Panic Mode or Business as Usual?

The Washington Redskins were already in search of a defensive tackle before Brandon Noble went down with a season-ending knee injury early in last Saturday's preseason game against New England. How is the team reacting to the latest developments?

They could take one extreme, go into panic mode and do whatever it takes to secure one or two serviceable DT's. They would make a deal even if it meant sacrificing the future, giving up a draft choice or a young player. Absorbing a hefty salary cap hit would be no object either, even if doing so would make it more difficult to sign Champ Bailey to a contract extension before the season begins.

The opposite approach would be to play it cool. Express confidence that you could go to war with Jermaine Haley and Del Cowsette at tackle and shop at a leisurely pace. Let the market come to you rather than madly working the phones. Perhaps forgo the trade route altogether and keep an eye on the waiver wire. Wait for someone who would be a good fit but carries a pricey contract to get cut, go unclaimed and then sign him to a minimum-salary deal with some incentives.

Which approach are the Redskins taking? Both, if you read the big DC local papers. According to the Post, the team is taking the former tactic, offering up the likes of last year's second-round pick Ledell Betts and a draft pick for a tackle, among other deals the team is working very hard.. If you read the Times, they'll tell you that the Skins' organization is taking the other, more laid-back way of looking at it.

So how should the Redskins deal with their dilemma? Somewhere in the middle. They need to be totally prepared to enter the season with who they have on the roster right now. Cowsette and Haley are the starters, not just two placeholders pending the arrival of a savior. The defensive coaches need to prepare their schemes with the notion that these two will be in the regular lineup and adjust according to their abilities.

They must, however, be proactive in finding more talented players at the DT position. Haley and Cowsette may turn out to be decent players, but they're not who you want starting for you if you have playoff aspirations. Any proposed trades need to be carefully evaluated from all angles, including how the player would fit into the scheme, the salary cap effects of his contract, and the balance of short-term impact versus long-term consequences. There must be recognition that there is great danger in developing the mindset that they "have to have" a particular player. This is a sure road to getting badly beaten in a trade or contract negotiation.

This is the first major test for the Redskins' current front office. How they handle it will give a good indication of how the team will fare in the future.

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has detailed coverage of every game the Redskins played from 1937 through the 2001 season. For details, go to

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