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Redskins put NFC East on notice with signing of Haynesworth

The earth just shook after that jumbo Albert Haynesworth deal.

And it was not the dollars or the player or his new team, the Washington Redskins, that rumbled.

No, that was every NFC East center and guard that must block this beast for two games a year, every year into the near future.

NFL players snap to attention in regard to their peers. They gauge others' contributions to their teams. They monitor the cash others garner. And most importantly, they peek across the line of scrimmage months before the first snap of each season to discern who is on the schedule and who are the matchups they must encounter.

For most of the past seven seasons while he was in Tennessee, Haynesworth would cause foes to take a second and third and fourth look. At 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds, he is a man among men, as intimidating an individual matchup as any you will find in the pro game.

Little wonder the Redskins considered it a bargain to toss this player "quarterback" money, $100 million over seven years, $41 million guaranteed and $32 million in the first 13 months. It is a living-large deal for a gargantuan talent.

I spoke with an NFL owner on Friday morning who said: "A lot more teams than I believe reported jumped in to try to get this player. We tossed our hat in there. We offered $75 million and I'm told they sort of smiled, politely said, 'Thank you, we've got a lot on the table to consider and we'll get back with you.' I knew right then we were out of it.

"Imagine that $75 million in this instance only got you a nice conversation."

Here is what the Redskins considered:

The talent: At age 27, Haynewsorth is in his prime and arrives with a ton of experience. He led the Titans last year in sacks with 8.5. Phenomenal impact, whether he lines up over center or on the wings. Routinely double-teamed inside. And outside vs. tackles, launches them into the backfield, overwhelms them with his strength and push, the type offensive tackles are not used to seeing. Often plays the game in the opponent's backfield.

His issues: They have been there, whether it is stomping a player in the face on the field or other off-field, emotional woes in action and relationships. And are you getting a player who excelled in the final year of his contract who will now coast or one mature and dedicated enough to give even more effort now that he is paid?

Washington mulled it all.

And its answer: Please sign here, Mr. Haynesworth.

"You are talking about a guy who disrupts things and makes things happen," Vinny Cerrato, the Redskins' executive vice president of football operations, said. "Even though we were fourth in defense last year, we were not as good as we wanted to be in sacks and turnovers. He is a player who makes penetration in the running game, penetration in the passing game and in collapsing the entire pocket. Sherman Smith, our offensive coordinator, coached Albert at Tennessee. He gave him high praise as a player and person. We talked to our players about him, London Fletcher and Fred Smoot and some others. They were excited about the possibility of having him, all on board. They believe like we do -- this is one of those rare players that makes everyone around him better."

Carl Eller, Joe Greene, Reggie White -- pro football history is littered with the resounding impact that a tough, stout, nasty, dominant defensive lineman can bring. In the last two NFL seasons alone, the Giants rode to a championship on the heels of a rotating, ruffian group of defensive linemen and the Steelers did the same last season with linebacker James Harrison on occasion playing on the line as he grabbed NFL defensive player of the year honors and capped it all with a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown in the Super Bowl.

"If you can't rush the passer in this league, you have no chance," an NFL general manager said. "The quarterbacks are too good. Even the average ones can make plays with no pressure. Your guys up front have to be able to get to the quarterback. And those guys are becoming more and more a premium. Haynesworth in this free agency class? It was him -- and then everybody else."

Teams will remind themselves of this as April's draft approaches.

You think there is not more pressure making these picks and more onus on scouting departments to be more accurate in their projections?

Consider that in the 2002 draft, Haynesworth was selected 15th overall in the first round by Tennessee. That meant 14 players were deemed better than him by the teams that selected prior. The choices, in order: David Carr, Houston; Julius Peppers, Carolina; Joey Harrington, Detroit; Mike Williams; Buffalo; Quentin Jammer, San Diego; Ryan Sims, Kansas City; Bryant McKinnie, Minnesota; Roy Williams, Dallas; John Henderson, Jacksonville; Levi Jones, Cincinnati; Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis; Wendell Bryant, Arizona; Donte Stallworth, New Orleans; Jeremy Schockey, Giants.

That is a brutal bunch of whiffing on Haynesworth.

Tampa Bay and Washington made the last calls for Haynesworth this time around and the Redskins won out. That means Tampa Bay took a shot and missed. If you are a Bucs fan this morning, you cannot like that outcome. You get in it to win it, especially if you are in the final duo. The Redskins understood this. The Bucs, with the most cap space of any team in tow, could not and should not have lost this battle.

Albert Haynesworth is all Washington Redskins now. He lives now in the NFC East. He fits right in with this division's history of black-and-blue football.

For the Giants, Cowboys and Eagles, the way they view and approach the Washington defense just drastically changed.

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