NFC East: Casey Rabach

Every day is different, for everybody and every team. And so, at the end of a crazy day tracking, dissecting and analyzing all the moves being made and not being made in the NFC East, we like to pause and ask each team a simple question: How was your day ...

Dallas Cowboys?

"Fiscally responsible." Yeah, that's not a real exciting answer. And as pretty much every one of their fans will tell you, the Cowboys haven't had a real exciting week. But while Jerry Jones surely would love to be slugging it out for Nnamdi Asomugha and the other top free agents, the fact is the Cowboys had to start this offseason slowly. On Thursday, they added Marc Colombo to the list of cuts that will trim more than $19 million in payroll and help get them under the cap. They agreed to terms with left guard Kyle Kosier one day after bringing back left tackle Doug Free. They signed first-round pick and projected starting right tackle Tyron Smith and then immediately let linebacker DeMarcus Ware go to work on him in his first training-camp practice. But they did nothing to address their holes on defense, and in fact they lost one of their free-agent defensive ends, Stephen Bowen, to the Redskins. But that loss could be a gain. Bowen got a surprisingly huge deal (five years, $27.5 million, $12.5 million guaranteed), and the Cowboys don't believe he was worth that much. That deal actually could help them get the defensive end they want, the Packers' Cullen Jenkins, who had been talking to the Redskins but no longer is. The Cowboys still need two safeties, two defensive ends and maybe another offensive lineman. But they'll get them. Fans just need to be patient. This might not be the most exciting Cowboys offseason ever, but it will surely be more productive than it's been so far. They are crawling before they walk.

New York Giants?

"Newsy." The Giants are still working and waiting on the resolution of their negotiations with Ahmad Bradshaw, Kevin Boss and Steve Smith, but they did knock out a new deal for Mathias Kiwanuka on Thursday. And Bradshaw lost a lot of his leverage when the Dolphins, with whom he and his agent had been playing kissy-face, acquired Reggie Bush, so the Giants should be able to get him at something closer to their price. But this day for the Giants was more about people talking -- John Mara talking about Plaxico Burress and Osi Umenyiora, the team talking to David Diehl about moving from tackle to guard and to Will Beatty about starting at left tackle, Rich Seubert and Shaun O'Hara talking about being cut ... lots of talking. There was even a report that the Giants were talking to Brad Maynard about coming in to replace shaky punter Matt Dodge. The talking -- at least to the free agents -- will soon lead to results one way or the other. But there was no shortage of interesting storylines coming out of Giantsland on Thursday.

Philadelphia Eagles?

"Cathartic." Yeah, they finally got that Kevin Kolb deal done. Felt like it took forever, right? Well, that's only because of that little lockout thing we no longer like to talk about. The end result is that the Eagles have their starting right cornerback in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick next year and will need to go find a veteran backup for Michael Vick, which won't be too hard. They also agreed to terms on a five-year contract with defensive end Jason Babin, who was much better last season with the Titans than he was in his first stint as an Eagle. But he should be OK since he'll be working with former Titans defensive line coach Jim Washburn, who's now in Philly. They still need to address linebacker and backup running back and maybe offensive line, but the actual moves they got to do Thursday will help, and at least they provided some distraction from this very icky DeSean Jackson holdout situation.

Washington Redskins?

"Productive." I'm sorry. I don't think they'll contend in 2011, but I really like what the Redskins are doing. Sure, they overpaid for Bowen. But as someone pointed out to me on my extremely active Twitter day, the Redskins (A) have the money and (B) sort of have to overpay right now to get guys to go there, right? Like cornerback Josh Wilson, Bowen is a guy who is young and still emerging, and the Redskins are making a bet that he'll be better in the short-term future than he is now. They are a future-focused team and should be, and their moves have reflected that. Another example: They cut veteran center Casey Rabach and reportedly agreed to terms with Chris Chester, who can replace Rabach at center or play guard if Will Montgomery or Kory Lichtensteiger does. Still need a right tackle, but the defense starts to look pretty doggone respectable with the additions of Wilson, Bowen and Barry Cofield. Oh, and I almost forget. They dumped Albert Haynesworth on an AFC team before the sun came up. That alone would have made it a decent day for Mike Shanahan no matter what else happened.

Me? Man. My day was kind of nuts. Did some more TV and a whole lot of Twitter conversating with y'all. Enjoyed every single bit of it and can't wait for tomorrow.

How was your day?
A report from the Twitter feed of NFL Network's Jason La Canfora says the Redskins have come to an agreement with guard/center Chris Chester, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens, on a five-year, $20 million contract. This is the replacement for Casey Rabach, the veteran center who was told Thursday that he would be cut by the Redskins.

