I had a column coming this week about the Redskins heading into this month’s draft minus a first-round pick for the first time since 2006 and still needing a starting cornerback. I just wasn’t convinced that last month’s signing of former Tampa Bay corner E.J. Biggers was going to fill the void caused by the salary cap-prompted release of five-year starter DeAngelo Hall on March 11, the day before free agency began.
Washington was seemingly going to have decide whether to use its second-round selection on April 26 to obtain immediate help at corner or at its other major need, free safety, and then hope that a starter-worthy candidate was still available at the other spot in the middle of the third round.
But then came Monday night’s news that Hall had agreed to return to the Redskins for a one-year deal that saves the team more than $5 million from what he was going to make under the contract that got him cut.
The Redskin with the biggest mouth has put his money where his mouth was when last season ended with his first playoff appearance since he was a 21-year-old rookie with Atlanta in 2004.
“To run off seven [victories] in a row and be up [14-0] on a great Seattle team for much of the [wild card] game — we definitely have something special,” Hall said on Jan. 7. “To finally see all the pieces in place, you definitely want to be part of it. Whatever I’ve got to do to be here, I’m going to try to do that.”
Doing that meant swallowing a pay cut of more than $5 million after being on the market for nearly three weeks.
“It just felt right,” Hall said on 106.7 The Fan pn Monday night. “I love Mike Shanahan to death as a person and a coach, so to get the opportunity to pick his brain for another year — I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to be around that team if I had the choice.”
And while Hall is a rare current Redskins with a propensity to mouth off — about how he’s used (he ripped defensive coordinator Jim Haslett after losses to Houston and Dallas in 2010 and 2011, respectively) and to the officials (earning an ejection in Pittsburgh last season) — Shanahan loves his competitive spirit and playmaking ability.
“He’s given everything I asked him to give,” Shanahan said after Hall was released. “He’s gotten better each year. He’s done little things the right way — What I don’t want to do is take away from a guy that’s got a chance to make more money than we’re able to offer him. … I want to be able to take care of the people that have taken care of us and at least give them a fair chance to take a look at what the market value is.”
Unlike receiver Santana Moss, defensive end Adam Carriker and strong safety Brandon Meriweather, who restructured their contracts to save the Redskins about $6 million, Hall’s deal was apparently deemed too costly just to move money around. So he’s gambling that a solid 2013 season will enable him to recoup at least some of the millions he lost with a lucrative deal next winter.
Kudos to Shanahan, general manager Bruce Allen and vice president of football administration Eric Schaffer for figuring out how to keep the defending NFC East champions nearly intact despite the $18 million cap penalty imposed by the NFL.
Washington retained Hall, tight end Fred Davis, left guard Kory Lichtensteiger, right tackle Tyler Polumbus, punter Sav Rocca, backup defensive end Kedric Golston and reserve inside linebacker Bryan Kehl — the likely successor to departed Pro Bowl special teams ace Lorenzo Alexander — while adding Biggers, right tackle candidates Jeremy Trueblood and Tony Pashos, and defensive linemen Ron Brace and Phillip Merling. Restricted free agents Chris Baker, Rob Jackson, Logan Paulsen, Nick Sundberg and Darrel Young are also coming back.
The Redskins still want to re-sign former starting quarterback Rex Grossman as veteran insurance behind Kirk Cousins if reigning Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III isn’t able to play in September while completing his recovery from knee surgery in January. However, no one who started a game in 2012 when Washington wasn’t going with two tight ends or three cornerbacks remains unsigned.
As tough it was to lose Alexander, a terrific and versatile player who was also a captain and locker room leader, when he’s the only loss, it has been a successful offseason, especially in the context of the salary cap penalty. Other than free safety where the currently unsigned Madieu Williams was underwhelming in 2012 and Tanard Jackson remains suspended, Shanahan knows his starters at every spot 24 days before the draft.
Not many other NFL coaches can say that.
David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last three Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since March 2011. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidElfin.