Free Agency Analysis

In less than a week the Redskins have greatly changed their roster. Again. Here's a look at where they're better and where they're not. And where more work must be done. In general, the Redskins have improved their roster.

Where they're Better:

. . . Running back. Not even close. Clinton Portis or Trung Canidate? Slap yourself if it took you less than a second to answer this question. Portis gives Washington an every-down back, thanks to his ability to pick up the blitz and catch passes. Canidate could do neither. I never liked him as a runner. If Ladell Betts can stay healthy, he could be a solid backup.

. . . Quarterback. Regardless of who starts, the Redskins have improved with the addition of Mark Brunell. Veteran savvy can go a long way in the NFL and Brunell brings that. But know this about Brunell and Patrick Ramsey: both are big-time competitors. That can often make for friction. Still, if Ramsey commits to learning under Joe Gibbs and from Brunell, this can pay off. That is, if Brunell can stay healthy. And if Tim Hasselbeck is the No. 3, the Redskins are in solid shape.

. . . Tight end. With Walter Rasby back in town, the Redskins have someone at this position who knows how to block. He'll be a good tutor for someone like Kevin Ware. The Redskins must develop someone at this position so they can make this a cheaper spot to fill. Ware has potential to become like Rasby. But the Redskins still need to find an H-back. One possibility: Bryan Johnson, who will work at that position.

. . . Punter. Tom Tupa is not the best, but he has improved with age. Bryan Barker had some up and down games last year, but always seemed to save his worst punts for the most crucial times.

. . . Defensive line. Phillip Daniels is better than Bruce Smith was on the right side. And just getting rid of Smith is a bonus. But don't expect much pass rush from Daniels. Cornelius Griffin is better than anyone who played tackle last season. Griffin will be a solid player, but I'm not sure he was worth the offer he received. Again, New York, which has a need at tackle, put up no fight to keep him. Makes you wonder, though several analysts have praised this signing.

. . . Linebacker. But I don't know by how much. Jessie Armstead was a consistent player and a team leader. Armstead didn't hide when things got bad or tough like some linebacker mates. It annoyed him to no end. But Marcus Washington is a nice young linebacker with a little more speed and strength. Some scouts said Armstead clearly had worn down by season's end. Washington shouldn't have that problem. Plus if LaVar Arrington moves to the weak side, it might allow him to use his athletic ability more. Washington is better in coverage than Arrington. I'm still curious to see what will happen with Jeremiah Trotter. I had heard the Redskins told one free agent they were going to cut him. The Redskins deny they have plans to do so, but we'll see after June 1.

. . . The little things. They'll pass protect better because of guys like Rasby and Portis. They'll improve a little on special teams because of guys like Washington. And the players they've signed are considered good in the locker room. Joe Gibbs won with such guys in his first go-round.

Where they're not:

. . . Cornerback. But this comes with an asterisk because it depends on what happens with Jeremetrius Butler. If the Redskins land him they provide themselves with depth and maybe a potential starter in a couple years. Grooming players, what a novel concept. But, much as I like players from my alma mater of Ohio State, Shawn Springs is not in Champ Bailey's class right now. That said if Springs stays healthy he's not that far behind and the Redskins could go from having had an excellent cornerback situation to having a very good one. But if Springs misses several games or continues his downward trend, then they'll be a couple steps below last year. The corners will look better with an improved rush, too.

. . . Safety. They haven't done anything here yet. They need to. Ifeanyi Ohalete is too slow to be as effective as Gregg Williams would like in his safeties.

. . . Pass rush. The Redskins should be better up front against the run, but they still lack someone who can pressure the passer consistently. That means they'll have to use their back seven to help in this area. I don't care who the coordinator is, you still need a pass-rusher up front. Gregg Williams is known for being aggressive, but he's also had some pretty good talent in Tennessee and Buffalo. Who up front will scare an offense? No one. Maybe Arrington as a third-down end will be that guy, but he must develop more of an arsenal to become that guy. But one thing Bailey told me after the season still rings true: it will take two years to fix this line. That's how bad it was last year. But there's still the draft, where they could trade down several spots, select and end and pick up another choice later in the draft.

Curious strategy

. . . Trading away all the draft picks. I didn't mind it so much last year, but doing it two years in a row is not a good thing. The draft will always be an important part of building a team, mainly because it's an opportunity to groom younger, and cheaper, talent. Those who say the draft is unimportant, and that the second-round pick given to Denver was no big deal forget that Portis was a second-round pick. So, too, was Jon Jansen.

Had the Redskins developed Ladell Betts, they would not have needed to shell out major bucks for Portis, instead giving it to another position or player. Same is true at linebacker, where they had no one to replace Armstead so they gave a big contract to Washington. Had the Redskins done a better job of developing players, they would have been even more under the cap than they already were. Ultimately, the poor record at finding depth via the draft will hurt them. We keep hearing that in two years the Redskins will have to make some serious cuts. At that time, they'll need younger players to rise up so the team can remain competitive. Will they be there?

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