Red­skins Look­ing Up, Down, All Around

The Washington Post Sunday - - Sunday Morning On The Air - By Ja­son La Can­fora

With less than one week re­main­ing be­fore the start of the NFL draft, the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins con­tinue to as­sess var­ied op­tions re­lated to their first-round pick, the sixth over­all. Team man­age­ment has spent the off­sea­son in re­peated trade talks, in­volv­ing both play­ers and the pick, and will be in con­tact with sev­eral clubs through next week­end’s draft.

Myr­iad sce­nar­ios could un­fold this week and on draft day, with the un­pre­dictable Oak­land Raiders and Detroit Li­ons hold­ing the top two picks, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for the teams be­hind them to as­sess pre­cisely how the open­ing round will un­fold. Some NFL ex­ec­u­tives ex­pect the Red­skins to go down to the last minute Satur­day be­fore mak­ing a trade or se­lect­ing a player, as their odds of com­plet­ing a swap would be boosted if some of the top avail­able tal­ent slips be­yond the top five se­lec­tions. Wash­ing­ton has been ex­plor­ing ways to move up in the first round as well, with wide re­ceiver Calvin John­son cov­eted by many in the or­ga­ni­za­tion, in­clud­ing owner Daniel Sny­der.

But many coaches and scouts within Red­skins Park hope they opt to trade down, league sources said, as the club cur­rently lacks a pick in the sec­ond, third or fourth round and must re­plen­ish its depth af­ter a 5-11 cam­paign that ex­posed its thin­ness, par­tic­u­larly on de- fense. The Red­skins have en­gaged in private work­outs and vis­its with most of the top-rated play­ers, with safety LaRon Landry (Louisiana State) and de­fen­sive tackle Amobi Okoye (Louisville) con­sid­ered the two best de­fen­sive play­ers avail­able by sev­eral mem­bers of the Red­skins or­ga­ni­za­tion, sources said.

Wash­ing­ton has yet to ad­dress its un­pro­duc­tive and ag­ing de­fen­sive line this off­sea­son — con­sid­ered by some to be the club’s big­gest weak­ness — and Coach Joe Gibbs has main­tained through­out the past few months that the Red­skins will “do what­ever it takes” to im­prove the club, in­clud­ing trades, but also has re­peat­edly stated how dif­fi­cult it is to com­plete such ma­neu­vers. Wash­ing­ton still could ob­tain a vet­eran player dur­ing a draft- week deal — they have pursed cor­ner­back Dre Bly and line­backer Lance Briggs, among oth­ers, in pre­vi­ous trade dis­cus­sions — but in re­cent weeks, the team’s front of­fice has been fo­cused on eval­u­at­ing col­lege play­ers, with roughly 30 of them visit­ing Red­skins Park.

John­son is the con­sen­sus choice as the top over­all tal­ent in the draft, and de­spite Wash­ing­ton al­ready in­vest­ing a large per­cent­age of its salary cap in wide re­ceivers and ac­quir­ing two ex­pen­sive vet­eran pass catch­ers a year ago, his mix of size, strength, tal­ent and char­ac­ter is dif­fi­cult to ig­nore.

The Red­skins, who cur­rently are about $3.9 mil­lion un­der the salary cap, could shop play­ers such as cor­ner­back Shawn Springs to move up — he was of­fered to Den­ver pre­vi­ously this off­sea­son, league sources said — but Wash­ing­ton lacks the num­ber of later picks likely re­quired to move into the top two. Be­sides the sixth pick, Wash­ing­ton has just a fifth-round pick, two sixth-round picks and a sev­en­thround se­lec­tion. Part­ing with next year’s first-round pick would gar­ner some in­ter­est — the team has been crit­i­cized through­out Gibbs’s ten­ure as team pres­i­dent for its will­ing­ness to trade high picks — but even that might not be enough to ri­val other of­fers for John­son. Wash­ing­ton has spent con­sid­er­able re­sources scout­ing wide re­ceivers Ted Ginn Jr. (Ohio State) and Dwayne Bowe (LSU) as well, and they could be op­tions if the team trades down.

“They don’t seem to have what it takes to get into that top two or three” picks, one NFC per­son­nel ex­ec­u­tive said. “If it were any other team I couldn’t see it hap­pen­ing, but with that coach and that owner, you never know. They like to make a big splash, and they have a way of get­ting their guy. I’d call it a long shot, but you can never say never with them.”

Drop­ping deeper in the first round is no sure thing, ei­ther. Many other clubs in the top 10 are at­tempt­ing to move back as well, with only a few teams ex­pected to be se­ri­ously in­ter­ested in trad­ing up. How­ever, should ei­ther quar­ter­back Brady Quinn (Notre Dame) or run­ning back Adrian Peter­son (Oklahoma) fall to the sixth pick, Wash­ing­ton would un­doubt­edly field nu­mer­ous calls, and its best lever­age might come at the last minute. Buf­falo (12th over­all) wants Peter­son, Mi­ami (ninth over­all) is pur­su­ing Quinn and At­lanta (eighth over­all) is tar­get­ing Okoye and Landry, ac­cord­ing to sources.

Some par­ties in­volved in Wash­ing­ton’s draft process have ranked Landry, Okoye and de­fen­sive ends Ja­maal An­der­son (Arkansas) and Gaines Adams (Clem­son) — in that or­der — as the best de­fen­sive play­ers avail­able, and prob­a­bly the only four wor­thy of se­lect­ing as high as sixth over­all. While safety is not as press­ing a need, Landry is seen as a dy­namic game-changer and if the Red­skins drafted with the sixth pick, they would then try to uti­lize trades or free agency to ad­dress the de­fen­sive line, sources said.

Sev­eral mem­bers of the or­ga­ni­za­tion said they also be­lieve this draft has enough depth at de­fen­sive line for a qual­ity player to drop out­side the top 10 se­lec­tions. Should the Red­skins trade down, end Adam Car­riker (Ne­braska) could be their pri­mary tar­get, as he im­pressed de­fen­sive line coach Greg Blache at his pro day work­out and is con­sid­ered by some teams to be more of a sure thing than ei­ther Adams or An­der­son, who both have greater po­ten­tial to be stars, but also busts. Two NFL sources said Car­riker would not last be­yond the 17th pick (Jack­sonville) and could go 11th (San Fran­cisco).

Two NFL team ex­ec­u­tives who have stud­ied Wash­ing­ton’s ros­ter came to the same con­clu­sion about what they would do if they were se­lect­ing sixth over­all for the Red­skins. Both said they would take Okoye, who is just 19 and viewed by many as the top de­fen­sive tackle in the draft.

“Okoye is a great kid who you can plug in for 10 years, you know he’ll make your line bet­ter and you’re not go­ing to have to worry about him,” the scout­ing di­rec­tor for one NFL team said.


Amobi Okoye, 19, is viewed by many as the top de­fen­sive tackle in the draft.

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