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Monday, January 2, 2012
Shanahan mailbag: Skins need a No. 1 WR

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

ASHBURN, Va. -- Everyone knows the Washington Redskins need a quarterback. Head coach Mike Shanahan might not want to come out and say he needs to fix quarterback this offseason, since he doesn't want to insult the players he currently has at the position. But in a wide-ranging interview in his office Friday, he did acknowledge that it would be good to have a "franchise" guy.

"Everybody wants a franchise quarterback," Shanahan said. "Every team you talk to, if you don't have a franchise quarterback, everybody's looking for a franchise quarterback. I understand. If you're in this business long enough, you understand that everybody wants a Peyton Manning, a Drew Brees, a Tom Brady, and rightfully so. If they're out there, you try and get one. And if they're not, you go with what you have and try and get it done."

I pointed out to Shanahan that part of the problem is that there aren't 32 guys in the world who fit that description. He smiled.

"Not everybody understands that," he said.

I left Shanahan's office with the definite impression that the Redskins would look at every conceivable available option at quarterback this offseason -- drafting one, trading up to get an Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III if they need to, or even looking at the possibility of bringing in Manning if the Colts let him go as expected and he can prove he's healthy. Shanahan didn't really discuss any of those specific names, and I didn't expect him to, but every time I raised a specific possibility, he made it clear they'll look at all options.

As for other needs, let's go to your questions.

Jason from Washington, D.C. checked into the mailbag last week and wanted me to ask Shanahan what was "the most glaring positional need" for the Redskins to address in the draft or free agency.

Mike Shanahan: "We've got to get a wide receiver that's a playmaker. You've got to have a No. 1, no question about it. We've got [Santana] Moss, and [Jabar] Gaffney, who's going to be right at 1,000 yards. But you're still looking for a guy that can go the distance and make plays, running on a short shallow cross and go the distance. Everybody's looking for that."


Later in the interview, the topic of rookie wide receiver Leonard Hankerson came up. Hankerson missed the final seven weeks of the season with a hip injury, but Shanahan's eyes got big when he talked about him.

MS: "I think he's got a chance to be the guy. Health is what we don't know. He's got the hip. But we're hoping he's going to be that guy. You can see in practice where he's a natural. Big. The thing that separates guys at No. 1 is when they can beat bump coverage and they don't have to slow down to beat it. They're able to keep their speed and be able to get by somebody. He's got that."

Of course, if the Redskins are looking for a No. 1 receiver for next year, it's unlikely they'll be willing to take a chance that Hankerson could come that quickly. There are some potential free-agent options in guys like Dwayne Bowe, Stevie Johnson, Reggie Wayne and Vincent Jackson. And if the Redskisn decide to take a receiver instead of a quarterback in the first round, Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon is the top option.


Bill from Maryland submitted a question asking what Shanahan's plans are for free agency, and he responded that they'd be similar to what they were last year, when they targeted a couple of specific guys with specific characteristics -- Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen, Josh Wilson -- at some need positions.

MS: "We'll try and do the same thing this year -- take a look at a couple of upgrades on defense, a couple of upgrades on offense. Guys that have proven themselves, who aren't too old, that we think are still hungry in that 26-, 27-, 28-year-old range. That's what we'd like to target in free agency if we can get those guys, and then try to target everything else in the draft."

So there you go. That's your fun homework assignment for this week. Go look at the lists of prospective free agents and find guys in that 26-28-year-old range who play positions like safety and offensive line and wide receiver and see if you can figure out who they might be targeting. I will of course do what I can to find out more, but it sounds like we can start piecing some possibilities together no?

Lots more to come all this week from my Shanahan interview, including more of your questions.