Q&A With: Vinny Cerrato

The Redskins director of pro personnel talks about Washington's offseason (before talks with Rocket Ismail fell apart). Cerrato and the Redskins work isn't finished: the agent for tight end Ernie Conwell confirmed Washington has spoken with him. A visit might be lined up for next week.

Q: What did you do differently this year?
A: We evaluated the unrestricted and restricted free agents and put them in order by the best player. We wanted to get guys who love the game and loved to work and were young. We didn't want to get guys who were just a Band Aid. We wanted guys who could be here and grow. That's what we did. After we identified everybody, then it was a matter of signing them. When you have an owner who's willing to spend, it enables you to do things a lot of other teams can't do.


Q: Did you guys think further ahead than most teams?
A: Our plan was in place from Day One. We knew what we wanted to do and at 12:01 we were putting ouru plan into place. Because we were well-prepared and knew what we wanted and who we wanted, we were able to act quickly and when you have an owner willing to spend and pick them up in private planes, it showed these players that we were serious that we wanted them and were willing to get a deal done quickly.



Q: Did people settle into their roles during this period, making it easier to be on the same page?
A: The biggest thing was that we did get everyone on the same page. We sat down with the coaches so everyone had their say-so. When we presented a list of rankings to Mr. Snyder, then he went and talked to the agents and negotiated the deals. What we did enabled everybody to be on the same page. Whether he asked me or a coach, everyone was saying the same thing and wanting the same guy. It was a fun process and you see the results when you follow the plan. We're reaping the benefits of being organized and prepared. It was like having a good game plan in a game. It worked to perfection.



Q: How important was it that Dan Snyder met with agents at the combine?
A: It was big because he didn't know a lot of them. It gave them a chance to see who he really was and not just what you heard or read about. They could see that how committed he is and passionate he is for the Redskins. They got a chance to feel it, so when he called them, they knew who he was and what he was about. That's why deals got done quickly.


Q: How much did you learn from the offseason three years ago when the Redskins signed aging stars to big contracts?
A: You learn from every experience. This time, everyone we signed can fulfill their whole contract. There's no phony money in these contracts. Coles just turned 25. The oldest guy we signed is 28. They're young and they can grow together. We're building a foundation of people who can stay together and work together and are passionate about the game together. That's what we did this time and that's what we learned.




Q: What do you say to the skeptics who say this crop of free agents doesn't make you that much better?
A: Other coaches and personnel people have said you've got a bunch of good guys, so you feel good about it. Other people respect the fact that we got good players. I give credit to the pro scouting department and the evaluation process. Unless we screwed up on how we watch tape and evaluate players, we feel like we do have a good crop of guys. They still have to come together and they still have to work. They've proven what they can do. Now they have to come together as a team.



Q: What about punters and punt returners?
A: We'll probably look to the draft. It's a good year for punters in the draft. And if you look at most of these big-time return guys, most weren't drafted. We'll have to do a good job in undrafted free agency because we don't have a lot of picks. Maybe we can come up with a guy like that.



Q: What things will we see this year because of the added speed that we didn't see last year?
A: You've got playmakers. You can complete a five-yard pass and have it go 80. You'll cause some defensive coordinators to have problems because they have to worry about speed. If a guy falls down, it could mean a big play for the Redskins. We'll be one of the top three or four fastest teams in the league. You can't make up for not having speed. If you have speed you can make up for a mistake. Speed definitely kills and the thing with this offense is having receivers who can separate and all these guys have the ability to separate and score touchdowns.


Q: What's next?
A: We'll prepare for the draft as if we're the Houston Texans with 14 picks. We won't sit back and say that because we only have five picks we're going to take it easy. No, we'll prepare. We still have to fill a couple of holes that we've got.



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