Chester
Chester
As with most of what the Redskins are doing, I like this move. Chester is a versatile interior lineman who can play center or guard. The Insider analysis from our free-agency tracker says this about him:
He is an above-average athlete but is quick to recover and shows excellent lateral agility. Chester is a natural knee bender and has improved his power since entering the league. He has active hands and understands angles to maintain leverage in pass protection as well as an interior run blocker.

"Natural knee bender." I love scout talk, don't you?

Anyway, if they want to use Will Montgomery or Kory Lichtensteiger at center, they can play Chester at guard. If they don't, they can play Chester at center. He brings flexibility and experience and athleticism. They still need a right tackle, but the Redskins are making lots of judicious-looking moves to fill their holes. Not the big, splashy moves for which they've become known in ill-fated offseasons past, but smart, directed moves that reflect where they are in their rebuilding and the idea that they're thinking long-term.
John Clayton emails his report that "the Washington Redskins have terminated the contract of center Casey Rabach, a source said. Rabach, 33, was scheduled to make $3 million this season."

I've heard from some Redskins fans who were hoping for this, as Rabach has obviously slipped in recent years. He's well liked and respected in the locker room and around the team. But as they position themselves for other moves, such as a run at defensive end Cullen Jenkins, the Redskins decided the $3 million savings would be worth more to them. Will Montgomery or Kory Lichtensteiger can slide in as Rabach's replacement, but then only one of those guys can play guard, so the Redskins could still be on the hunt for a new interior offensive lineman, be it a guard or a center. They also need a right tackle, as Jammal Brown is a free agent and we've heard no news yet on whether he'll be re-signed. So still more work to do as the Redskins continue their rebuilding project on their offensive line.

They're working on defensive line, too, even with Barry Cofield in the fold. I am hearing lots of talk out there today among NFL folks that they're working hard on trying to bring in Jenkins, which would really be a nice move. With Cofield and Jenkins playing in front of linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, the Redskins could have a somewhat fearsome pass rush. They do appear to be clearing some room for such a pursuit, as defensive end Phillip Daniels tweeted this morning that he's been released.

Oh, and on an unrelated note, the agent for receiver Brandon Stokley, who tweeted Wednesday that his client had signed with the Redskins, now says he tweeted too soon and Stokley won't be a Redskin after all. So just Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney and Donte' Stallworth added to the receiving corps so far.

Redskins back-to-work FYI

July, 25, 2011
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NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

Readiness factor: The Redskins held a ton of player-organized workouts, and they seemed to go very well. Organized by defensive leaders London Fletcher and Lorenzo Alexander and inspired by the camps the Redskins teams of the past ran to great effect during labor stoppages, the Redskins' workouts were well-attended and well-directed. There were days when Fletcher would call plays from a piece of paper he kept in his pocket, trying to help the defense run some of the 3-4 looks that were installed (but not quite mastered) last year. They brought fans out of the stands to run drills with them and generally just had a good old time. It'll be interesting to see if all of that lockout-time bonding pays dividends once the games start to count.

Biggest challenge: Figuring out the quarterback situation. Donovan McNabb is surely gone as soon as they can move him. They didn't draft a quarterback in April, and shortly after the draft head coach Mike Shanahan said he liked the idea of John Beck as his starter. Whether it's Beck or Rex Grossman, who ran the offense late last year when the McNabb plan blew up, the Redskins will be going with an imperfect solution at the most important position on the field. Will it be a season-long nightmare that forces them to draft a quarterback high in next year's draft? Will it be a revolving door with one guy starting one game and the other the next? Will the defense play well enough to overcome it? Will Beck surprise and play better than everyone (except, apparently, Shanahan) thinks he can? Many questions, still no answers yet. At least soon they can start running drills and see what they actually have back there.

Haslett's second season: Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett came to town with Shanahan last year and converted the Redskins from a 4-3 defensive team to a 3-4. It was not an easy transition, and many of the pieces that were in place didn't fit well into the new scheme. Now, every coach who knows about it says it takes two years, not one, to fully transition to the 3-4. So we should see improvement in the way the Redskins play defense in 2011. They still need to add some pieces on the line, find a cornerback or two, and they may need a linebacker if Rocky McIntosh leaves and Alexander can't be a full-time starter on the inside. But the pre-lockout addition of O.J. Atogwe at safety and the drafting of outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan in the first round were good moves. Along with the year of experience the returning guys got last year, they could help the Redskins put together a respectable defense sooner than you might expect.

