February 26, 2009

Taking Free Agency in Context

I had been treating myself to a break the past couple of weeks ... figure even obsessed fans need some kind of offseason.

That all ended the minute the web started buzzing with Albert Haynesworth (hereinafter AH)-to-the-Redskins rumors.

One minute I had both feet firmly on the ground, it was mid-February and I was focused on family, my day job and the general pursuit of happiness.

The next, as the AH thing picked up steam, I was transported to early September ...

There’s Albert Haynesworth, collapsing a 3rd-and-long pocket in Dallas QB Tony Romo’s face.

Romo knows he needs an extra second to let his receiver clear the first down marker. He can’t step up, so he starts to bail right ... but encounters Jason Taylor there, closing fast with evil intent. He glances left, but there’s Andre Carter bearing down, a fiendish grin on his usually corporate face.

Romo ignores the alarm bells in his head–he’s a playmaker after all. He flicks his eyes beyond the line of scrimmage, spies a flash of white jersey ... and smiles inside his head. Only losers need to throw on rhythm; only robots need 3.2 seconds to throw to the right spot on this play--3.0 will do just fine.

Two tenths of a second before becoming a burgundy and gold sandwich, Romo flicks a sweet sidearm job toward the sideline ... and discovers, as 500 pounds of agitated defensive lineman drives him to the earth and much to his chagrin, that in all the excitement he has lost track of a certain safety ... who steps cleanly in front of the white jersey in question, gathers in the rock and takes off the other way.

Where were we? Oh, right. February.

Come midnight tonight, the wires will be alive with free agency news–who has signed where, who is rumored to sign there, whether Redskins One is on the ground in some key FA town, heading that way, or secreted in a hanger somewhere complete off the radar.

And at some point, chances are the Redskins will make a move. Maybe a big one. At that point I’ll be forced to remind myself, as I am every year, not to decide in the immediate aftermath, and not even with a few days to think about it, if this or any other one move they made is a good one or bad one.

I’ll do my best to remember that the offseason is an eight month process. That even if a headliner like Haynesworth comes aboard, there are dozens of questions that will have to be answered before I can meaningfully assess the move.

I suspect you’ve been asking yourself many of the same ones thinking about a possible AH signing:

Will they have to let anyone go they really want to keep in order to get him?

Would signing a monster defensive tackle in free agency mean the Redskins don’t intend to look seriously at the defensive line in the draft?

What other changes will be made on the defensive side of the ball that will impact how AH would be used–what they might ask him to do?

What changes on the other side of the ball might happen that could impact how Blache calls defenses? What if the offense improves and actually provides some point support? What if the offense continues to struggle?

Exactly what brand of AH would we be getting; the one that has earned a reputation as one of the dominant forces in football over the past two years, or one that might go Stubblefield on us, suddenly and mysteriously seeming to lose interest in tearing opposing linemen, running and quarterbacks limb from limb?

Is the fact that AH brainlocked and stomped on an opposing players' unprotected face with his cleats a sign this maybe isn't a guy custom-fit to a London Fletcher, Cornelius Griffin locker room?

How long would AH have to play for the Redskins, and at what level, to justify the superstar contract he is going to command?

The bin I pulled those questions from is overflowing with more, as I know you know, so I won’t waste our time with more today. I know you get my drift.

Between the advent of free agency tonight and final roster cuts just before the start of 2009 regular season, the Redskins will be in a state of flux. Throughout that time, as fans we’ll have ups and downs as certain players are added that change our perspective on the entire team, not to mention our concept of what it is the front office is trying to accomplish. Same thing will happen as players in the news are not signed, current players are let go and other have their contracts reworked.

And the seemingly biggest moves–an AH signing, for instance–won’t even necessarily be the ones we look back on in a year or two, and say, "that's where it started."

Last February, was the name Kerry Collins on our collective radar? How about Kurt Warner? Darren Sproles? Chris Horton?

How many times over the course of the last twelve months do you suppose NY Jets fans had their feelings about the Brett Favre signing do abrupt about-faces?

To bring it closer to home, consider your feelings today on the Jason Taylor signing. For purposes of discussion ... what if, come January, the Redskins have ridden an improved Jason Campbell passing game, and a running game freed up from constant eight-man fronts, supported by a defense that has managed to come up with three or four of the kind of “big plays” that have been glaringly absent the past few years, and find themselves having turned 8-8 into 12-4?

Now suppose, for a second, that those 12-4 Redskins hit the playoffs relatively healthy, the daydream I painted earlier starts to play out on the field ... and suddenly the Redskins are riding a solid offense and strong pass-rushing defense deep into January?

If that were to happen ... might your view of the Jason Taylor signing change? Would it impact whatever pre-assessment you might have made on a prospective Albert Haynesworth signing?

I suspect so. I know mine would.

Let us raise a glass, then, to the start of the "real" offseason, but resolve to keep our wits about us as it unfolds.


grandson said...

"If that were to happen ... might your view of the Jason Taylor signing change? "

no, he sucks

Anonymous said...

I'd rather sign 4 or 5 good players with the money that would go to AH and still see 12-4. WSkin44

Mark "Om" Steven said...


I don't disagree, particularly if they're all on the front side of their careers. Long-term interests ultimately trump short term.

On the other hand ... one great player at the right spot can tip the scales and turn an average team into a strong one.

This is why the NFL is so damn hard. There's lots of ways to skin a cat. You just have to hit the right formula for your team at the right time.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Mark but I just don't see it playing out even remotely close to your fantasy. AH MAY be a dominant player for us for a couple of years or so. Unfortunately our inability to score points will continue to dog us.


Mark "Om" Steven said...

Don't be sorry, Eeyore. The "fantasy" part that you picked out wasn't really what the piece was about anyway.

Pretty sweet daydream though, huh.

Anonymous said...

Day dreams come true :)

Anonymous said...

Its coming the story unfolds I am as I have always been a Redskin Fan. I love my team this year as I did last. I dont love a record I love my team. I am a proud Washington Redskin fan watching for 30 some years.

The stories since 2004 - 5 years now in Tampa with fiber optic brain watching.

I have had tears of joy (JoeG) and tears of real pain (ST) These teams have heart and soul.

Good luck 2009 Redskins

Thanks for starting my season off!


Mark "Om" Steven said...

From one 30+ year fan to another ... thanks for the thoughts.

Hail, indeed.