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Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs' Washington Redskins.
Gibbs: Franchise Tag "Up in the Air"
At the beginning of a two-week window for teams to designate any of their free agents as franchise players, Joe Gibbs said that the Redskins were still undecided about using the tag on any of their free agents. Gibbs quoted in a Washington Post article::
We're still not sure exactly what were going to do there. Right now, it's pretty much up in the air. What happens is you work really hard on all of your free agent guys and try to get in position to get them signed, it's just moving slow. . . . We're working extremely hard on it, it's just so sensitive right now with some of them. I think we're getting closer, but you're always nervous about it because you don't have it done.The Redskins have two free agents that they would very much like to get deals with before the signing period starts on March 3, cornerback Fred Smoot and linebacker Antonio Pierce. There were reports during the middle of the season that negotiations with both of them were going smoothly, but neither player has put his signature on a contract.
It appears virtually certain that the Redskins will let Smoot test the open market. They aren't willing to give him the guaranteed money he's looking for and, since Smoot would likely just play under the franchise tender, they can't afford to tag him.
The Redskins have long been at an impasse with Smoot over the size of his signing bonus, and there is a sense among many at Redskins Park that he will depart as a free agent. . . . A franchise player must be offered a one-year deal equal to the average of the top five salaries at that position. Under that scenario, Smoot would receive $8.8 million, but Washington is only about $4 million under the salary cap and former starting cornerback Walt Harris is already signed.That last part should make Redskins fans particularly uncomfortable. Yes, Harris was a full-time starter for the Bears from 1996-2001 and for the Colts in '02 and '03. Still, he may be shaky as a starter in Gregg Williams' blitz-happy defense.
That doesn't mean, however, that the Redskins should overpay to keep Smoot. They probably won't make a "final" offer; the smart thing to do would be to keep their last one on the table and ask that Smoot give them a chance counter any offer he gets from another team. Let him go out, get his best deal, and let the Redskins see if it's reasonable to match it.
There is still a chance that the Redskins will be able to sign Pierce before he becomes an unrestricted free agent, but that chance gets slimmer by the day. It would cost $5.9 million against the cap to tag him, so that's not a very good option, either.
Another Post article covered LaVar Arrington's rehab from a knee injury that cost him the last 12 games of the season:
The Washington Redskins have been encouraged by the progress of linebacker LaVar Arrington in the last week, director of sports medicine Bubba Tyer said yesterday, and believe he is making strides toward fully recovering from a series of right knee problems that forced him to miss 12 games last season.Gibbs had hinted at his press conference last Monday that Arrington might need another surgical procedure on the knee, but it now appears that his progress is such that it will not be necessary. Arrington will be evaluated next week to make the final determination.
There continues to be some dumb talk about trading Arrington that needs to be addressed here. Such talk is dumb for two reasons. The first, and the one that makes the second moot, is the $17 million cap hit the team would take for cutting Arrington. This was addressed in the Randy Moss discussion, so there's no point in rehashing that.
There are some out there, however, who are saying that the Redskins should just accept the cap consequences and get some value for Arrington because the defense played well without him last year. This line of "reasoning" is almost as laughable as ignorance of the cap hit.
The Washington defense ranked third in the NFL in terms of yards gained. That's a nice accomplishment, but it wasn't the third-best defense in the league. Besides Buffalo and Pittsburgh, the two teams that finished ahead of the Skins in terms of yards, Philadelphia and Baltimore were clearly more dominant defensively than Washington as was New England. Twenty-one other defense forced more turnovers and those make up for a lot of difference in terms of yards allowed.
The 2004 Redskins defense often was good but rarely dominant and didn't make many big plays. There is room for improvement and a player of Arrington's caliber can help provide that improvement. At his best, he can wreak havoc on an opposing offense; at his worst, he's a major upgrade over Lamar Marshall.
Stop the madness—no more Arrington trade talk!