Key players without contracts for 2011: OT Jammal Brown, CB Phillip Buchanon, DE Kedric Golston, QB Rex Grossman, LB Rocky McIntosh, WR Santana Moss, C Casey Rabach, CB Carlos Rogers
Rich Campbell of the Washington Times says Mike Shanahan's top free-agency priority should be fixing the Redskins' offensive line. Rich even offers a suggestion in the form of Ryan Harris, an oft-injured former Shanahan Bronco who looks as if he'll be free to pursue starting right tackle jobs outside of Denver and said on the radio recently that he'd enjoy playing for Shanahan again.

Fine. The Redskins do need to figure out who's playing right tackle. I think the most likely solution is to re-sign Jammal Brown, who (as Rich points out) improved in the second half of last season once his hip felt better and should be even better this year. But if they don't, Harris is a fine solution and they have some other options out there on the market for right tackle.

But I'm not sure I agree with the idea that offensive line has to be Shanahan's priority once free agency opens. I'd argue that the defensive line, which needs a nose tackle and probably at least one end, is the more important line to address. Further, I'm not sure (other than finding a right tackle) there's all that much work the Redskins can do on their offensive line. Trent Williams may have posted some disappointing sack numbers in 2010, but he was a rookie and the fourth overall pick in the 2010 draft. They're not about to give up on him after one season. They believe he's their future at the most critical line position, and he's going to be allowed to develop there.

Similarly, they like a lot of what they saw from Will Montgomery and Kory Lichtensteiger last year and plan to give them some more time to develop in the interior, either at the guard spots or if one takes over at center for Casey Rabach. Should that happen, they may need to go out and find a free-agent guard with zone-blocking experience, but I don't think it'd be ultra-wise to spend big dollars for a Harvey Dahl or Marshal Yanda when good guard options can likely be had for less and there aren't as many top nose tackles on the market.

The Redskins have a ton of holes, so it's easy to make the case either way. But while the offensive line underperformed last year, it's a work in progress, and Washington has reason to believe the pieces already in place can and will make some more progress in 2011. If it were me, I'd fix the defensive line before the offensive one.
I'm calling it. You heard it here. This is the last mailbag of the lockout. Next time we do this, I expect A LOT more questions to sift through. You're on the clock, NFC East blog readers. I'm looking at you.

Evan from Washington, D.C. thinks the offensive line ranks among the Redskins' biggest problems and most important to solve. He likes Davin Joseph, the potential free-agent guard from Tampa Bay, and wants to know what the chances are of Washington signing him to shore things up.

Dan Graziano: Evan, right tackle would seem to be the more pressing concern, especially if they can't re-sign Jammal Brown and they have to go out on the open market and spend more to fill that position. The Redskins liked a lot of what they saw out of Will Montgomery and Kory Lichtensteiger at guard last season, and while there's a chance one of them moves to center to replace Casey Rabach, I find it hard to see them spending big to get a guard and a tackle and do all the work they need to do on the defensive line and get a cornerback. They're going to have to prioritize, and if they go get Joseph, they might end up skimping at bit at right tackle.


Bobby from Hershey, Pa. thinks the Eagles have enough depth on the roster at defensive line that they shouldn't need to go out on the market and sign a Jason Babin/Ray Edwards/Charles Johnson type of pass rusher.

DG: Ah, Bobby, but the defensive line is under new management in Philadelphia, and I'm sure they didn't bring in as accomplished and respected a line coach as Jim Washburn without planning to give him some say in his personnel. There's a thought in Philadelphia that the new defense will be more reliant on pressure from the front four, and if Washburn doesn't think the current group is good enough to generate the kind of pressure he feels they'll need to make it all work behind them, you'll see the Eagles going after a defensive lineman or two that fits what he's trying to accomplish. So I think that's why you're hearing that kind of talk -- a new coach tends to want to bring in his own guys, if possible.


Mark from Morristown, N.J. tells me I "forgot" to mention Jason Pierre-Paul when I was listing names on the "Dream Team of Tomorrow" ballot, and points out that Pierre-Paul is doing very well in the fan voting (fourth as of Saturday morning) at defensive end.

DG: Yeah. I "forgot." Or else I just didn't really have time/space to list the name of every single player from the division who's on the ballots. It's one of those two things. Which is more likely? On Pierre-Paul, he has all the talent in the world to be a dominant force from the defensive end position, perhaps as soon as this season. But even the Giants admit he's still a prospect from whom we haven't yet seen consistent, reliable production. We're speculating on Pierre-Paul because of his athletic ability, and there's lots of reasons to hope he'll be great. But there are people on the ballot who had already offered more evidence that they'll have future success than Pierre-Paul has. Now, go ahead. Write that I hate the Giants because of this.


Dave from Wayne asks, if the Hall of Fame Game is canceled, won't they have to cancel one preseason game for every team?

DG: No, Dave. The Hall of Fame Game is an extra preseason game. The teams that participate in it play five preseason games to everyone else's four. So if they cancel it, everybody just plays four.


