's hamsting pull was improved yesterday. Although Coach Jack Pardee maintained he would not decide if Theismann could start until just before Sunday's Dallas game, it appeared Theismann would probably get the nod. "If Joe is mobile enough, we'd go with him," Pardee said. "First, I'd rather start him and bring in Mike if he can't do it, rather than warm up Joe and then sit him on the bench as a reserve. Second Joe's had most of the practice work and game time this year and everyone is more used to him. We want to win the game. Mike has ability, too, but Joe has done all the playing, so if he is okay, our chances are better with him" . . . Theismann said he would like to try out the leg today in practice. "It would be foolish to push it all out before Sunday," he said Can he play? "I don't see why not, they way it is progressing. I'm optimistic about it."