Thanks for the questions.
John: I just can't see the Redskins going into next year with J. Brown at RT, and it seems pretty clear an upgrade is needed. My question is more about our backup Oline, however. What are the Skins thoughts on Maurice Hurt and Willie Smith? The Redskins running and pass pro seemed much better at the end of the year, when they had more time to work together and on their own games. I'm a big fan on developing our own young talent and since Selvish Capers and Erik Cook didn't really pan out, I'm hoping these guys stick for at least backup spots in '12. It's nice to not have to think of the entire offense line as a need going into an offseason. Thoughts?
Aaron: I think they’ll try to upgrade, whether it’s just with depth or a challenge to Brown. But the free agent market was rather dry for right tackles, though they still have interest in Demetrius Bell from what I’ve gathered. He can play either side. As far as Hurt and Smith: They felt Hurt progressed a lot more and there’s uncertainty about when Smith would be ready to start full-time. They know Hurt needs to, um, re-sculpt his body. Smith was very inconsistent in his time; I think what you saw was some excellent play-calling to stay away from their weaknesses. Based off the final month Hurt is closer to being a starter than Smith. Both would benefit from another year as a backup.
John: Would the Redskins be disappointed if the Colts were to take Griffin instead of Luck?
Robert: No. Nor should they be. Andrew Luck was the stud of the class all through the fall. He hasn’t gotten worse in the offseason.
John: Any news on how Chris is doing on his rehab? Would be nice to see he and Fred on the field together with RGIII slinging the rock!
Jerry: Haven’t heard. But I do know that Cooley said late in the year he felt good enough to play (but could not because he was on injured reserve). Having two tight ends who can catch is a big weapon these days and when healthy Cooley would remain a viable target. But if their receiving corps is upgraded, do they want two pass-catching tight ends? I do wonder about his cap hit; it’s a lot (approximately $6 million) for a guy they might consider their No. 2 tight end. With $30 million in cap space that’s not an issue; with their situation now it has to be one. Would they cut or restructure? Personally, I’d want to keep him around knowing Davis is one strike from a year-long suspension, but I’d redo his deal.
John: Do you see similarities between Brandon Meriweather and Laron Landry? Excellent athletic talent, makes big plays from time to time, but also a lack of discipline. He struggled in the 2 deep system at Chicago, just as Laron struggled under Greg Blache in a similar system. The difference being that Laron can't stay healthy, while Meriweather just can't turn his talent into results. Am I reaching here? There must be some reason the Redskins signed this guy that has been a bust elsewhere. Right?
As a follow up, what is your impression of the role of the safeties in Haslett's system? More freedom to make plays than in most systems? It seemed Landry had more opportunities to make plays in this system, and Polamalu has certainly made his share of plays in a similar system in Pittsburgh.
Timmy: I haven’t seen Meriweather enough to say that. I know what people who have scouted him have said: talented but undisciplined; lacks instincts. So there’s a little bit of LaRon in there. LaRon is faster and a more freakish athlete. They picked Meriweather up because they have a need, not a lot of cap room and he has talent. If it pays off, that’s great. The problem is if he’s the only solution at this position. After his last two seasons it would be hard to say right now, 'He's our guy no doubt.' Mike Shanahan and Bill Belichick are friendly, so I’m sure he got a detailed scouting report. …The safeties have freedom to make plays. Or, rather, I wouldn’t say more freedom because you can’t just freelance, but they are put in position to make more through blitzes by others, etc. Under Blache, the safeties were there to prevent big ones which is why Landry often played 20-25 yards deep. Haslett would clearly like a safety with more speed to give them more flexibility in disguises and coverages.
John: Assuming the Skins sign RG3 (or Luck), under the new CBA what is the salary range that such a player would get? What would the cap hit be this year and next year? Do you think saving room for that player is affecting the other necessary things the Skins need to do (Right Tackle, London Fletcher)?
Bob: Cam Newton received a four-year, $22-million contract last year so it’ll be just a little more (all of it guaranteed). I think the whole cap issue is slowing up the Fletcher signing, as well as being able to sign others. Considering Fletcher will be 37 this year, I can’t imagine he’d want anything other than a front-loaded deal. They need to backload them at this point.
John: Enjoy your coverage and the Friday emails. I know the Skins are hoping to add another RT, but what happens to Brown? Do they cut him or ask him to take less money? Or do they bring him to camp and see if he can stay healthy? I loved what Willie Smith offered as a stop gap last year, but not sure he's ready to start. Ideally, it would be nice to have three serviceable tackles other than Trent Williams, no?
Mark: First, thanks. Allows me to gratuitously plug the email report; too late for this week but can sign up here for future ones. Now, back to the question. There’s a view that Brown’s play has been hampered first by the move to RT and then by nagging injuries. I think they’d like to see if he can stay healthy. But I would expect them to still add a tackle who can at the least back up either side and possibly start on the right side. Smith is not that guy right now. The draft has solid options in the third round, it appears. But as mentioned above they have interest in Demetrius Bell.
John: If the Redskins move their camp to Richmond, I have a room I'll rent you. I'm concerned the Skins have not made any OL additions in FA, yet. What's going on? Who is available that would be of benefit?
Chris in Richmond
Chris: Um, thanks for the offer but, no offense to Richmond, I hope it doesn’t happen. Sort of like sleeping in my own bed and seeing my kids. I’m funny that way. I also think there are a few obstacles that will be tough to overcome if they want to move there this summer. As for the line, as mentioned above, they’re still talking to Demetrius Bell from what I understand. He has starting experience and can play the right or left side. The draft is another place to find a potential tackle; from what I’ve heard there’s decent value in the third and fourth rounds.