John Murray from El Paso, Texas says he'd love to see a trade of Tony Romo for Carson Palmer. Says both guys "would benefit from a change of venue" and such a deal would "shake up the league."

DG: Wow, is it time for the lockout to end. If you think 2011 Carson Palmer is fair value for 2011 Tony Romo, John, then there are 31 NFL GMs who wish you were running the Cowboys. Romo doesn't need a change of venue. He needs to stay healthy and play the way he played in late 2009 and early 2010. As I've written many, many times, he's the least of the Cowboys' problems.

Good weekend to all. See you on the other side.

Breakfast links: More labor thaw

June, 29, 2011
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See, to me, this can only be a good sign. The fact that the NFLPA would ask commissioner Roger Goodell -- and that he would agree -- to speak to rookies at the rookie symposium the NFLPA is having in lieu of the one the league canceled because of the lockout heralds a new level of trust between the two parties. It gives you reason to believe the optimism that the latest round of talks will lead to a new labor deal and an on-time start to the season may not be misplaced.

What I'm interested to see is this: If there's no actual deal -- i.e., a signed document establishing the work rules for the league for the next three, five, eight, however many years -- within a couple of weeks, but during that time the two sides make significant enough progress that they know what those rules are going to be and all that remains are formalities, could the league year start anyway? The owners, theoretically, have the ability to lift the lockout any time they want to. Could they do that in the absence of a formal, finalized contract with the players and just hold free agency under rules to which they mutually agree as part of their settlement talks?

It sounds easy, but it may not be. Remember, these are not collective bargaining-talks that are going on right now. These are settlement talks on the antitrust suit the players filed against the league. If the owners were to lift the lockout and have free agency, even under mutually agreed-to rules, they'd have to be 100 percent sure they weren't putting themselves at risk of being guilty of an antitrust violation. I imagine they'd have to get a promise in writing from the players that the players wouldn't pursue legal action against them as a result of anything that happens during the free-agent period.

So it may be that they need to dot all I's and cross all T's on the new labor agreement before free agency and the league year can start. But if that's not the case -- if they can get close enough to a finalized deal that they feel they can start the league year and training camps on time -- at least now it looks as if there's a decent enough relationship between the two sides that they could work that, and eventually all of this, out.

In the meantime, as ever, we link:

Dallas Cowboys

Calvin Watkins and the gang at ESPNDallas.com have been looking at potential free-agent targets for Dallas. Today, Calvin brings up Eagles guard Nick Cole as a potential Kyle Kosier replacement. His theory is that he's younger and versatile and might be more worthy of a long-term deal than will Kosier. Calvin knows the Cowboys. Even if he is really a baseball writer at heart.

Oh and Gerry Fraley has this item about former Cowboys coach Barry Switzer's foray into the wine business. Love the part about him describing his rural Arkansas childhood home on the label. Priceless.

New York Giants

Lots of people ask about Barry Cofield, and the Giants have a number of free-agent concerns once the lockout ends. Cofield himself doesn't sound like a man who expects to be back in New York. "I think they think I'm a good player," Cofield told the New York Post. "Obviously they don't view me as indispensable. They place a premium on certain positions. Let's be honest, defensive end is the name of the game in New York." He's certainly right about that, but that doesn't mean they don't appreciate a defensive tackle who can get to the quarterback. The question is whether the Giants feel they have enough in guys like Linval Joseph and Marvin Austin to replace Cofield if they focus on other concerns. He seems to feel as though that's the idea.

Eli Manning worked out with Hakeem Nicks and rookie receiver Jerrel Jernigan last week at Duke University, according to The Star-Ledger. Priceless time with QB1 for Jernigan, who could theoretically be asked to do more if he shows something and if Steve Smith isn't fully healthy.

Philadelphia Eagles

In light of the recent news on Terrell Owens, Sheil Kapadia wonders if Andy Reid's biggest football regret would be not finding a way for Owens and Donovan McNabb to coexist after their relationship blew up in the wake of their Super Bowl appearance -- if the magic that landed them in the big game could have been extended if Owens' stay in Philly had been as well.

The Eagles' team site breaks down the running backs, wondering as we all are whether Jerome Harrison will return as LeSean McCoy's backup. They do agree, however, that if he doesn't, Dion Lewis isn't the answer there. Expect the Eagles to re-sign Harrison or find a veteran replacement.

Washington Redskins

Rookie Ryan Kerrigan spoke about the challenges he's facing transitioning from college defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL -- especially with no coaches around to tell him if he's doing it correctly.

Redskins.com takes a gander at the right guard spot and whether Will Montgomery looks like the starter there this year. Montgomery also would seem to loom as an option at center should the team decide to part ways with Casey Rabach. Upshot is, Washington may be looking for interior line help.

