The first draft pick Mike Shanahan made with the Redskins was left tackle Trent Williams. The Redskins took the Oklahoma product with the fourth pick of the 2010 draft.Williams was not necessarily the best player available to the Redskins with that pick but he was, in the eyes of Shanahan, the best left tackle available. The organization knew that he would command a hefty salary, given his position in the draft in what turned out to be the last year of the old system of crazy rookie deals.Williams signed a six-year, 60 million deal. His salary spikes at 11 million this year and then dips to 5 million this year, 7.25 million in 2014 and 10.25 million in 2015.Under the traditional way of thinking in the NFL, the salaries are worth it if Williams plays at even an above-average level. Left tackle is supposed to be one of the cornerstones of an NFL franchise. Bill Parcells called the position a part of his holy trinity of building a team, along with quarterback and left cornerback.But times may be changing. The left tackle position may not be as valuable as it used to be.Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports flat out said it in an article: The left tackles importance is decreasing.Left tackle has become like lighter fluid ad an barbecue, Cole wrote. You could use it, but you can get by without it.The reasoning is that todays passing attacks feature quarterbacks who either get rid of the ball quickly or are mobile enough to scramble away from pressure coming from his blind side. Cole points out that of the top four scoring teams in the NFL last year, the Packers, Saints, Patriots, and Lions, only Detroit had first-round pick at left tackle. That was Jeff Backus, who is much closer to average than elite.Cole goes into more detail on the subject in his interesting piece but lets bring this back to Williams and the Redskins. If the importance of Williams position is diminished can the team afford to continue to have him as one of the highest paid player on the team?They dont have much choice but to keep him this year despite the salary and his 13.5 million total cap hit. Assuming that he is at least competent it makes sense to keep him around at his 5 million salary in 2013. But should they keep him after that if the importance of the position continues to lessen while his salary escalates in seasons where the cap is expected to remain essentially flat. Robert Griffin III comes into play in making these decisions. Griffin could be just the kind of quarterback who is helping to make the left tackle position less important. We know about his mobility and his ability to scramble away from trouble could mean that the Redskins could be just fine with an average left tackle with a cap hit of several million dollars per year instead of the eight-figure cap hits that Williams commands.The change in the rookie contract system means that the contracts of Griffin and Williams both will expire after the 2015 season. It would be difficult to give both of them large deals. If Griffin even comes close to meeting expectations, the potential either-or decision would be easy. The QB would get the big bucks and the left tackle would either have to settle for less or go elsewhere.Then again, if the importance of the position has indeed diminished perhaps Williams wont command a big salary elsewhere and things will be worked out.This is all a few years down the road but for now its worth considering that the Redskins may be paying premium dollars for a position that should not command them.Rich Tandler blogs about the Redskins at www.RealRedskins.com. You can reach him by email here and follow him on Twitter @Rich_Tandler.Days until: Rookies report 27; training camp 37; preseason opener @ Bills 51; Redskins @ Saints 82; home opener vs. Bengals 96
This week in Indianapolis the NFL world will converge at the Scouting Combine to watch college football players work out, sprint and lift weights in anticipation of the upcoming draft. For the Redskins front office, this draft needs to be a win.
The 2016 Draft could still yield strong results for Washington, but overall the class did not play particularly well as rookies. This year, Scot McCloughan has nine picks at his disposal, with the extra picks late in the draft in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds.
It's no secret that the 'Skins need help along the defensive line, a lot of help. That should be a major area of focus for the Redskins scouts and coaches, and that will make next Sunday arguably the most important of the week in Indianapolis.
The combine divides players into 11 position groups, but Groups 7, 8 and 9 will matter most. Groups 7 and 8 represent defensive linemen and 9 are the linebackers. That group officially arrives on Thursday but won't work out on the field until Sunday. The days in between include interviews, psychological testing and the bench press.
Obviously the Redskins won't spend all nine picks on only defensive linemen. The team will likely invest in the offensive line as well, and that group will arrive earlier in the week and work out on Friday. Cornerbacks and safeties are the last to work out on Monday, March 6.
With the likely departure of at least one of DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garçon, and the possible departure of both, it would make sense for the 'Skins to bring in another receiver via the draft. They work out on Saturday, and should the Redskins decide to take a quarterback in the draft, the passers will work out that day too.
Running back could be another spot the 'Skins invest. Jay Gruden said that Robert Kelley is locked into the RB1 role, but still the team might want increased competition at the position. The backs will work out Friday.
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The NFL has released the official schedule of when NFL coaches and executives will take the podium and address the media at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. You can find it right here but I’ll save you a click—nobody from the Redskins is scheduled to talk.
NFL teams are not required to have a representative speak at the combine but most do. This year only the Saints and Patriots are joining the Redskins in avoiding the media.
Bill Belichick never talks at the combine and I believe that the Saints have bypassed the opportunity to do so in the past. However, the Redskins head coach traditionally has gone to the podium in the past. Joe Gibbs spoke when he was in his second stint as the head coach. Mike Shanahan, as tight lipped as anyone, met with the press in Indy each of his four years as head coach. Jay Gruden has spoken during each of the three years that he has been head coach.
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And last year Scot McCloughan held a small media gaggle with local reporters in his hotel in Indianapolis.
This year the Redskins are going somewhat dark. McCloughan did not speak to reporters at the Senior Bowl (Gruden held a brief availability in Mobile), a departure from his first two years with the team. And now no Redskins representatives at the combine.
One of the problems with changing what has been a longstanding practice and going into radio silence is that it leaves people speculating. If the team doesn’t want to put any information out there that is the organization’s option. But if you choose not to fill in the blanks, the fans and media will.
So why aren’t they talking? The best bet is that they are in a delicate stage when it comes to dealing with the future of quarterback Kirk Cousins. He is a pending free agent who is likely to be hit with the franchise tag on Wednesday, the day before the combine starts. At that point, the clock will be ticking on Cousins either signing a long-term contract or getting traded to a team that is willing to meet his asking price. It’s my guess that Jay Gruden does not want to face questions about Cousins’ future.
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Gruden is not a very good liar; his poker face needs a lot of work. Perhaps that is a good quality for a human being but not a very good attribute for someone who would need to go out and talk about Cousins as the long-term quarterback for the team, or at least the QB for the coming season, when his status may be very much in doubt.
This is not to say that there is definitely going to be a trade of Cousins worked out at the combine. But it is very possible that a deal will be discussed with Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers and any number of other quarterback-needy teams. And perhaps there is concern that Gruden will let something slip or, more likely, say a lot on the subject of Cousins by not saying anything.
Again, this is just reading the tea leaves on my part. But by going silent the Redskins are sending an invitation for people to fill in the blanks. I am just taking them up on it.