Think about this -- the Washington Redskins -- Week 1 of the NFL season (whenever that is) are able to match-up against Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Steve Smith of the Giants -- with not only DeAngelo Hall, but the biggest free-agent fish in the pond, Nnamdi Asomugha.
Sounds good -- doesn't it?
However, is it realistic? Can you spend the kind of 'jack' it would take to have Nnamdi Asomugha -- who is considered by many -- the best cornerback in the league, not just in free agency?
All of this, while having not only Hall -- but LaRon Landry and OJ Atogwe all under contract long term, under a salary cap.
Or here is a scenario -- what if bringing in Asomugha costs you Hall or Landry either next year or maybe even this year? Hmmm.
It's possible -- but not very likely, at least for 2011.
Of course, no matter who you bring in at corner, it might only partially help the two most identifiable weaknesses on the defensive side of the ball. Pass rush pressure and stopping the run.
Surely, first-round pick Ryan Kerrigan and second-round pick Jarvis Jenkins will go a long way to helping the pass rush issues, but they obviously are both raw and will need some time to develop.
We have no idea -- if they will be able to help stop the at-times porous run defense (Indy, @NYG, Minnesota, Philly). They should, at times, especially Jenkins -- who I would guess will start very early on at right defensive end.
The question then becomes -- Is cornerback truly a huge need?
The jury remains out on that issue. I say it's a huge need, but others disagree -- and I do understand that feeling - but I believe the Redskins need to find a way to counter the dynamic passing games of the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys - and they have not been able too - at least not yet.
Carlos Rogers is not coming back, that is about as safe a bet as we could make. Phillip Buchanon is also an unrestricted free agent, who played reasonably well with the exception of certain times.
Kevin Barnes is a player that has emerged, and is now heading in to his third year. Barnes, for the most part, improved the coverage aspects of his game by route recognition, hard work and by simply being around the game mor
I think Barnes is a better fit for the slot -- at least for 2011, because he gained a pretty good amount of experience in that position last year, when Rogers went down for most of the 2nd half of the season.
He's more physical then fast, while using his frame to bump or re-route receivers -- while also having the skills to blitz off the slot, as Jim Haslett really likes to do.
Other possibilities currently on the Redskins expanded roster are Byron Westbrook and recently drafted Brandyn Thompson.
I don't know about you -- but it sounds like a pretty desperate need.
In my 53-man roster projection that I wrote in May http://redskins.espn980.com/bloggers/chris-russell/item/60-redskins-fearless-forecast -- I thought it made sense for the Redskins to sign veteran unrestricted CB Ike Taylor from the Steelers, a guy who is familiar with some of the concepts of what Jim Haslett likes to do. Taylor lit up Mark Sanchez of the Jets in the AFC Championship game on that disputed fumble/interception with a blindside blitz from the edge, a play that fueled the Steelers trip to the Super Bowl.
I also projected that the Redskins would sign NT Abrayo Franklin - who would likely require a hefty paycheck - but that maybe Washington could bolster two needs for the price of one (Asomugha).
Clearly neither player has the top-end ability that Asomugha brings, but here's the bigger issue.
If you sign Nnamdi - can you afford to keep DeAngelo Hall beyond the 2011 season? If the answer is no -- do you determine that you can get a higher value in return by trading DeAngelo to another team now or in other words, once the lockout is lifted?
Sounds like a crazy question, right? Probably, but maybe not – if you consider a number of different factors. To get the answers – to some of the most logical issues – ESPN 980 contacted a number of different people around the league.
ESPN 980’s Front-Office Insider J.I. Halsell (www.twitter.com/salarycap101) is a salary cap & contract expert – currently working for a sports representation firm in Chicago, Priority Sports, which for full disclosure, does not represent Asomugha or Hall. He worked previously in the Redskins front office, but has not been employed by the team for two years.
Halsell says by trading Hall now to another team – thirsty for a corner – say the Houston Texans, the Redskins would save approximately 4.5 Million plus in 2011 cash, depending on various factors.