Go get 'em.

Free agency in the East: Centers

June, 28, 2011
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Leaving no position unturned, we continue our look at potential four-year unrestricted free agency and the way it could play out in the NFC East. This afternoon we look at the center position, which seems set in Philadelphia with Jamaal Jackson, set in Dallas for now with Andre Gurode and perhaps in the future thanks to some later-round 2011 draft picks, but potentially up in the air in Washington and New York.

NFC East teams in need

Redskins: There is still Casey Rabach in the middle, but the Redskins' interior offensive line is a muddle. They could let Rabach go and move Will Montgomery or even Kory Lichtensteiger to center. They could stick with Rabach for another year and see what develops at guard on either side of him. Or they could go out and get a replacement for Rabach, who was something of a disappointment in 2010.

Giants: This isn't a real "need," but give me a break. I can't just put one team here. Shaun O'Hara remains one of the best in the business when healthy, but he wasn't healthy last season and is no sure bet to be fully healthy in 2011. The Giants were able to cover the injury thanks to the versatility of Rich Seubert, but O'Hara did just turn 34, and the Giants might soon be looking to their future at that position.

Top five potential free-agent centers

1. Olin Kreutz. His age (34) and the legendarily poor performance by the Bears' offensive line in 2010 work against Kreutz on the open market, but he's still a durable and effective run blocker who can help someone. He doesn't, however, look like a fit in Washington or New York, where they're likely seeking longer-term solutions if any.

2. Chris Spencer. A former first-round pick who started all 16 games for the Seahawks in 2010, Spencer is not yet 30 and is a solid option at the position for now and the near future.

3. Lyle Sendlein. The Cardinals will make it a priority to re-sign their emerging 27-year-old offensive line mainstay.

4. Samson Satele. Another young talent who becomes unrestricted if the threshold moves back to four years. He's been a reliable starter for Oakland the past two seasons and could draw open-market interest.

5. Casey Wiegmann. He's as reliable as anybody on this list, but he's also 38 and more likely to go back with Kansas City than he is to generate any free-agent market buzz.

Predictions that mean nothing: Redskins dabble with Spencer but ultimately commit money elsewhere (most likely defense) and give their line a year to shake out. The Giants do nothing, confident that they have good potential replacements in Seubert and Adam Koets and that they're better off addressing long-term offensive line needs at tackle if at all.

Free agency in the East: Guards

June, 23, 2011
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We continue our position-by-position look at four-year unrestricted free agency and its potential impact on the NFC East teams and their plans. The fourth in our series will focus on the guard position, where, even with top guy Logan Mankins franchised by the Patriots, there are a number of good options available.

NFC East teams in need

[+] EnlargeDallas' Kyle Kosier
Howard Smith/US PRESSWIREOffensive guard Kyle Kosier will be an important player for the Cowboys to re-sign.
Cowboys: Left guard Kyle Kosier is on the list below, and the Cowboys will make an effort to bring him back. But even if they do, they could cut ties with Leonard Davis at the right guard spot, and unless they think Montrae Holland or one of their late-round draft picks is ready to start there, they will be on the hunt for free-agent help.

Giants: Yeah, we've gone round and round on this topic. And if everyone's healthy, the Giants are fine at guard with Chris Snee and Rich Seubert. But if center Shaun O'Hara falters, Seubert moves in there and they could stand to add some depth. They've discussed moving left tackle David Diehl back inside, which could answer some of these concerns.

Redskins: They like the progress Kory Lichtensteiger showed on the left side last year, but if they're not convinced Will Montgomery and/or Artis Hicks can handle the right guard spot, Washington could be looking for a more established starter there.

Top five potential unrestricted free-agent guards

1. Harvey Dahl. Most likely to stay in Atlanta, but he's a fearsome run blocker who would help in Dallas if they decided to commit to the run. Also a natural guard who could help the Redskins move Montgomery to center if Casey Rabach falters and they need to do that. The Falcons also have another solid guard, Justin Blalock, who would be unrestricted under the proposed new rules, so they may have to make a choice.

2. Davin Joseph. Loaded with talent and potential, but he's had some injury issues (including last season's broken foot) that could lead the Buccaneers to part ways with him and give other teams pause before signing him.

3. Daryn Colledge. He's got a Super Bowl ring, which will catch teams' attention if the Packers decide they have enough depth to let him go.

4. Kosier. Getting up there in years, but he's an important player for the Cowboys to re-sign because they like the way he worked with rising star Doug Free on the left side and would rather not break up that pairing.

