1. Now that the draft is behind us, along with much of the free agency dance, we can really start to narrow our focus on the 2013 Washington Redskins roster. My gut says that Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan will make a move for at least one player not currently in the fold that will end up being a major factor in the upcoming season. I hope that it is a player that can play on the offensive line. As much as I rail for the addition of a right tackle, it bears noting that our guys had an above average season in 2012. We can be better, but--and I can't stress this enough--we have been so, so, so much worse.
2. Every summer, there is at least one guy that has been on the team for a couple of seasons that drives a considerable amount of debate over whether or not he should stay or go. To clarify, I am talking about players that have performed on the field and contributed meaningfully over that time in some fashion--not a player like Albert Haynesworth that was a major problem off the field. A perfect example of the kind of player I am talking about is Anthony Armstrong. At a time when we simply had a lack of warm, able bodies at the receiver position, Armstrong earned his spot and showed up on Sundays. No matter what he did though, he was never going to win over the fanbase the way a true #1 kind of receiver could (or a #2 with crazy upside), and Armstrong's continued presence only served to remind many of our lack of a studly receiver corps. I would get attacked for suggesting we were "set" at receiver with Armstrong in the fold, when all I really ever said was that his presence allowed us to use our precious resources to address the billion other holes we had. Once the team turned its focus to signing players like Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan to add to promising young receivers like Leonard Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson, Armstrong was simply no longer needed. For those fans that had very much appreciated his contributions, this reality was a tough pill to swallow. For the rest of the fans who were always looking to raise the profile of our receiving corps, his departure signaled the dawn of a new day.
3. You might think Reed Doughty is another example of a player that has logged significant bridge-gapping minutes for our franchise, causing heated discussions to flare up each offseason. I think we are past that, people. What do I tell you every single offseason? "Death, Taxes, and Reed Doughty." The thing about Reed is that he was mostly always penciled in as a back-up, situational defender that contributed on special teams. Then a bizarre series of events would transpire and Reed Doughty would be our starting safety...again. He has proven his value to our team in a way that simply can't be replaced just by signing fresh talent. Once again, we will enter a season with a number of other players that should start over him on opening day. I sincerely hope that these other players are healthy and ready to assume that role. If history teaches us anything though, someone needs to make sure there is no nerve tonic around the locker room...same goes for hypnotists, mystery spots, unsolved mysteries and excessive radiation.
4. This year, I believe the player that is drawing the "his time has come" attention is Niles Paul. For what it's worth, I really like Niles Paul, and I believe there is a place for him on this roster. Having lost Lorenzo Alexander, Niles Paul has a chance to step into that special teams stalwart role. If you think about it, he has already completed part of the LoAx journey, having been asked to change positions without complaining about it. Like Alexander, Paul would be hard-pressed to unseat an offensive/defensive starter. My guess is Alexander may have been closer to a positional starter than Paul, but what matters most is that Niles has seemed to make the Shanahans happy with his progress. They have not shown a tremendous amount of bashfulness when it comes to switching players in and out. I like Paul for his size, athleticism, speed and strength. On special teams coverage units, he is an animal. When he gets a head of steam behind him on kick returns, he is going to change somebody's day upon impact. The question is not about his ability to contribute on special teams, but instead whether he contributes enough on offense. The tight end position is all of a sudden very crowded. Fred Davis and Jordan Reed are making the team. Say what you will about Logan Paulsen, but the Shanahans simply love him for everything he does. Seriously, how great is it to have a tight end on your team that you KNOW the other team is not even going to bother covering? Will the Redskins carry the extra tight end?
5. Again, we're talking about a player that fans tend to like. We're not talking about a player that we are all hoping to see get cut. When you draft a player like Niles Paul, you have high hopes of him developing into a player that sees the field a lot and endears himself to the hometown fans with spirited effort and hustle. You never know what kind of player is going to be the last guy to make the cut. Do you keep an extra offensive lineman? Wide receiver? Defensive back? Or is there room for a new special teams captain that plays sparingly on offense or defense? The Washington Redskins are coming off of a divisional title and playoff appearance. They are beyond (hopefully) the hardcore rebuilding phase that we seemed to spend an eternity in. Shanahan might not be drastically changing the manner in which he makes roster-trimming decisions, but you do think about the last few spots on your roster differently when you are coming off a solid campaign. There is likely no player as bubblicious right now as Niles Paul. The reason I would be most likely to hang onto him is that we have had a real problem the last few years with injuries at the tight end position. Paul can't replace Fred Davis, but if we can't re-sign Sleepy, Paul is a good player to give another year to in this system to learn and develop. Having him around could allow this team to use its resources in 2014 to address higher priorities (very Armstrong-esque).
6. I had planned to bring up Tim Tebow at some point...come on, you knew I would. Last season, I argued that our organization was not capable of handling the circus that goes with having a Tim Tebow on your roster. I think we have graduated a bit from that. I think we have a core group of players that made it through last season and could provide the proper leadership to navigate through the mess. Most of all, I think Tebow can help a team win. That said, as much as I want to argue for signing Tim Tebow, it is the Niles Paul discussion that has me convinced otherwise. Tim Tebow would have to join the tight end/H-back rotation on our offense, and I wouldn't cut Darrel Young, Niles Paul, Logan Paulsen, Fred Davis or Jordan Reed to make room for him. I wouldn't keep Tebow over Aldrick Robinson or Leonard Hankerson, and I wouldn't cut Roy Helu to make room for the spiritual guru. I have to follow my own rule here--you can't argue for someone to be added unless you offer a reasonable subtraction option.