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Defensive line won't fix itself

It is clear based off the way the Washington Redskins approached this offseason that they were far less concerned about the defensive line than many casual observers of the team, such as myself. And perhaps they're right in that, an argument presented best by Mark Steven. Mark (Om at Extreme Skins) and I agree and disagree on a number of things, and this happens to be one of the latter. I won't repeat my concern with the defensive line for the 50th time as my trepidation is well documented on this page elsewhere. Rather the Redskins have made their bed and I will happily eat crow should they sleep soundly in it with a successful 2007 defensive performance. That outcome would surprise and thrill me.

But that does not mean the team remains helpless to address the line. There is plenty of time to sign quality defensive linemen to bolster the current personnel heading into 2007. The majority of available players won't do much, as those players are available for good reasons (they've been cut, they simply are not very good, off-field issues, so on and so forth). And the problem with talents who may significantly improve our line is that they carry the attendant costs that a quality player demands. As Hog Heaven points out (emphasis mine):

As the Redskins proved experimentally in 2006, investing now can greatly compromise future flexibility.  The last resort option for improving the defensive line is to swing a trade for a player who isn't happy with his current team.  This type of signing can be very costly.  From the players' perspective, they've toiled in a league for 4 years at a rookie's salary that they have been vastly outperforming.  They deserve to be payed what they are worth.  Historically, the Redskins have been very accomidating to such a player.  However, like the shrewd businessman he his, Dan Snyder has seen this method of player acquisition blow up in his face one time too many.

To acquire a player such as a Cory Redding, a Justin Smith, or an Aaron Schobel, Washington must not only compensate the player handsomely, but also must pay a stiff premium to the team that owns their rights.

We're talking about allocating future draft picks to acquire a quality defensive linemen, which is a taboo around these parts. Most of us want the team to retain its 2008 picks. Many of us also wish the team had addressed the defensive line, though that's spilled milk at this point.

Jason La Canfora throws out some names:

Aaron Schobel and Derrick Burgess.

I wouldn't be stunned at all if the Skins eventually parted with a draft pick or two to get one of them. And I wouldn't blame them, either. Not one bit. Schobel in particular seems like a nobrainer. I hear word is around the league that he is getting upset over the lack of progress on a new contract, and I know he loved played for Gregg Williams in Buffalo. He has been a beast in this system, is young enough, is a great team guy and a leader for the Bills.

Jason goes on to point out some fairly interesting statistics on Schobel. Did you know he's the 2nd most prolific pass rusher since 2001? News to me, and he knows our system. I like that. What I don't like is what he may cost us. As Jason reminds, Buffalo owner Ralph Wilson isn't a huge Redskins fan and isn't likely to part ways with Schobel on the cheap. The question that needs asking is, given our team's refusal to address the D-Line, are reader(s) confident in their apparent comfort with the line or would you be willing to part ways with some picks to upgrade the largest (perceived?) weakness on the 2007 Redskins defense?

My own take coincides with newcomer Greg Trippiedi's:

As it turns out, the most practical method for this franchise is simple patience.  This is a multiple year defensive rebuilding process.  The Redskins would be wise to keep all their picks now, and invest at least two day one picks in the 2008 draft into their defensive line.  Given a year to mature, Redskin fans could see a young, competant defensive line on the field by the year 2009.
I find this especially prescient given that our inability to address the defensive line was largely due to our paucity in day one draft picks this year. LaRon Landry might have been the best decision at #6, though a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th rounder could have gone a long ways towards addressing needs on the line, and elsewhere. Trading away future picks simply begs the question whether we'll be in the same unfortunate position come 2008 -- having significant needs at X with no cheap means of dealing with the problem.

Furthermore, I would include our seeming insouciance for draft picks as a primary cause of our 2006 defensive woes reflected in our inability to meaningfully address key injuries defensively. Other people's scrubs (like Kenny Wright and Mike Rumph) aren't necessarily any worse than our own drafted scrubs, but at least the latter costs less and will have the benefit of knowing the system. We witnessed with Kedric Golston that this coaching staff is at least capable of semi-striking gold in the late rounds, though you can only do so with large quantities of picks. I wonder if the meager 4 selections we had in 2004 attenuated our overall defense, exposed depressingly years later.

Anyways, whatever the culprit for our 2006 defense, I ask reader(s) what they think. If a quality defensive linemen presented himself this offseason for substantial costs that included 2008 draft picks, would you bite? Should the Redskins? Broader questions: Is the defense fixed?

Update [2007-5-7 10:46:36 by Skin Patrol]: The conventional wisdom floating around the Redskins Blogosphere as well as that presumably held by the team is that we addressed our pass rush in the secondary with the addition of Fred Smoot and David Macklin, among others. Jason La Canfora's above article calls into question that reasoning, as does Ryan Wilson at the Fanhouse, pointing out:
That sounds good, but anybody know why Cap'n Smoot was released in Minnesota? Because he got benched and the Vikes didn't want to pay a backup a starter's salary. Just wondering, but is he one of the guys responsible for "forcing people to hold the ball longer"? Uh, okay.
While I personally think Smoot will enjoy greater success while here in Washington, it does seem strange that the partial savior of the 2007 defense happens to be a guy Coach Gibbs deemed expendable at the end of 2004. I maintain that he is at least better than Mike Rumph and Kenny Wright, though let's see it on the field. Ryan makes a point we all need to realize, as you could've heard me saying the same thing about Rumph and Wright at the beginning of last year that we're now hearing about Macklin and Smoot. These guys have not done a lot in recent years to demand the kind of plaudits and confidence many of us our granting.