This is the first of two parts of our guide to a successful offseason for the Redskins. This edition will focus on the general philosophy needed to make strides for the future. Part II will focus more on the actual needs of each position on the roster.
Changing the Culture:
Looking at the most successful franchises in the NFL over the past few years and you will realize the similarities in how their franchises are run. The Packers and Steelers facing off in the Super Bowl was a perfect example of two franchises who know how to efficiently build a team. Add teams like the Colts, Patriots, Ravens, and Jets and you will see that these teams have set the template for how to build a proper team.
It’s no coincidence that all of the teams I have mentioned put an emphasis of constantly re-loading with young players via the draft. Unfortunately for the Washington Redskins, this has been something they have failed to emulate. With only two picks in the first four rounds of this years draft, they are once again at a disadvantage to a team like the Patriots who have SEVEN picks in the first four rounds. So, a team which had the most wins in the regular season last year is going to once again re-load with even more young talent.
Yet, offseason after offseason, the Redskins have shown more interest in trading these valuable picks away in order to acquire flashy players from other teams, who don’t always pan out. On the flip side, the Green Bay Packers Super Bowl victory this year shows just why the Redskins should be building through the draft instead of through free agency and trades.
The Packers front office has spent several years building through the draft in order to achieve the success they had this year. They were able to win the Super Bowl despite being decimated by injuries. How did they do this? The saying “Next Man Up.”
There isn’t a single team that can make it through a brutal NFL season without losing key players to injury. There are no exceptions. The thing that separates the good teams versus the bad is the ability to have backups that are ready to step in and perform at a level where there is little drop off in production from the starters. This is done by continually drafting young talent. So, when a key player goes down, as the saying goes “Next Man Up.” And the good teams have the players who are ready to step right in and produce. This is the reason the Pack were able to survive all their injury woes.
But back to the Redskins. It’ll be hard to change the approach with so few picks in this years draft, but they need to adopt this approach in the future. It requires patience, which is unfortunately a characteristic that the owner does not have. What the Redskins should do is try to do something that the Patriots are often successful at: trade down in the draft to get more draft picks. For a team with so many needs like the Skins, trading down from the 10th pick this year could be a good option.
Anything they can do in the next few years to get more picks is what they should be doing. If that means trading some of their veterans away for picks, then so be it. For example, my favorite current Redskin is Tight End Chris Cooley. I would hate to see him go, but in the Redskins situation, it might be a good idea to shop him around since they already have Fred Davis. Or, they may value Cooley too much and decide Davis would be the better one to shop. Either way, the Skins need to take a long look at the roster and start thinking which players are the ones we want to build a team around and which players aren’t going to be there in the long term.
On first glance, there aren’t many players to build around. The only players I would not consider trading right now because they should be in the team’s long term plan are Brian Orakpo, Laron Landry, Trent Williams, and maybe DeAngelo Hall. Any other veterans should be open season when it comes to potentially shopping them around for extra picks. To a lesser degree, the team should hold on to some young talent like Anthony Armstrong, Brandon Banks, and Ryan Torain. The fact that I have listed so few players speaks to how far away the Redskins are right now to reaching the elite (though we have an owner who probably thinks the team is close because they beat the Packers in the regular season).
In regards to free agency, the approach should be simple. Stop focusing on the high profile signings. Try to sign some relatively young veterans that are going to help your squad. Especially guys who can play in the trenches of the offensive and defensive lines. There is nothing even wrong with signing a top level free agent. In the Skins case though, if they are going to go that route, sign a player who is still in their prime and one who is not going to destroy your locker room.
DO NOT WANT!!!
This whole process takes years. Skins fans do not care if the team is terrible for a few years as long as the front office is taking the steps to properly re-build the team. Instead, as most of the fans fear, the front office and owner will again put a small band-aid on a giant wound and pretend the team is closer to contention than they really are. When will they learn?
Coming Soon: Part II. A breakdown of each position and team needs.