Hall, signed a six-year, $55 million contract. The deal had $22.5 million guaranteed, inluding a $15 million option bonus. According to Rotoworld.com, Hall is on the 2011 books for $4.5 million + a 500,000 bonus. Certainly a manageable number for cornerback with turnover skills. Hall is due to make $6 million in 2012, $7.5 milliion in 2013, and $9 million in 2014.
If you combine that savings, with the projected savings of ‘losing’ Carlos Rogers – the Redskins would save around 10- Million in cash off the player payroll.
That would give the Redskins plenty of space to “structure a deal that makes Asomugha, one of the highest paid (if not, the highest paid) defenders in the league,” according to Halsell.
However, a key dilemma remains. According to Halsell “the challenge for a player in Asomugha who just turned 30 (Carlos Rogers also just turned 30, 4 days apart from Asomugha) is the club would want to structure the deal to mitigate their risk against a potential decline in play as he gets older.”
Asomugha has a clear leverage point, to avoid a “pay-as-you-go” type structure, but that might be the only type of deal the Redskins are willing to do.
Asomugha’s last contract with the Raiders was a shorter deal with a trigger that allowed it void. Halsell, highlighted the free agent market and some interesting information about Asomugha's last deal http://wapo.st/e4b50t when working for the Washington Post.
All of that is great, but can the Redskins afford such a heavy financial investment – with or without Hall in the secondary. There are many issues to consider.
Halsell points out “the Atogwe deal is structured in a club-friendly manner, so it’s not that big of a consideration in a possible deal, short of the cash that would be invested in the secondary.”
The real problem lies with LaRon Landry’s future. He is an unrestricted free agent after the 2011 season. He was an absolute beast in the first 8 games of the Redskins 2010 defense, at strong safety – before an Achilles injury flared up so much that he had to be shut down following the humiliating Eagles Monday Night Football loss.
“That’s the bigger issue,” says Halsell. “If the Redskins are financially committed to Atogwe, Hall and Asomugha, then, from a roster building perspective, it would be difficult to justify another “big purchase’ in the secondary.
Halsell, smartly points out that “unlike cornerback, safety is not a premium position, so the Redskins will have to make a decision as to where they want to invest their money.”
Halsell also says the Redskins need to see more out of Landry, before committing to him. “He hasn’t shown that level of play, for more then 8 games.”
Halsell, was with the Redskins front office when the team extended Chris Cooley, but says it is two different situations. “Chris had proven he was an elite tight-end. You don’t have that certainty with LaRon, and you already signed O.J.”
One other interesting twist to Landry’s future is the possibility of slapping the franchise tag on him at the end of the 2011 season, assuming that designation is still a part of the collective bargaining agreement.
“They could easily franchise him, says Halsell. "The safety ‘tag’ is relatively low. You let it play out. Bruce Allen, Mike Shanahan and Eric Schaffer are all about flexibility."
Joel Segal, a successful NFL agent who represents LaRon Landry told ESPN 980, "LaRon's doing amazingly well. He's excited, and ready to help the Redskins win."
As for Landry's contract that will expire at the end of the upcoming season, Segal says he is "taking one day at a time." Segal obviously is prohibited from talking to Bruce Allen about a contract extension for his client.
Landry is scheduled to make $3.715 million in the final year of his deal.
Another factor to keep in mind, no matter what Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan decide to do -- is the Redskins smartly created extra cap flexibility by essentially restructuring Hall’s contract to take advantage of the 2010 uncapped season. He has a tradeable contract, with little or no bonus hit against the cap if they went that route.
Keep in mind, that Hall's value as a 'playmaker' is probably never going to be higher, but every opponent knows that you can attack him. He will make big plays, but also give some up. Does "Shan-allen" truly value the turnover production over a better coverage blanket?
It's easy to say, just spend money and it will all get better. Redskins fans, know that is not the right course of action.
So would it be a smart football move to bring in Asomugha – or a typical Redskins move? Brian Baldinger of the NFL Network told ESPN - 980; “I think it's both. We've seen this from the Redskins before. It would be a smart move. Anybody that can get him, would be better.”
Baldinger, says a very critical factor for a player like Asomugha is his determination to be with a contender. Asomugha, has made very good money, but comes from a mostly horrific franchise.
“He's buddies with Charles Woodson, what effect does (Charles) going to Green Bay; a contender, have?”