5. Marshal Yanda. He played right tackle for most of 2010 in Baltimore in place of the injured Jared Gaither, but he's got experience at guard too. That kind of versatility -- the ability to play any spot along the line at a starter's level -- should have widespread appeal. He'd be a perfect guy for the Giants if they're looking to add reliable depth but don't feel they have a specific spot that needs filling.

Predictions that mean nothing: Cowboys re-sign Kosier but let go of Davis and pursue another free-agent option, such as Joseph. Redskins sign Yanda to play either right guard or right tackle. Giants do nothing.

Cost-cutting options for the Redskins

December, 22, 2010
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Former Washington Redskins salary cap specialist J.I. Halsell has analyzed the club's roster and come up with a list of players who could possibly be released or traded this offseason. Halsell also notes that Washington will be saving some money by demoting Donovan McNabb to third-string for the last two games:

"What is absolutely certain is that if McNabb is listed as the team's third quarterback for the final two games of the season, he will lose $31,250 for each of those games, because his contract contains a per-game roster bonus provision that is contingent upon him being on the 45-man active roster," writes Halsell.

Just think of all the wonderful moves the Skins can make if they're able to squirrel away an extra $62,500. It's the type of fiscally responsible decision that we can all celebrate during this blessed holiday season. Here's a look at the list Halsell provided in his blog item for the Washington Post. (The amounts are what the Redskins could save on a possible salary cap).

RB Clinton Portis: -$5,645,500

LB London Fletcher: -$4,900,000

QB Donovan McNabb: -$4,750,000

CB DeAngelo Hall: -$4,400,000

DT Albert Haynesworth: -$3,400,000

C Casey Rabach: -$3,000,000

NT Ma'ake Kemoeatu: -$2,500,000

OG Derrick Dockery: -$1,565,000

DE Adam Carriker: -$1,420,000

OG Artis Hicks: -$1,400,000

DE Phillip Daniels: -$1,250,000

DE Vonnie Holliday: -$1,250,000

TE Fred Davis: -$555,000

DE Andre Carter: $2,909,998

Washington Redskins' weakness: O-line

May, 20, 2010
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NFC East Weaknesses: Cowboys (5/17) | Giants (5/18) | Eagles (5/19) | Redskins (5/20)

Many seem to think that Washington, a 4-12 team in 2009 that failed to win a game in the NFC East, is vastly improved and no longer is overwhelmed with weak spots on its roster. I tend to disagree. They still look like the NFC East’s bottom feeders to me.

[+] EnlargeTrent Williams
Rafael Suanes/US PresswireThe Redskins used the No. 4 overall pick on Trent Williams, but the offensive tackle doesn't have much experience on the left side.
I am not fond of the Redskins’ wide receivers, but do recognize that there is upside with younger wideouts such as Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas. Depth here is a worry as there isn’t anyone resembling a No. 1 receiver in the group.

The situation at running back is worse. Mike Shanahan has a great reputation of getting excellent production from ordinary running backs in his scheme, but I contend that Clinton Portis, Willie Parker and Larry Johnson are all over the hill and used up.

While these two positions are problematic, they might be even more glaring if the line is not vastly improved. Once again, I have my doubts. Using the fourth pick in the draft on a very talented left tackle, Trent Williams from Oklahoma, certainly made a lot of sense. But the rookie is far from a sure thing and, despite his immense talents, doesn’t have a lot of college experience on the left side. And there is no getting around that he is a rookie. This is just a hunch, but I am betting that DeMarcus Ware, Trent Cole and the Giants’ slew of defensive ends are not losing sleep knowing that they have to face Williams twice during the 2010 season.

Last year, the Redskins' pass blocking was poor while the run blocking was atrocious. At left guard and center respectively, it looks pretty certain that Derrick Dockery and Casey Rabach will return as starters. Dockery is a good pass-blocker and the left side of the line certainly does have potential, but Dockery needs work in the running game. Plus, he isn’t exactly the small, quick lineman that we have become so accustomed to seeing in Shanahan’s scheme. Rabach is about as ordinary as they come at the pivot, but isn’t a young player, so a decline might be imminent.

At the two spots on the right side, there will be competition for the starting roles and a combination of Stephon Heyer, Mike Williams, Artis Hicks and Chad Rinehart will get the nod. Heyer was among the worst starting offensive linemen in the league last season. Williams isn’t much better and doesn’t move well enough to recover in protection. Rinehart remains somewhat of an unknown and might be primed to come into his own, but banking on that doesn’t seem prudent considering what he has shown to this point. Hicks is versatile and was a solid signing considering the situation up front for Washington, but he has proved to be more of an ideal sixth lineman as opposed to starting material.

By the way, Donovan McNabb isn’t the most durable quarterback around and as noted above, there are some serious pass-rushers in the NFC East. If the Redskins don't get the line tightened up, McNabb could be in for a long season.

