Should Redskins draft for offense or defense?

Should Redskins draft for offense or defense?
April 12, 2013, 10:15 am
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By Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir

The Redskins will have seven picks in the NFL draft. Although the offense led the NFL in yards per play and in rushing, there are some holes that need to be filled now and in the future. The defense was 28th in yards allowed and the team could use an infusion of talent there.

So which side of the ball should be the focus of the draft? Should they play to their strength and bolster the offense? Or should they use the preponderance of their selections to try to improve their sagging defense? Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir debate the question in this week’s edition of Point-Counterpoint.

Rich Tandler: The Redskins defense already has three “draft picks” on the way—linebacker Brian Orakpo, strong safety Brandon Meriweather, and defensive end Adam Carriker. The return of those three, one on each level of the defense, from injury alone will improve things on that side of the ball. The priority needs to be the franchise, Robert Griffin III. They need to make sure he stays protected and has weapons. Yes, all 11 starters from last year are back but there are issues looming. Slot receiver Santana Moss could be in his last year. Tight end Fred Davis is still recovering from that torn Achilles and he came back on a one-year deal. The smart move would be to get replacements at receiver and tight end in the building this year to give them some seasoning to that RG3 has targets to throw to in 2014 and beyond.

Tarik El-Bashir: No way. In fact, I’d argue that the uncertainty surrounding Orakpo, Meriweather and Carriker is one reason Mike Shanahan and Co. must focus on bolstering the defense. Orakpo has twice required surgery to repair the same injury. Meriweather was healthy (and excellent) for exactly one half of football in 2012. Carriker’s recovery timeline, meantime, has been complicated by a setback. London Fletcher’s not going to play forever and his heir apparent, Keenan Robinson, is also recovering from surgery. And did I mention all three corners (DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson and E.J. Biggers) are unrestricted free agents after next season? I see needs – both short and long term – all over the place when I look at the depth chart on defense. And thanks to a prolific, youthful, RG3-led offense, the Redskins shouldn't feel the least bit guilty about loading up on safeties, corners and linebackers later this month.

Tandler: Certainly there are needs on defense and it would be fine to address some of them in the draft. But the expiring contracts there can be dealt with in free agency next year when the team will have some $25 million in salary cap space. I’m much more concerned that two of RG3’s top targets, Josh Morgan and Santana Moss, are free agents after this year. Trying to acquire legitimate offensive weapons in free agency is very costly (see the five-year, $60 million that Mike Wallace, who isn’t even an all-around receiver, got from the Dolphins). Put your draft priorities on offensive skill players, fill in where you can on defense, and then plug your defensive holes with more moderately priced free agents. Your capologist will thank you for it.

El-Bashir: I’m a firm believer in draft-and-develop. And, in recent years, the Redskins have managed to build a formidable core on offense with their own draft picks such as Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris, Fred Davis and Trent Williams, all standouts at key positions. That’s not the case on defense. In Shanahan’s three drafts, the Redskins have selected 17 players on offense and 10 on defense. And among those 10 players on ‘D’, only Perry Riley, Ryan Kerrigan and Jarvis Jenkins were full-time starters in 2012 (and Jenkins took over for an injured Carriker in Week 3). The time to restock the cupboard is now, before it gets too bare.