The Washington Redskins, who largely sat out the free-agent market in 2010, are prepared to make a splash this year, numerous sources familiar with the team's offseason plans said Tuesday.
Facing a serious lack of talent at crucial positions, the longtime NFC East doormats have put together a list of high-end free agents they want and will be very aggressive in pursuing them as soon as the NFL lockout is lifted, according to the sources.
Signing New York Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes reportedly is the primary objective of Redskins coach and chief decision maker Mike Shanahan. Guard Marshal Yanda, a player whom the Baltimore Ravens will vigorously fight to retain -- just as the Jets will make a concerted effort to retain Holmes -- also is coveted in Washington.
Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins and brother Kris, who's oft-injured but was very effective for the Jets when healthy, also are key targets for the Redskins, and league sources would be surprised if the team didn't land both, with competition for those two players not likely to be as steep as for Holmes and Yanda.
The sources said the Redskins also will work hard to retain some of their own free agents, with wide receiver Santana Moss still in their plans, though it will be tricky to sign him and Holmes. Right tackle Jammal Brown, despite his checkered injury history, also remains in Washington's plans, and the team is optimistic about re-signing him.
Backup quarterback Rex Grossman will be re-signed (Shanahan remains dedicated to John Beck being his starter, team sources said); cornerback Phillip Buchanon will be pursued, given the woeful state of the team's corners; and the Redskins' staff has wavered on the merits of retaining linebacker Rocky McIntosh, who didn't fare well in 2010 evaluations and seemed ill-fitted to the team's scheme.
It all adds up to what could be a pivotal offseason for Shanahan, who already has fallen under scrutiny following clashes with top players and acute struggles on both offense and defense during his first season in Washington.
Team sources maintain that they can't foresee the Redskins keeping either quarterback Donovan McNabb or defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth. Receiving much for either in a trade will prove quite difficult given their contracts, and several team sources believe Shanahan ultimately will take anything he can for Haynesworth. The Redskins are particularly concerned that if they release Haynesworth, he will sign with the NFC East rival Philadelphia Eagles and reunite with his former Tennessee Titans position coach, Jim Washburn.
With trade options for McNabb limited, team sources expect Shanahan ultimately to release him. The Minnesota Vikings would be among the teams interested in the quarterback, league sources have said.
Shanahan, who has a long history of offensive wizardry, is desperate for a playmaker, which makes Holmes so attractive (contrary to reports, the Redskins haven't spent much time discussing Holmes' Jets teammate, Braylon Edwards). The Redskins also are desperate for impact offensive lineman, and if they miss out on Yanda, they likely will target two other Ravens -- Chris Chester or Jared Gaither -- since Washington's offensive line coach, Chris Foerster, has ties to those players from his time in Baltimore.
The Redskins hope young left tackle Trent Williams will continue to develop and that either Will Montgomery or veteran Kory Lichtensteiger can compete with Casey Rabach at center, with Artis Hicks at one guard spot and Brown, if re-signed, at right tackle. Yanda would greatly improve the interior of the line opposite Hicks at guard, but again, adding him is a big if.
Washington's defensive line, which lacked the personnel to switch to the 3-4 last season, needs a makeover, and the team hopes to address it with quantity and quality, sources said.
The Jenkins brothers have ties to the Washington area, and both have been standouts in a 3-4. Nose tackle is a major issue for the Redskins, and Kris Jenkins, coming off another season-ending surgery, could be a bargain on the open market. Cullen Jenkins is a versatile 3-4 lineman who can play multiple positions and is a natural fit for Washington.
Cofield, though lacking experience in the 3-4 scheme, has been a regular topic of conversation at Redskins Park, and the team believes he could be a major upgrade. San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin also has been linked to the Redskins, but sources said he hasn't been a focal point.
Shanahan has been unwavering in his support of Beck, to the dismay of some in the organization who haven't seen anything to suggest the former Raven and Miami Dolphin can be a competitive starting quarterback. With the 2010 season lost, Shanahan chose to play Grossman over Beck, and some at Redskins Park wonder why Beck, if he was indeed the future, didn't receive the call in those meaningless games.
"He is set on Beck," said a source familiar with Shanahan's thinking. "That's his guy. He isn't just saying it for the media or to blow smoke. He's serious as hell about it."
Grossman, who has almost no other free-agent options, is nearly certain to re-sign with the Redskins on a cheap, short-term deal. Washington still needs a third quarterback, with Vince Young a possibility (he hasn't been the subject of much internal discussion at this point, according to sources).
Also, off the field, team sources expect general manager Bruce Allen to assume at least some of the roles that just-departed team counsel David Donovan performed on a day-to-day basis, at least until owner Dan Snyder hires a full-time replacement (Shanahan has final say on personnel and is the driving force behind player acquisitions). Bob Wallace, who spent 16 years with the St. Louis Rams and previously served as their general counsel, is among the top candidates to replace Donovan's title, league sources said.