March 10, 2010

Interpreting the Silence

Few would have bet that five days into free agency, the Washington Redskins would have signed just one player—a journeyman offensive guard.

No, if you had been forced to bet your own money, you would have bet that by sun-up on Day One, the Redskins would have landed a DE Julius Peppers, LB Karlos Dansby or LT Chad Clifton.  Maybe more than one.

And yet here we are.

As Day Six of the 2010 free agency period slides uneventfully by, the lead story in the Washington Redskins universe continues to be their silence. With the exception of signing unsexy OG Artis Hicks (nothing personal big man) to an average contract (3 years, $9 million), the Redskins have kept their hands firmly buried in deep pockets, watching other teams earn the headlines.

Predictably, the reaction among Redskins fans and media has covered the spectrum ...

On one extreme are those critiquing the Redskins failure to launch (Losing the Offseason). On the other hand are those praising them—if with predictable snark—for showing restraint (Wisdom in Washington? 'Skins finally get smart). 

And when I saw Matt Terl’s Official Blog headline yesterday, Redskins On Another Cereal Box, I have to admit to momentary jealousy over the fact I hadn’t come up such a clever way of pointing out that the Redskins have been missing in free agency action. Happily, as it turns out, neither was Matt.

Sorry brother. Too easy.

The truth, as it almost always does, will turn out to be somewhere in the middle. 

The 2010 Redskins will have missed opportunities—there will be free agents who sign elsewhere, do well and help their teams improve.

The Redskins will also look prescient—there will be free agents some thought the team would or should pursue who sign elsewhere, get paid extremely well, and prove to be major disappointments.

Over the coming weeks and months heading into training camp (and beyond; says here the Redskins will likely still be picking up players come cut-down time in August), the team's new style will start to come clear.

Unlike years past, however, the 2010 Redskins free agency story has yet to be written within the first week. By this point over the past few years, the team had already generally inked the biggest fishes in the Free Agency Sea they had any interest in (see: Haynesworth, Albert; Fletcher, London; Carter, Andre) and were essentially done until the draft.

This year ... silence.  And therein, such as it is, lies the story.

There are a few things we have learned so far:

1) It’s a New Day. The understated, patient approach to free agency is a departure for this franchise in the Daniel Snyder Era. Whether the change translates to more on-field success remains to be seen, or course, but for better or worse the past five days have provided clear evidence that the Shanahan/Allen Redskins have a different way of doing business.

2) The Redskins are no longer predictable. Attribute that to what you will ... be it control over loose lips and leaks from within, more effective use of disinformation, whatever ... but in their first year at the helm, unlike their predecessors, the Shanahan/Allen Redskins don't telegraph their punches. While not as user-friendly a tendency from the perspective of a blogger/commentator, the new reality is quite refreshing, and more than a little encouraging, from the perspective of a long time and long suffering fan.

3)  No one is lining up to apologize for preempively blowing up Dan Snyder for what many assumed would be just another episode of Chasing the Offseason Championship. They should be.

4)  As of March 10, 2010, we have no idea what the Allen/Shanahan Redskins are going to do next. None.

- now that the initial rush of big-name signings is over, are they preparing to pounce on the secondary FA market with a slew of signings?

- are they planning to draft a (hopeful) "Franchise Quarterback" with their 1st round pick in April’s Draft?

- are they planning to bring in a veteran stopgap quarterback to complete with tendered Jason Campbell (and perhaps even the seemingly forgotten Colt Brennan), go the route many fans are hoping for and draft a left tackle high in the 1st round?

- are they looking to trade down from the #4 overall pick, maybe more than once, and horde draft picks a la the New England Patriots?

All plausible strategies. All defensible.  None made even an iota clearer by what has transpired, or more appropriately not transpired, over the past five days.

The 2010 Redskins are holding their cards close to their chest, and you can't read a thing from their body language.  Anyone tells you they know what the Redskins are going to do next, whose job description does not include spending multiple hours in Ashburn meeting and film rooms, feel free to tell them they are full of (it). 

They don’t know. 

No one outside the room knows. 

And dearth of easy blog-fodder bedammed, I think I like it.


Matt Terl said...

Wouldn't that be "milk carton," not "cereal box"?

Mark "Om" Steven said...

Not necessarily. When's the last time you saw Bruce Jenner?