Redskins should stay put

A year ago, the Washington Redskins tried to move up in a draft loaded with wide receivers. They failed, and instead dropped to the end of the first round and stockpiled picks.

If anything like that is to happen this year, the Redskins face more risk, but also more reward.

The 2003 NFL Draft, which begins Saturday, is loaded with defensive tackle prospects. While players at the more glamourous positions — USC quarterback Carson Palmer and Michigan State receiver Charles Rogers — will likely go at the top, defensive tackles will probably be selected in earnest after that. The wealth of DTs is the highlight heading into the draft.

That’s the good news: Defensive tackle has long been a sore spot for the Redskins.

Penn State’s Jimmy Kennedy and Kentucky’s Dewayne Robertson are the top DTs, and as many as six could be selected in the first round.

But there’s the problem: For the Redskins to pick up one of the elite tackles, they’ll have to trade up. Way up. Washington lost its first round pick when it acquired wide receiver Laveranues Coles from the New York Jets, so their first selection won’t come until the 44th overall pick.

To move higher than 44, the price they would pay would be high: The 44th pick, probably a later round pick or future selections and maybe a player too.

“We don’t have any ammunition [to trade up],” said Redskins director of player personnel Vinny Cerrato. “If we go up, it’s one and done.”

Trading up would require a mortgage on the Redskins’ immediate future — an NFL no-no. But it doesn’t seem likely to happen.

“Not unless someone gives us a deal,” said Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. “We’re not going to be anxious [to trade].”

The Redskins have been known to forsake those adages before, though.

One of them says teams should build through the draft, not free agency. The Redskins paid no attention to that credo in Dan Snyder’s first year as owner — the signings of Jeff George, Deion Sanders and Bruce Smith continue to hamstring the Redskins’ salary-cap situation.

This offseason, Washington did much the same, albeit smarter plays than George, Sanders and Smith. They signed Coles, part of their raiding of the Jets’ roster, along with a host of other mid-level free agents. Their offseason was the most active of any team.

Cerrato said Coles would’ve been better than any player the Redskins could have taken with the 13th pick — the selection that now belongs to the Jets after Coles came to Washington.

With the ink now dry on all those contracts, the Redskins still have needs in the draft: Brandon Noble will help plug the middle, but Washington would do well to find a young player to complement Noble. Noble’s been in the league long enough to help tutor a rookie.

By ignoring defensive needs in last year’s draft and getting Coles in the offseason, Redskins coach Steve Spurrier should have enough offensive weapons to keep him busy for a while. In the meantime, Washington should think about taking a flyer on a young safety to bolster their secondary, or perhaps another outside linebacker to take some pressure off of LaVar Arrington.

It took some convincing to bring back Smith, who intended to retire after last season. So finding Smith’s heir apparent might also be worth looking for.

Wherever the position, the Redskins must look at defense in this draft. Many thought that was also the case last year, when Washington chose quarterback Patrick Ramsey and running back Ladell Betts with their first two selections.

The defensive needs haven’t changed. As the old football adage goes, offense wins games; defense wins championships.

Unless the Redskins want to reject that one too.

Brian Hunsicker covers the Redskins for the Potomac News & Manassas Journal Messenger. Reach him at (703) 878-8053 or via e-mail at [email protected].