With two months remaining until the official start of the NFL season, ESPN.com writer Matt Williamson has already passed judgment on how teams have fared in the offseason. In his article, Williamson grades every team based on their free agent moves and draft selections. The Washington Redskins received a “D”, the worst rating in the NFC. This analysis is overly harsh about what has been a pretty decent offseason for the Redskins front office. If forced to grade what the Redskins have done since the Super Bowl, I would give the team a B+. Here’s why:
1) Salary cap management: For the second consecutive season, the Redskins had no chance to compete for elite free agents because of the dubious $18 million penalty passed down from the NFL. Despite having little financial wiggle room, the front office has managed to keep most free agent players from leaving Washington (with the exception of Lorenzo Alexander). Tyler Polumbus and Kory Lichtensteiger were brought back to maintain continuity along the offensive line. Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen also got several key players to restructure their contracts in order to stay with the team. DeAngelo Hall was cut before being re-signed for a more reasonable price tag. Santana Moss and Josh Wilson each took pay cuts of nearly two million dollars a piece. Washington used to be a destination for players past their prime to be paid exorbitantly. This offseason is proof that the front office culture has become more frugal since the departure of Vinny Cerato.
2) Draft: The Redskins did not have a first round pick because of the Robert Griffin III trade, but the team still managed to address key needs in the secondary. According to Williamson, “the Redskins didn’t have a lot of resources for improvement, but they did address problem areas from the 2012 squad, particularly at defensive back, through the draft. The big question is how NFL-ready will their rookie cover-men be?” Undoubtedly, there will be growing pains with David Amerson, Bacarri Rambo, and Phillip Thomas in coverage. However, it seems short-sighted to give the team a “D” rating for using the draft to fill immediate needs. Free agency was not a viable option to reconstruct the entire secondary. The Redskins did the best they could do and got younger and more athletic in the process.
Williamson agrees with me about Jordan Reed at least.
3) Free agency: Though the Redskins were not “buyers”, the team did add a few complimentary pieces to provide depth. Tony Pashos and Jeremy Trueblood were brought in for cheap to support the offensive line in case injuries are more of a concern in 2013. E.J. Biggers was signed to a one year deal to assist DeAngelo Hall in coverage. Darryl Tapp provides an insurance policy in case Brian Orakpo cannot remain healthy. None of these players have elite talent, but the roster is more complete with these additions.
The problem with Williamson’s analysis is that it lacks context. Naturally, the Redskins would be improved if players like Cliff Avril, Mike Wallace, and Anthony Spencer could be signed. However, those players were not available given the salary cap situation. Williamson asserts, “In the end, if you are not going forward in this league, you are going backward. And this roster does not look to be much improved — if at all — from the end of last season.” This seems like a weak argument to me. Prolonged success in the NFL is usually achieved by keeping the core of the team intact and not recklessly spending in free agency (look at the Ravens, Patriots, and Steelers as examples). The Redskins have done just that and deserve credit for it.