Skins re-sign Rabach, release 10

March, 4, 2010
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So much for Redskins general manager Bruce Allen and coach Mike Shanahan easing their way into free agency. The Skins began a major overhaul of their roster Thursday evening, re-signing Casey Rabach to a three-year contract but releasing 10 other players.

Rabach

Rabach

The other three teams in the NFC East have extended tenders to players but none of them rivaled the Redskins in terms of purging their rosters. Veteran guard Randy Thomas and wide receiver Antwaan Randle El were the most notable releases. It's not surprising the Redskins would release them, but the timing is certainly interesting. Shanahan has talked about improving from within, but now he'll also have to look elsewhere for help.

Rabach agreed to a three-year contract worth $12.3 million, according to ESPN's John Clayton. It's obvious the veteran center placed more emphasis on security than money by not testing the free-agency waters. The Redskins also released former starting cornerback Fred Smoot as well as veteran backup running backs Ladell Betts and Rock Cartwright, who was a valuable specials teams player. Cartwright was also a vocal leader on the team but apparently that wasn't enough to convince Shanahan.

Basically Clinton Portis is the last running back left standing, although that will change via free agency or the draft. Keep in mind that Shanahan is a great admirer of LaDainian Tomlinson after playing against him for so many years in the AFC West. No matter what you think of the Skins' moves, no one can say they weren't decisive Thursday.

"Obviously, it's a day of change for the Redskins," Allen told reporters at Redskins Park earlier this evening.

Last year at this time, the Redskins were paying huge money to defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth in free agency. This time around, the Redskins appear to be more interested in creating vacancies.

Five things Shanahan must address

January, 5, 2010
1/05/10
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Mike ShanahanJoe Robbins/Getty ImagesOne of Mike Shanahan's challenges will be to make sure Dan Snyder feels involved in decisions.
Now that we know Mike Shanahan is going to be the coach of the Washington Redskins, it's time to look at five of his top priorities. Bruce Allen might have the title of general manager, but it looks as if Shanahan will have final authority on football decisions. If that's really the case, here are five things he needs to address -- in no particular order:

Figure out what he's going to do at quarterback: Dan Snyder and his old pal Vinny Cerrato made a mess of this situation last offseason by pursuing every quarterback not named Jason Campbell. Allen has been complimentary of Campbell's work, but this is something Shanahan needs to figure out. I talked to Campbell about Shanahan last week, and he expressed excitement about the coach's credentials. Shanahan obviously won the two Super Bowls with John Elway, had some success with Jake Plummer and appeared to have Jay Cutler headed in the right direction. I think Shanahan will look to draft a quarterback and groom him for the future, but you don't want to throw a kid to the wolves behind this offensive line. If Shanahan believes Campbell could elevate his game, I think it behooves him to invest some time in him. Campbell had the best statistical season of his career while playing behind perhaps the worst collection of offensive linemen in the league. I'd like to see what a quarterback guru such as Shanahan could accomplish with Campbell, who has handled this entire situation with a lot of grace.

Assemble a talented coaching staff: I think Shanahan brings a great deal of energy to the job after having a season off. But it's not like he played golf the whole time. He spent a lot of time visiting other coaches and watching film at an office in Denver. I have to believe he has basically had a coaching in staff in mind for the past six or seven months. His son, Kyle, will serve as offensive coordinator and there's a lot of speculation that Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer will fill the same role for the Redskins. Keep your eye on whether Shanahan retains any members of the previous Washington regime. It will be an indicator of how much say Snyder has retained. Snyder loved special-teams coordinator Danny Smith and he's also fond of secondary coach Jerry Gray. My guess is Shanahan will pretty much clean house.

It's time to rebuild the offensive line: This goes hand in hand with the quarterback situation. You can't ask Campbell to endure another season behind this collection of former undrafted rookies and aging players. It as if your best offensive lineman Chris Samuels will probably retire because of a neck injury, and it's not like you received outstanding play from your other veterans. Randy Thomas is too old to count on, and Casey Rabach is just a serviceable center at this point. I supposed Derrick Dockery was your best lineman this season after Samuels was injured, but that's not saying much. Free agency is going to be limited because of the potential for an uncapped season. With the No. 4 pick overall, you need to take a long look at the left tackles in the draft. I know everyone will talk about Jimmy Clausen, Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford, but you don't have to pick a quarterback at that spot. Hopefully Shanahan and Allen will have a logical plan in place. Picking two wide receivers and a tight end in the same round isn't the way to go -- even if you argue that they were the "best players on the board."

