The Redskins might not be openly shopping defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, but they haven't taken the phones off the hook either. From what I've been told, interest has picked up in Haynesworth since Washington paid him a $21 million bonus on April 1. The Redskins offered him to Philadelphia as part of the Donovan McNabb trade and a source disclosed the Eagles weren't the only team to which Haynesworth was made available.
Ideally, the Redskins don't want to move Haynesworth after making such a financial commitment to a player who was dominant with Tennessee when he was playing for a big pay day. Washington gave him the deal he was looking for (max worth of $100 million with $41 million guaranteed) as a free agent in 2009. The Redskins want Haynesworth to be their anchor nose tackle in a new 3-4 front and are not pushing to move him.
Yet, if somebody calls with a great offer, the Redskins could listen. That offer could include draft picks, players and a form of buy-back to some of the money Haynesworth has been paid, which seemingly is a hefty ransom for a guy who didn't dominate as expected last season.
What could drive Haynesworth out is an emerging wedge between Haynesworth and new team leadership, headed by coach Mike Shanahan. New coaches typically ferret out and get rid of players who aren't with the program and, for the moment, Haynesworth doesn't seem fully on board.
He is not attending voluntary team workouts and he does not want to play nose tackle in the new 3-4 defense being engineered by new defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. Knowing that the team has tried to move him and is open to still moving him hasn't made relations better.
Though ridding itself of Haynesworth seems unlikely, Washington wouldn't suffer any penalties against the salary cap because there is no salary cap in 2010. This is the time to get rid of bad contracts, although paying someone $21 million to play elsewhere seems unfathomable. And don't think that things could get so bad that Haynesworth will get cut. Won't happen.
Though Haynesworth may not play like the typical 3-4 nose tackle -- Baltimore's Haloti Ngata or Pittsburgh's Casey Hampton, for instance -- he could fit Haslett's scheme. Just because Haynesworth is more of a gap-penetrating tackle and not a two-gap space eater like Ngata or Hampton, doesn't mean he can't be effective.
Cowboys' Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff weighs 300 pounds and is a gap-penetrating menace. Arizona's Darnell Dockett, who weighs 285 pounds, is moved to every position along the Cardinals' front. Both play in multiple-look, 3-4 schemes and they produced better than Haynesworth did last season when Haynesworth was in his more comfortable four-man front.
Haynesworth's style is more like Ratliff and Dockett but, ironically, he weighs 350 pounds -- ideal size for a 3-4 nose tackle. Ngata weighs 345 and Hampton is listed at 325. So before he bails on Haslett's defense, he might want to take the time to understand how he'll truly be used.
Coaches tend to scheme to the talent, so just because the Redskins want Haynesworth to be a nose tackle doesn't mean they don't want him to be a playmaker.
As for a rift, there is time for everyone to get over any ill feelings. Haynesworth actually has 21 million fresh reasons why he shouldn't be too salty when it comes time to do his job. And if he gives off even the slightest bit of scent that he's unhappy, the general public -- especially the fervent Redskins' Nation -- will turn on him.
That could be the least of his issues.
Shanahan is no one to play with, as he proved when he exposed his fangs toward another edgy defensive tackle in 2003. Shanahan didn't back down when DT Daryl Gardener, who signed a seven-year, $35 million free-agent deal, broke his wrist in an off-field fight, didn't play well and then became a discipline issue. Gardener, who referred to Shanahan as "that little man," in a radio interview, was suspended twice in 2003, de-activated at the end of the season and waived in 2004.
How much Wildcat in Philly now?
When McNabb was the Eagles quarterback, there was really no threat that Michael Vick would take his job. What about now that McNabb is gone, upstart Kevin Kolb is The Man and Vick finds himself in the QB on-deck circle? Will the Eagles still use Vick in the Wildcat or in a gimmick role five or six times a game? Or could that be a little unnerving for Kolb, who is now about to face schemes, personnel, situations and scrutiny that he hasn't dealt with before?
Having just two career starts, Kolb is going to make mistakes. The Eagles are going to have to let him play through any gaffes without interruption and stick with him after making the decision to have him replace McNabb. Should Vick (68 career starts) be used, even minimally, and have success, while Kolb has inconsistent moments as he learns, there will be calls from the media and fans to play Vick more. If Philadelphia loses in the process, the potential for locker room fracturing could become very real.
Vick said all the right things this week about being Kolb's backup and helping the fourth-year player become a legit NFL starter, but Vick is one of the most competitive people I've ever encountered. He is going to push hard in training camp and the preseason to make coaches and his teammates believe he is just as good, if not better than Kolb.
Ideally for the Eagles, Kolb rises to the challenge. I don't foresee a controversy since coach Andy Reid said Kolb is the guy. With that being the case, I do foresee Vick's role being that as more of a traditional backup. That might not sit well with Vick but for Kolb's and the Eagles' sakes, there can be no wavering if Kolb is their starter.
In fact, the Eagles, who figure to draft a quarterback, should answer the phone if any other teams are still interested in Vick. Reid said they were getting calls on all three of their quarterbacks, right?
Jackson not singing solo
I will not name names because the conversation I had with these players was in a casual setting, but the reference of "change," as in "something" has to change, came up more than once. Though the players did not mention McNabb and were not specific, it was pretty clear who and what they were talking about.
McNabb could have fallen victim to simply being the old guy in a young locker room. It happens. When I covered the Atlanta Falcons for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, I saw younger players treat veteran linebacker Keith Brooking the same way. He was a very passionate and verbal guy and he tried to lead, but a lot of the younger players didn't listen.
Some of them weren't shy about mentioning off the record how they thought his best days were behind him. It was hard to argue with that perception at times because he didn't play up to the level he did early in his career. More than anything, the lack of connection between youth and experience was clear.
When Brooking went to Dallas, a veteran team, last season, his impact was felt right away. A change to inside linebacker in the 3-4 allowed him to play at a high level. More importantly, he seized a veteran locker room begging for a leader. Not long into the season, he was the guy breaking down the pre-game huddle and he was the guy players looked toward.