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Beyond the draft: signing priorities

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I thought this was a decent and prudent draft: liked most of the trades (showed unusual restraint by Snyder), liked Ramsey at #1, liked the strategy after #1 of looking for role players, projects and depth instead of wasting picks on premium positions (e.g. DT) that really require a #1 pick or top free agent. The draft combined with recent signings (which have combined minimum-salary pickups and long-term deals for Wynn and Trotter) are starting to reveal a coherent long-term strategy, which is very refreshing. This team seems to be *building*, not just trying to win everything next year -- though I think they will be better next year than I expected a few months ago.

Betts was a prudent pickup given the Stephen Davis contract situation and Ki-Jana's FA status. But even *more* prudent would have been to re-do Davis's contract *before* the draft, and signing Ki-Jana *before* the draft, thereby freeing the #2 for better uses. I think Ki-Jana is a huge talent and actually more suited to Spurrier's offense than Davis. The only downside for Ki-Jana is injury potential, and that could have been handled with an incentive-based contract that would only pay the big bucks if Ki-Jana actually played. In any case, Betts can back up both SD and Ki-Jana, so it's not a complete waste if both Davis and KJ are retained long-term.

Similarly, the CB picks were prudent given this is Darrell's last year, and given that this is apparently the last year of Champ Bailey's contract. The latter is really scary -- everyone assumes that Champ is here for his career like Darrell, but he clearly wants to be a 3-way player (CB, returner and WR), and Spurrier has said he doesn't want Champ on offense. Now Bauman and Russell are probably going to be our returners (justifying their roster space while they develop as CB & WR), so Champ is stuck just as a CB once again. A savvy team in the FA market would dangle the promise of Champ being a 3-way player a la Deion (think of the endorsement money potential), and suddenly it doesn't matter how much money the Skins offer in return.

So these picks (RB and CB) were prudent given the draft-day situation, but were avoidable if the Skins had done the right deals with Davis, Ki-Jana and Champ. Their remaining benefit should be as a bit of leverage in contract negotiations with these three players, so the Skins can show they are not completely screwed should the players leave. But that's it. The Skins need new deals with all three players, and they need them *now*.

Re-doing the Stephen Davis deal should make it easier to sign Jon Jansen. You could make the reverse argument (signing Jansen makes it easier to re-do Davis's contract), but I think the Jansen deal is the more difficult to swing. I just have a hunch that last year's entire OL were grind-it-out Marty boys and don't dig Spurrier's brand of offense. (Spurrier is very involved with offensive personnel, but by his own admission he focuses almost strictly on the QB and receivers.) Now that the interior of last year's OL is gone, there's no sentimental chemistry for Jansen to maintain. Jansen may have even telegraphed to the team that he's expecting to leave (maybe they've already tried and failed to extend him), thus his place in the trade offer for Harrington is understandable. But the Skins *must* keep trying. If Jansen's isn't extended by end of camp, I think he's gone.

The next player I'd focus on is Westbrook. Like Ki-Jana, Westbrook is injury-prone, so his contract needs to be incentive-based. But his "bad attitude" is overblown in my opinion. He's just slightly outspoken, slightly in love with himself, and does about one really dumb thing a year (Stephen Davis fight etc.). He's not a speed burner, but he has *very* good hands and is a terrific possession receiver with enough moves to get open on the longer routes. He was criminally underused last year by Marty and Banks -- Marty clearly was determined to make his #1 pick Gardner the star, even at the expense of the team. But the Denver game with Kent Graham free-lancing a come-from-behind win largely on the basis of pitch-and-catch with Westbrook showed what an idiot Marty was in the passing game -- Graham was much better than Banks, and Westbrook is much better than Gardner. So here's what I'd do: secretly line up a trade with San Diego for Gardner, then sign Westbrook and trade Gardner. Keeping both would cost too much and Spurrier doesn't want too many possession receivers anyway. Yes, Gardner is young and has room to develop, but he's slow, unable to separate from the CB, and drops too many easy passes.

Next priorities -- on defense, if we can swing Rod Woodson and/or Sam Adams without giving away the farm, so much the better. They should be made affordable offers to compare with competitive offers, then the Skins should be patient and wait until even July before raising the offers significantly. These are guys who can arrive in July and play immediately for Lewis, so there's no hurry.

Finally, come June 1, we should look for available guards. We have enough mediocre options already on OL (including Reggie Coleman, the draftee) to not make this a requirement -- it's important that the Skins not overspend for another mediocre talent. With no studs available, this is a position where the Skins need to bite the bullet and make do with the best minimum-salary guys they can find, while reserving cash for other key positions (Stephen Davis, Ki-Jana, Westbrook, Jansen, Champ, Sam Adams, Rod Woodson) where they have the players who can make a real difference.

-- Geoff in Atlanta (ex-D.C. resident)

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About the underuse of westbrook last season. I definitely agree, HOWEVER, it wasn't as much marty schottenheimer's fault as it was Jimmy Raye's. If Jimmy Raye was burning in the street, I wouldn't waste the urine I had in my body to put his flames out, even if I had to go really bad. That ******* screwed over my favorite receiver, and to borrow a quote from ray finkle's mom about dan marino, jimmy ray should "die of ghonorrhea and rot in hell."

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Players who we WILL keep no matter what or die trying:





and Trotter

Players who we will try to keep no matter what:




I think Ki-Jana is a huge talent and actually more suited to Spurrier's offense than Davis

And this is based on........


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Ki-Jana Carter and Michael Westbrook are hall of fame candidates for the 'what if' school of the NFL. :)

What if they had remained healthy, found themselves in the right systems and been ready to produce from Day 1.

the truth is we will never know. Just as we will never know what other talented but star-crossed players would have done given a different set of circumstances.

With the Lakers, I remember the team signing Mitch Kupchak away from the Bullets in the early 1980's and thinking that with his ability he could be one of the best front court players in the West, fitting in well with Kareem.

Instead Kupchak suffered a catastrophic leg injury from which he never fully recovered. He came back to play an off the bench role on the 1985 title team that beat Boston but retired soon thereafter.

And we could REALLY say this about a guy like Bill Walton whose career was truncated by injury after injury.

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my quote:


I think Ki-Jana is a huge talent and actually more suited to Spurrier's offense than Davis


reply quote:


And this is based on........ what?


Davis is a great back, no question. But he is a grinding runner best suited to running formations and a run-blocking-oriented OL. KJ is much faster, nimbler on turns after catches, and has much better hands for catching. These attributes make KJ the superior RB for draws, dump-off passes and designed passes to the RB.

From what I've seen of Spurrier, he tends to work out of spread formations, in which the draw play is more important than grinding runs. Obviously short yardage is different, but if your default formation is a spread formation, you tend to do better with a quick back with good hands who can get to the holes fast, get outside fast, and reliably catch when receivers are covered.

Davis is clearly a franchise back, and unbelievably durable. I would never suggest keeping KJ over Davis. But if Davis is best at grinding runs and selling play-action passes, that describes a standard pro-set offense and a run-first philosophy, which is not Spurrier's system.

If both backs were kept, I would expect more playing time for KJ. Davis would own 1st and 10, 2nd and 5 or less, and 3rd and 2 or less. KJ would handle the rest. Just my guess, of course.


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