John: As for the WR position any word on whether Hankerson will be ready for the start of the season? Also, I've read that the team loves Niles Paul but are they looking at him purely as a James Thrash type -- a strong special teams player and good blocker or do they see him as a potential possession type receiving threat?
Mike: Sounds like Hankerson is supposed to be ready, but they always say that right after surgery. We’ll know more once they start OTAs. They do like Paul and think he can be a solid receiver someday but based on their moves thus far they still view him as a receiver worth developing, but who isn’t there yet. He helps them in several ways so he’s worth keeping around.
John: Is there any chance that the Redskins are victims of some sort of fallout from the Saints' bounty scandal?
Dan: No. The league did not find that the Redskins operated a bounty system with the intention of injuring players. Longtime beat writer David Elfin had a story in which he quoted two anonymous players as saying there was a $15,000 bounty on QB Brad Johnson in a 2006 game vs. Minnesota. But the league has already investigated the Redskins and found no wrongdoing.
John: With the (unjust IMO) cap penalties levied against the Redskins on the eve of free agency, how dramatically do you think that affected their plans at the 11th hour. I'm among those who believed they were not going after Vincent Jackson due to cost and 2 strikes in the league substance abuse program but were they more restricted in their bidding for Royal and/or did it cause them to go for Josh Morgan instead of Robert Meachem for example? I also have to think that with the questions about Jamaal Brown, the cap restrictions hindered them from going after Eric Winston as well. What ramifications do you see going further into the offseason will result from that penalty and how will it impact players such as Moss, T. Williams, Orakpo, etc. who may have high cap numbers? Oh yeah, that RGIII guy just might be alright!
John: It’s really hard to say but there definitely were players who got away when a few more dollars would have clinched a deal. Meachem over Morgan? They liked Josh all along and considering how fast they signed him, it’s clear that was not last-minute interest. They liked Winston, but, yes did not have the cap room to really pursue. I would expect some more players to re-do their deals. I think Moss was/is in trouble regardless of the cap situation; his not being in great shape and not producing more last season is the issue. They will also fight this cap mess so we’ll see what happens. In some ways maybe they were prevented from going crazy and that’s a good thing (it hasn’t worked before). But this group seems aggressive but prudent so did they need to be saved from themselves? It’s hard for me to say which player they truly lost because of this, but there’s no doubt it had an impact.
John: I was wondering what your thoughts are on the Redskins right tackle? Will Jamal Brown start, will Willie Smith emerge, free agent, draft pick? I was also wondering whether we are going to re-sign Hightower to complete the trio of RBs from last year? Who do you project at saftey starting with Merriweather?
Parker: Tough to say on the safety. I’m not sure that person is on the roster just yet. Doughty is considered a good backup and DeJon Gomes is a fringe starter at this point – and maybe will stay there during his career. Right now Brown would start at right tackle. I think Willie is another year away from being a viable option, if he progresses that is. I anticipate that they will draft an offensive lineman; Mike Shanahan almost always has done so in every draft. But Bell is an option in free agency too. There aren’t a lot of great starting options on the free agent market. As for Hightower, I know Shanahan likes him and I know he won't have many suitors coming off a knee injury (not sure a lot of teams consider him more than a backup anyway). Therefore, once the cap mess is cleared up (or more room is created), I would think Hightower returns.
John: Historically, rookie QBs have not performed well during their first year in the NFL. When the most likely scenario occurs with the Redskins selecting Robert Griffin III 2nd in the draft, what is the percentage he will be the first game starter and can he be the exception to historical performance by leading the Redskins to a better than 8-8 record.
David: No idea. Haven’t seen him in an NFL practice yet. He’s making a big transition from a spread offense to an NFL one. The good thing about RG3 is that in college he did not turn the ball over. He’s also smart. Those attributes give him a good chance to start right away. As of now I’d say it’s a 60 percent chance he starts and I’m probably being conservative. We’re not talking about a kid taking over the reins of a playoff team from an established starter. This is a 5-11 team whose starter, Rex Grossman, is considered a backup. If RG3 looks like he can handle an NFL offense in August, then he should start. When Mike Shanahan kept rookie Jay Cutler on the bench, he had a team coming off an AFC Championship Game appearance (and a better starter than Grossman in Jake Plummer). Big difference.
John: I wanted to know what are the Redskins starting to work out I'm curious to hear how receivers have been practicing. Plus is it safe to say the Redskins are planning to restructure contracts because of cap penalties from NFL in case they don't win
Ola: The Redskins won’t return for workouts until April 16, thanks to the new CBA. Their organized team activities will be in May and the veteran minicamp likely will be in June. As for the contracts, they’ve redone at least one (Will Montgomery) and I would not be surprised if they have done so, or will do so, to others such as Trent Williams.
John: I have another series of related questions...Do we have any idea how much cap space the Redskins have left at this point? Any sense as to whether we will see some Redskins released
when June 1 rolls around? And is there any chance there will be an opportunity to get an appeal on the cap hit penalty before June 1?
Tim: I don’t have the exact cap figure and they may have restructured some deals that have not yet been discovered. But a strong guess is that it’s around $10 million. I don’t know when an appeal will be heard yet. And I would expect more players to be released.