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David Elfin On Sports: Shanahan Deserves Credit For Dumping Headaches

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Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

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Kudos to Mike Shanahan. In less than 24 hours, the Washington Redskins’ steely-eyed coach salvaged something from his long-running staredowns with Albert Haynesworth and Donovan McNabb.

After trading McNabb — whom he had benched just eight months after acquiring the star quarterback — for one or perhaps two sixth-round draft choices from the Minnesota Vikings, Shanahan dealt Haynesworth, the mountainous malcontent defensive tackle to the New England Patriots for a fifth-rounder.

So not only did Shanahan add two or maybe three future assets, albeit low-round picks, the coach also rid himself of his headaches before training camp even begins tomorrow.

Longtime center and leader Casey Rabach, who has been told he will be released, and promising and upbeat defensive end Jeremy Jarmon, who was traded to the Denver Broncos for receiver Jabar Gaffney, will be missed, but Washington’s locker room is suddenly minus the biggest lightning rods of 2010: Haynesworth, McNabb and running back Clinton Portis, who was cut during the winter. The fourth most likely source of controversy, cornerback Carlos Rogers, probably will be gone soon, too.

While all four players are undeniably talented, in terms of chemistry, that’s addition by subtraction.  The moves also freed up millions of salary cap space. Hence, the additions of receivers Don’te Stallworth, defensive tackle Barry Cofield, cornerback Josh Wilson and quarterback Kellen Clemens.

Along with Gaffney, the new wideouts provide plenty of experience at a position that had little proven depth when the week began.

If Cofield, who always seemed to play well against the Redskins for the New York Giants, can play nose tackle, he can fill the hole that Haynesworth and Ma’ake Kemoeatu couldn’t as Washington crashed from 10th in yards allowed in 2009 to 31st last year, its first in coordinator Jim Haslett’s 3-4 scheme.

And if Maryland product Wilson can effectively replace Rogers, Shanahan will look even smarter.<

Rabach’s departure means that either one of last year’s guards, Kory Lichensteiger or Will Montgomery, will likely move to center, leaving a vacancy next door that might be filled by Artis Hicks, whom Montgomery beat out down the stretch in 2010. That is unless Washington doesn’t re-sign right tackle Jammal Brown or land a top-notch replacement in which case Hicks could be asked to man that spot with someone else at guard.

The fates of four-year starting linebacker Rocky McIntosh, defensive end Kedric Golston and third corner Phillip Buchanon also remained unsure as this was being written.

However, jettisoning Haynesworth and McNabb and the ongoing exits of such mainstays as Portis, Rabach, Andre Carter and Derrick Dockery shows that the Redskins are increasingly Shanahan’s team. Only 17 players under contract to Washington pre-date his arrival less than 19 months ago. And unlike Haynesworth, McNabb and Portis, none of the holdovers is likely to often displace the coach at center stage in Ashburn.

David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the former President of the Pro Football Writers of America. A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.

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