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Just Call Me Bruce Allen


By: Brandon Ford
The football season has ended and the off-season has officially begun.  Soon teams will be scrambling to resign their stars that have expiring contracts and put the franchise tag on players who otherwise don’t want to resign with the team they’re currently on.  Players like Matt Flynn, Matt Forte, and Desean Jackson will be looking to cash in and get larger contracts during this period, while former stars like Reggie Wayne, Plaxico Burress, and Donovan McNabb will be trying to latch on with another team and hold onto their former glory. 
            This upcoming off-season is vital to the future of the Washington Redskins.  While they’re set for the future at positions such as the running back position, they have a gaping hole at other important positions, such as the ever important quarterback position and their entire defensive backfield.  Both Head Coach Mike Shanahan and Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan are entering their third seasons in Washington, and the fans, much less owner Daniel Snyder, aren’t going to be happy with another 5-11 or 6-10 season.  The Redskins have to make strides in the 2012-2013 season, or the Shanahan Era in Washington might end up coming to a close.  Fortunately for the Shanahans there are pieces in the free agent market along with players in the NFL Draft who would be able to transform the Redskins into a potential playoff contender next season.  This column is basically me playing Fantasy General Manager and saying how I would handle the offseason if I was Bruce Allen, the current General Manager of the Washington Redskins.
            For starters, I would restructure cornerback DeAngelo Hall’s contract.  Outside of his four interception performance against the Chicago Bears, he isn’t worth the $8,300,000 cap hit in 2012.  He isn’t the top flight cornerback that he thinks he is, and is a player who cannot cover players.  If he refuses to restructure or cannot come to terms, I would release him and either A) sign a cheaper Cornerback in Free Agency or B) draft his replacement in the NFL Draft.  I would also re-sign London Fletcher, not only because he is a 36- year- old who plays like a 25- year- old, but also because he is a good locker room guy and a leader on the field.  Losing Fletcher would be a huge blow to a defense that is otherwise showing signs of being playoff caliber. Other players that I would re-sign are Fred Davis, Sav Rocca, Jabar Gaffney, Graham Gano, Rocky McIntosh, Lorenzo Alexander, Kory Lichtensteigher, and Kevin Barnes
            After the re-signing period, we would enter the Free Agency period, which in previous years has been the Super Bowl for the Washington Redskins.  Now, readers, you must remember that this is a “win now” year for the Washington Redskins and the Shanahans, so I would not shy away from the “elite” talent that is on the Free Agent market.  With that said, I will not treat this like Madden and sign every “elite” talent that is out there either.  I will keep this realistic, so that means that I will not be signing Drew Brees, Vincent Jackson, Wes Welker, and DeSean Jackson in the same Free Agent class. 
            The first thing I would do during the Free Agency period would be to sign Peyton Manning to an incentive contract.  For example, if Manning were to throw thirty touchdowns in a single season, he would get an extra $500,000 or something along those lines.  I would put multiple incentives in his contract, most of which he would easily achieve if he is close to 100%.  Manning was recently cleared to play football again, which is a good indictment of his health.  This is one of those “high risk-high reward” moves, where if he isn’t completely healthy, it would end up being a huge mistake and could set the franchise back five years.  However, if he is at least close to 100%, this could be the move that makes the Redskins a legitimate contender, as Peyton Manning worked miracles with the Colts, who obviously had a less talented team this year than the Redskins did.  To be successful, you have to take risks and this is a risk that you HAVE to take if you’re the Redskins.  You have no shot at drafting Andrew Luck, and Robert Griffin III will be a Cleveland Brown, and outside of those two quarterbacks, none of the quarterbacks in the Draft can start Day One, so it’s either sign Peyton or get stuck with Rex Grossman for another year, and I doubt any Redskin fan wants that.
            Once Peyton Manning becomes a Washington Redskin, the Redskins will suddenly look more attractive to Free Agents, and I would take advantage of this if I was the General Manager.  With Manning now a Redskin, it would basically guarantee that players like Reggie Wayne, Jeff Saturday, Dallas Clark, Pierre Garcon, and Robert Mathis, who used to play with Peyton in Indianapolis, will sign with the Redskins as well.  Dallas Clark would take the place of Chris Cooley, who I would cut, and Clark would be the second Tight End along with Fred Davis.  Robert Mathis would take the starting job away from Adam Carriker and Wayne and Garcon would take the places of Santana Moss and Anthony Armstrong, who would be cut and released respectively. 
