In the Spotlight—Matt Bowen

At the beginning of last year, Matt Bowen seemed to be Pro Bowl material. Now, if he's not actually on the bubble, he has a very good view of it from where he sits.

Matt Bowen started out the 2004 season as if he was born to play in Gregg Williams' defense. Against Tampa Bay he recorded 8 tackles, forced a fumble and ended the Bucs' last chance with two sacks late in the game to preserve the 16-10 win.

After that, however, Bowen's season went downhill in a hurry. Following three mediocre performances in the following games, his season ended when he went down with a knee injury against Baltimore.

Without Bowen, the Washington Redskins defense ended up ranked first in the NFC and when something like that happens the thought of replacing a player with younger, cheaper talent has to come to mind.

To be sure, the Redskins have made no suggestion that Bowen might be in danger of being cut, but the numbers at the position speak for themselves. Sean Taylor is set as one starter. Bowen will have to battle Ryan Clark, who replaced him for the last 11 games last year, for the job on the other side.

Should Clark beat him out—and that has to be considered a possibility especially if Bowen is not fully recovered from the ACL injury—would Bowen then be in danger of being cut loose?

Two numbers are at work here. One is five, the number of players with substantial NFL experience who are battling for four roster spots. In addition to Taylor, Bowen, and Clark, there are Pierson Prioleau and Andre Lott. Prioleau, just signed as a free agent, is expected to be a key special teams player and would be considered a safe bet to make the roster, as is, of course, Taylor. That leaves the other three for two spots.

That's when the other number, one million, comes into play. That's Bowen's 2005 salary and it's pretty hard to justify paying that for a backup safety if there are less costly options on the roster.

It's certainly possible that Bowen will end up in the starting lineup for the 2005 opener. If he doesn't, however, he could fall a lot further than to second string.

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