Baldinger, also points out that Asomugha will be looking for ‘not only a team that can contend and win a Super Bowl, but a place where the environment can make me better then I've been.”
“Charles Woodson, the last 3-4 years, he's off the chart good,” says Baldinger who has been covering the league for the last decade plus for NFL Network, FOX & The Sporting News.
“I don’t know if Washington could do that,” Baldinger says. Other league sources that are familiar with Asomugha's thinking concur, and do not believe that the veteran corner would be willing to trust the Redskins future.
How about Asomugha’s skill level? Asomugha just made the turn for 30 – which is gloom and doom for running-backs, but not necessarily defensive backs.
“He is still a great player. His athletic skills have not diminished, and PEOPLE like Nnamdi don’t come around very often. He’s one of the best human being’s that you could ever meet. He’s just a special individual.”
Still, Asomugha is not the best at his position in the NFL; Baldinger warns.
“Darrelle Revis of New York Jets is the best.”
As for the issue of should the Redskins be over aggressive and shake it up right now, by trading Hall for the highest possible value (if the longterm plan is keeping Landry, and signing Asomugha).
"Yeah you could live with that. D-Hall has the interceptions, but he's far from being a top flight corner. If you have to trade him or release him -- yeah -- It's an upgrade. You saw it in Oakland. There's a huge difference.”
Of course, if you trade Hall before the 2011 season, again to get maximum value (likely no higher then a 3rd round pick, but maybe an unheralded player that Shanahan really likes) – you will have to sign another corner.
Could you go Ike Taylor and Asomugha, and really shake it up?
“I don't think he's (Taylor) a top flight CB. Pittsburgh knows that, I think everybody knows that. I don't think anybody believes Ike Taylor, is a top flght CB,” says Baldinger – who also adds “If that's the case, resign Carlos Rogers.”
Asomugha was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the 2003 draft with the 31st pick out of the University of California. He played with current Redskins LB Lorenzo Alexander. Asomugha may have been a relative unknown with a interesting name, when he was drafted, but he wasn't to the people that matter.
“A lot of people did know about him. He was a size and speed player. He was a big kid with long arms, he just fit what we did in Oakland. He had size, speed, athleticism and he was tough," says Michael Lombardi of the NFL Network. Lombardi served as a senior personnel executive for the Raiders during the first few years of Asomugha's career.
“His first couple of years, we moved him around. Then he had the breakout interception year. Once we settled down, his skill set took off," says Lombardi. "He’s a press corner, that’s what he does . If you sign Nnamdi, you've got to tailor the scheme to him."
“I think until we know what the cap is. I don’t think you could predict anything. He wants to go somewhere where we can win, and plays his style of defense.
So really - as usual -- the question becomes -- are the Redskins willing to break the bank for one player, on a team that has many needs or are they more apt to spread the wealth around?
“That’s a lot to afford right there,” says Lombardi. What about my admittedly off-the-wall theory that the Redskins might have to release DeAngelo Hall after next year (for cap purposes) or possibly trade him now for highest return value? "That’s a tough one."
It's highly unlikely that scenario would play out - but again it is something that has to be considered. As are other options like Johnathan Jospeh of the Bengals and Taylor.
“Joseph is going to cost a lot of money, says Lombardi.” As for Redskins fans being able to say 'I like Ike;' Lombardi isn't buying it. "Ike Taylor is going to stay out in Pittsburgh.”
John Clayton of ESPN, speculated to the "Sports Reporters" about the Redskins interest in Asomugha -- "I think they might" but he is clearly leaving Oakland, "one for the money" and also to try and win.
A league executive who wished to not be identified says -- forget about the Redskins throwing 'jack' around like they used too. “They are not going to spend the money, That’s the OLD Redskins. It’s just not happening."
Honestly, that sounds like a good thing doesn't it? Especially with the Redskins commitment to stocking the cupboards via the draft, as they did in April selecting 12 players.
One final interesting twist -- Remember, Bruce Allen was also a Senior Executive for Al Davis and the Raiders when Asomugha was drafted. Is his history with Nnamdi – a factor? The unidentified league executive told ESPN-980; perhaps to the chagrin of some, “If he’s in charge – but I think we all know who is.”