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Redskins Initial Personnel Ratings Completed


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With the Redskins completing their first set of personnel meetings before the Senior Bowl, Jason "The Mayor" Reid and I spoke to several people involved in the process - it includes Vinny Cerrato, all of his scouts and assistants and the entire coaching staff - to get a handle on what went on.

These were preliminary meetings to evaluate the current personnel, and no major decisions have been made. But everyone got a feel for the direction in which things seem to be headed and issues on both sides of the line were a constant topic of discussion.


The next wave of meetings will begin next week, and that's when things will start to heat up. Coaches are currently reviewing film and internal scouting reports on possible free agents. The next set of meetings will compare those players to those who are here now as the team prepares to make cuts. With free agency beginning Feb. 27, the team will lay the foundation for offseason moves during meetings with agents at the scouting combine in mid-February.


Several people told us that the offensive line was the greatest area of concern during the first series of meetings. Offensive line Coach Joe Bugel, criticized privately by some in the organization for being too loyal to veterans in the past, was brutally honest during the line review, sources said, particularly about how the line fell apart in the second half of the season.


There was a consensus among those in attendance that the team needs to upgrade at both guard spots and right tackle, though most sources doubted there will any kind of substantial free-agent budget to do that, and figure most of the present cast will be back.


Cerrato was looking for reasons for the team's 2-6 finish, which some coaches at first thought was a joke given personnel issues and the continuing age and injury problems of the line. Rarely could the entire line practice together save for some lighter Friday sessions and the players' technique and chemistry suffered. Veteran football coaches know the importance of having a line on the practice field as a unit. With most of this bunch coming off surgery again, that issue is unlikely to go away if they keep the group together.


Third-round pick Chad Rinehart is not seen as a capable player at this point, according to numerous sources involved in the meeting, and is not projected as being anywhere close to able to replace Pete Kendall or Randy Thomas at guard. Many coaches, including Bugel, worry about his confidence and ability, sources said. He is not being counted on to produce much in 2009, and if he did it would be a surprising development. Similarly, Stephon Heyer is not viewed as a starter; he's okay for depth purposes but with Jon Jansen no longer deemed a starter, either, they need to do something at right tackle (I still expect them to draft a tackle with their first pick).


Kendall could not practice on Wednesdays all season because of his arthritic knees and, in addition, is in his mid-30s. Given the team's cap predicament, its needs and the internal expectation that they will not be big spenders, sources said they expect the team to try to re-sign Kendall on the cheap. Thomas's health and decreasing athleticism are a big issue as well, but, like Jansen, his contract makes it more expensive to cut him than to keep him, so he will be back. Look for the team to find a "value" guard in free agency to replace Jason Fabini and push for a starting job. Beyond that, I'm not sure they do a whole lot here.


As for the rest of the offense, sources involved in these meetings do not expect the Skins to offer QB Jason Campbell any sort of extension (his deal is up after the 2009 season). The team knows it needs to make major leaps in terms of WR production, but after drafting so many pass catchers a year ago, they have made their bed here. Maybe they add a Bobby Engram-type in free agency if the price is right. There remains a strong sense from the coaches that they need to add a "home-run hitter" to the running back mix - someone like a Sproles who is explosive in space and makes safeties miss - but again, with all of the other roster problems, that's considered a luxury. Maybe they can find a young third-down/change-of-pace back late in the draft.


The defensive line is a problem, too. Cornelius Griffin will not be a cap casualty, according to a source, but the team knows it needs a younger anchor to provide more push inside, which defensive coordinator Greg Blache believes would make it easier to get pressure on the perimeter. Finding help at tackle will be a priority, and the defensive coaches would love to find a playmaker at outside linebacker. Sources said it is very unlikely that Marcus Washington will return, with both sides seemingly ready for a change.


As for ends, there was some discussion about Jason Taylor possibly adding some pass rush as more of a linebacker, and there was talk about keeping him. However, his $8.5 million salary is very steep and he will be approached about coming back at a lesser salary, according to a source. That's quite unlikely to go down, though. Several of Taylor's teammates and others who know him well say they do not expect him to accept a reduced rate. In that case he'd rather be a free agent, they say, able to sign where he likes, preferring a system with less rigid responsibilities. He's a better fit in a 3-4 scheme and would rather play in a warmer area, they say. Some believe he would even go back to Miami at a discount, if Bill Parcells would take him, to finish his career there. Regardless, coming back here for half his salary seems unrealistic at this point.


The Skins know they need to add youth and power at end, but, again, are handcuffed by having only four draft picks. Lacking a second-round pick, if they don't take a DE in the first round I'd look for them to try to target one in the third round.


In the secondary, re-signing DeAngelo Hall to long-term deal remains a big priority (it could end up being the only big-time deal they do this offseason). Those negotiations will get a kick-start at the combine. That will be a major domino, with the ability to re-sign Hall affecting whether they keep Shawn Springs and push to deal Carlos Rogers. One source said he expects the Skins to try to keep Springs at a more cap-friendly deal, but if that includes a paycut of any sort I would not expect Springs to accept it.


The meeting also touched on the need for improvement at kicker and punter, but, according to sources, price will be a huge factor. Look for the Skins to bring in young, cheap kickers and punters to compete with Shaun Suisham and Ryan Plackemeier. There won't be any Adam Vinatieri-type deals (though with the annual issues at both these positions and the limitations of this offense, finding someone of that ilk would be in order).

Maybe there will be a change in thinking when the Skins begin discussing outside free agents. Maybe the wallet opens up. But given that the Skins won't have the cap space that most teams will, finding cheap potential starters at a few positions appears to be the way they will proceed. If a Suggs or Haynesworth or Gross ends up here, several coaches and members of the football operations staff would be surprised. Looks like they will try to patch it together again.


Things will become more clear in February.

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