It would be nice to figure out the running back situation: Starting running back Clinton Portis has talked about his uncertain future. He's set to make more than $7 million next season (Shanahan money), and at least $6 million of it is guaranteed. I know Shanahan once traded Portis from the Broncos, but I don't think he would have any trouble coaching him. The issue is that Portis talks a better game than he plays these days. He missed pretty much the entire second half of the season with a concussion -- yet he found time to criticize Campbell in recent days. He's a mouthy guy who loves to go behind the coach's back directly to Snyder. If Snyder allows Shanahan to dump Portis, I think that would be a good sign for the organization.

And that brings us to our fifth item, which deals with Snyder: All this talk of "ultimate say in football decisions" sounds good in theory, but we know how much Snyder likes to be involved. Shanahan needs to do a good job of making Snyder feel like he's involved in decisions. Snyder gave Joe Gibbs a lot of authority, but that was a different situation. He had idolized Gibbs as a kid and was sort of in awe of him. That won't be the case with Shanahan. The last time Snyder hired a coach with a similar demeanor to Shanahan's (Marty Schottenheimer), things ended pretty quickly. If Snyder doesn't give Shanahan and Allen enough breathing room, this could be another failed hire.

How I See It: NFC East Stock Watch

December, 29, 2009
12/29/09
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NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Falling

1. Albert Haynesworth, Redskins defensive tackle: He picked an interesting time to take a few shots at the organization that guaranteed him $41 million. Haynesworth, who hasn't been able to stay on the field because of an ankle injury, was sent home Christmas Day for being 20 minutes late to a meeting at Redskins Park. He then fired a few shots at defensive coordinator Greg Blache's scheme via The Washington Post that evening. Let's use a little common sense, Albert. Every one of these coaches will likely be gone in a couple of weeks. Does it really do any good to throw them under the bus at this point? Haynesworth's reputation as an elite defensive tackle has exceeded his actual production on the field this season. But at least he talks a good game.

2. Giants' D-line: It's hard to single out someone since the entire group has struggled this season. But at some point you have to have some pride in stopping the run. Allowing Jonathan Stewart to go for 206 rushing yards in the final game at Giants Stadium is embarrassing. And go ahead and throw in the linebackers, too. They look slow at times, and when they're in position to make a play, they miss tackles. Bill Sheridan will probably lose his job as defensive coordinator, but I put more responsibility on the players.

3. Macho Harris, Eagles safety: I normally give rookies a little grace, but Harris has played enough this season to be held to a higher standard. His hit on a defenseless receiver after an Asante Samuel interception helped put the Eagles in poor field position. And after the Broncos had trimmed the Eagles' lead to 10 points, Harris fumbled a kickoff return to give Denver another quick score. If you're going to give Harris meaningful playing time in the playoffs, he has to use better judgment.

Rising

[+] EnlargeJay Ratliff
AP Photo/Rob CarrJay Ratliff recorded two sacks in Sunday's win at Washington.
1. Jay Ratliff, Cowboys defensive tackle: He absolutely took over the game Sunday. He finished with two sacks but he also stuffed the Redskins' running game. Center Casey Rabach and the Skins' guards had no chance against Ratliff's power and speed. It's hard to imagine that this guy was a seventh-round draft pick. He's now one of the best defensive players in the league. Also a special mention here for Tony Romo, who had a superb December. If Roy Williams makes a play on the ball, Romo would've made it through the month without a single interception.

2. Brent Celek, Eagles tight end: He's emerged as one of Donovan McNabb's most reliable weapons. When the Broncos sold out to stop DeSean Jackson, it was Celek who burned them in the first half. He finished with four catches for 121 yards and a touchdown. And his one-handed catch in the center of the field was brilliant. Tony Gonzalez will probably get the most Pro Bowl votes in the NFC, but I think Jason Witten and Celek are playing at the highest level right now. Jackson gets most of the attention, but Celek's put up huge numbers this season.

3. Jeremy Maclin, Eagles wide receiver: The Eagles needed someone to make a big-time play at the end of the game and Maclin was up to the task. His 27-yard catch on the sideline with 59 seconds left against the Broncos put the Eagles in position to win the game, 30-27. He's made the adjustment from the spread offense in college to the West Coast offense a lot sooner than some of us expected. The combination of Jackson, Maclin and Jason Avant at wide receiver gives the Eagles one of the best groups in the league.

Redskins can't protect Campbell

November, 8, 2009
11/08/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

I've been monitoring the Redskins-Falcons game throughout the first half. No matter who's calling the plays, there's no way quarterback Jason Campbell can accomplish anything under this much pressure. The Falcons are bringing a ton of heat up the middle.

And even one of their best remaining lineman, Casey Rabach, keeps getting called for holding. The Falcons are up 21-3, and it could easily be worse.

At this point, the Redskins need a defensive touchdown to have any chance to stay in the game. With the lack of blocking up front, there's simply no way they can sustain a long drive.

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