In a few months, we may look back on this off-season as addition by subtraction. Gone are many of the high-profile acquisitions from previous seasons -- David Patten, Troy Vincent, John Hall, Adam Archuleta, and T.J. Duckett. In comes proven talents Jason Fabini and London Fletcher-Baker. The Fred Smoot signing will bring a reunion for the former Redskins star and his old team. Then Washington went out and had a pretty productive NFL Draft. Patient, they used their only Day 1 pick on LaRon Landry, and picked up intriguing prospects H.B. Blades and Jordan Palmer on Day 2. At no point, though, both through free agency and the draft did the 'Skins address their putrid defensive line.
Biggest gain: London Fletcher-Baker, LB
Biggest loss: Derrick Dockery, OG
Are they in better shape than they were in January? Absolutely. Clinton Portis is back and healthy, Jason Campbell has a full year under his belt, and the defense picks up two instant playmakers in LaRon Landry and London Fletcher-Baker. H.B. Blades will surprise some folks, as well. Betts and Portis could emerge as a top running back combination if Al Saunders manages egos right.
The defense is going to improve even if we added no one, as it's very difficult to remain the 31st worst defense in the league. Regression towards the mean and all that. But we did improve our personnel defensively at some key positions, namely ILB, WLB, CB, and Safety. Defensive line is still the big question mark.
Remember this: "Gone are many of the high-profile acquisitions from previous seasons -- David Patten, Troy Vincent, John Hall, Adam Archuleta, and T.J. Duckett." The narrative in Washington has been that we've signed higher profile players that have not lived up to expecations. That's true. It has been a source of endless criticism that, you'd think, would spill over to other teams. By the way, New England came in first:
For the record that is not an endorsement of the Redskins or Patriots strategy. I'm an admitted draft-first supporter and agree with conventional wisdom that free agents are necessarily overpaid relative to draft picks, given the way salaries are determined for the former versus the latter. I also acknowledge that if one had a perfect scouting department (one that was always correct about every player the team signed and released) then one's proportionate emphasis on the draft -- over free agency over trades or whatever -- is largely irrelevant. All things equal the more accurate your scouting, the better off your team will be. Personnel strategies are not all created equal either, but I doubt any particular strategy practiced by an NFL team in the league is mutually exclusive with winning. (Just to be safe, let's go ahead and focus our resources and efforts towards the draft.)