The Washington Redskins filled many of their pressing needs in April's NFL college draft, picking up Georgia cornerback Champ Bailey to eventually succeed 17-year veteran Darrell Green and adding Michigan right tackle Jon Jansen to bolster the offensive line.
The coming weeks may bring an opportunity to address other critical areas.
Today is the deadline for NFL teams to tender an offer to their unsigned restricted free agents in order to retain their rights. It's also the deadline for clubs to offer a contract to an unsigned unrestricted free agent in order to keep his rights, assuming that player isn't signed by another club by July 15.
For NFL teams with a shopping list, the dates define a six-week window in which some potential impact players may be on the market. In past years, the Redskins picked up running back Terry Allen and wide receiver Henry Ellard this way.
This year, the Redskins have an eye on defensive end Marco Coleman, whom Miami made a first-round draft pick (12th overall) in 1992. Coleman went on to lead San Diego's defensive linemen in tackles in 1996 and '97. He visited Redskin Park in recent weeks.
At 6 feet 3, 267 pounds, Coleman could help the Redskins. The defensive line, supposed to have been a strength last season, proved a disappointment instead, largely because of weak play at end. In February, former starter Rich Owens and Jamal Duff, who came on strong at season's end, departed via free agency. That leaves Kenard Lang, Kelvin Kinney and free agent acquisition Anthony Cook in the mix for starting spots.
Assuming Redskins officials find a player they would like to sign in the coming weeks, they should be able to move quickly despite the fact that the team's sale to Bethesda marketing executive Daniel M. Snyder hasn't officially closed yet.
During February's busy free agency period, Redskins officials were somewhat hampered because of a dispute between team president John Kent Cooke and trustees for the estate of the late owner, Jack Kent Cooke, who paid the bills. But Snyder is being consulted on all moves as if he is the owner and would approve any player acquisitions.
As for last season's Redskins roster, team officials have either re-signed or released nearly everyone they intend to. The Redskins won't make an offer to Troy Drake, who filled in at right tackle in two games last season before injuring his right knee. Long snapper Dan Turk, 36, has not been offered a formal contract but has been sent a letter stating that he can only negotiate with the Redskins if he hasn't signed elsewhere by July 15.
Coach Norv Turner gets down to work with his entire squad today, as an eight-day minicamp gets underway at Redskin Park. It will be the staff's last look at the team before training camp opens in Frostburg. Md., on July 25.
While unsigned rookies aren't required to attend, team officials expect full participation.
Quarterback Brad Johnson is still on crutches, recovering from arthroscopic surgery performed May 4 on his left knee. That leaves recently acquired Rodney Peete and backup Casey Weldon to take the majority of the snaps.
Wide receiver Michael Westbrook will be limited to running and catching. Recovering from surgery on a herniated disk in his neck, he can't sustain contact yet. Doctors have said he will be ready to participate fully in training camp.
Guard Tre Johnson, recovering from knee surgery, will miss contact drills this week. But offensive lineman Joe Patton, who watched minicamp from the sidelines this spring, should be ready. Green and linebacker Ken Harvey will likely get a pass because of their veteran status. Green is 39; Harvey is 34, but missed training camp last year with a hamstring injury and the last five games of the season with a knee injury.