            With these moves, the Redskins offense would be dramatically improved over last year’s, with Manning as the signal caller having a natural chemistry with players like Wayne, Garcon and Clark.  With most of these players coming on the cheap, it would still allow for more players to come to Washington, and it’s now time for me to shift the attention to the Big Uglies, aka the Offensive Line.  With Peyton Manning having a bad neck, it is essential that we upgrade the Offensive Line and have him take the least sacks possible.  This is where I would start spending the big bucks, starting with signing former New Orleans Saint Guard Carl Nicks to a multi-year contract.  The 2010 and 2011 Pro Bowler won’t come cheap, but if he can help protect Peyton’s neck, then it will be millions of dollars well spent.  I would also sign former Baltimore Raven guard Ben Grubbs to a contract to compliment Nicks and to help protect Peyton, which is the main reason they’re getting signed in the first place.  These two signings, while expensive, would be the future of the Washington Redskins when it comes to the Offensive Line for at least the next five years.
            With the many additions to the offensive side of the ball, the defensive side of the ball would see few additions.  The only one negative about the defense last year was the pass defense, which suffered because of the lack of quality defensive backs and injuries.  The only addition in Free Agency I would make on the defensive side of the ball would be to sign former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Brandon Carr.  Carr is only 25 years old and is coming off another good year.  Carr would be an ideal replacement for DeAngelo Hall if he was to depart from the Redskins and even if Hall were to restructure his contract and stay, Carr would still be a useful addition to the roster.  I would also sign safety Dashon Goldson, who had a career year last year in San Francisco.
            With the Free Agency period over, I would turn my attention to the 2012 NFL Draft.  For starters, I would stay with the sixth pick in the draft since there would be no need to trade up since we would already have our starter for 2012 in Peyton Manning.  However, that doesn’t mean that we would ignore the quarterback situation entirely, since Peyton probably only has three more years in him at best.  With that said, I would NOT take a quarterback with the sixth overall pick, but instead take Morris Claiborne, a cornerback out of LSU and the winner of this year’s Jim Thorpe Award.  Claiborne has potential to be a top three cornerback and could even reach the status of “Best in the NFL” one day.  If Justin Blackmon fell down to #6, then I would not hesitate to take him here but he will most likely be taken by the Jacksonville Jaguars or the St. Louis Rams.
            After selecting Claiborne, the Redskins would still be in the need for a quarterback, and we would address this need in the second round.  The Redskins would select Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill with the thirty ninth pick in the NFL Draft.  The plan would be to groom Tannehill while Peyton Manning starts, similar to the Brett Favre-Aaron Rodgers situation in Green Bay a couple of years ago.  If Tannehill didn’t break his foot in Senior Bowl practices he would have been a mid to late first round pick but due to this injury, he will fall all the way to the second round.  Tannehill has the size (6’4), arm strength, accuracy, and character to be a successful starter in the NFL and learning from Peyton Manning and Mike Shanahan could be nothing but good for him. 
            With the cornerback and quarterback position now taken care of, it is now time to add some explosion to the Washington Redskins, which is why I would select Arkansas wide receiver Joe Adams in the third round of the NFL Draft with the seventieth overall pick.  Adams is a more explosive, taller, and faster Brandon Banks, and would take Banks’ place on the roster.  The Redskins have two fourth round picks and with the first one, I would take Brandon Taylor, a safety out of LSU and Donte Paige-Moss with the second of our fourth round picks a defensive end out of North Carolina.    
            In the final three rounds of the draft, I would take Brandon Mosley, an offensive lineman from Auburn in the fifth round and in the seventh round, I would take BJ Cunningham, a 6’2 receiver out of Michigan State.  The Redskins do not have a sixth round pick and although we might trade into that round in real life, I have disregarded that possibility in this mock offseason.  When it comes to undrafted Free Agents, I would bring in Greg Childs, a wide receiver out of Arkansas, Jaymes Brooks, an offensive lineman out of Virginia Tech and Josh Chichester, a 6’8 tight end out of Louisville who is built in the mold of Rob Gronkowski
            I feel that these moves in the offseason would help improve the Washington Redskins and would make them a playoff contender in 2012.  Granted there would be huge turnover on the offensive side of the ball, but seeing as Peyton Manning already has chemistry with players like Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, and Pierre Garcon, it is totally different than bringing in a bunch of different players from different teams who have never played with each other before.  The defense should make strides as well and improve an already near playoff caliber defense.  If these moves work out and the players with potential continue to improve, the Redskins could be a Super Bowl contender by 2013.

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