Draft busts for the Redskins can be hard to pinpoint. Aside from Heath Shuler, very few players have proven their value to be so substantially below what was advertised. For many years the Redskins drafted players into the role of protege in order that they eventually be the successors of a proven and established regime. During leaner times draft picks were brought onto an organization that was hindered by front-office shortcomings which plagued the team before it’s players even took the field.
Errors in free-agency have been the tell-tale Achilles heel for the Redskins, inhibiting their ability to find the consistent footing they once had. While drafting wisely could have remedied the teams woes over the past decade, acquiring good free agents would have given the team a foundation to sustain these younger players progressions. It seems one hand washes the other, and the Redskins history is dotted with occasions where those in charge have routinely dropped the soap.
The lack of attention given to the defensive tackle position here in Washington has been compensated several times by an attempted quick fix, like when Albert Haynesworth was signed to a $100 million contract exactly one split second into the free-agency period of 2009. However, the trail of disasters which led to Hayneworth’s crippling of the organization actually began before Dan Snyder’s reign of ludicrous and lucrative signings.
Before all that, Redskins savant of personnel decisions, Charley Casserly, traded the sixth pick in the 1996 draft to acquire ‘would be poster-child for disgruntled defensive tackles’- Sean Gilbert. It’s interesting how such a dysfunctional signing preceded the arrival of Dan Snyder by such a significant margin, and led to a scrambling of the Redskins draft position for years to come. The dust would finally settle in a trade for Clinton Portis nearly nine years later, well after Casserly had moved on from the organization.
Charley Casserly did make a solid attempt to patch up the Gilbert error, beginning with one more blockbuster defensive tackle move which predated Haynesworth’s arrival.
In 1998 the Redskins doubled up at DT by wrenching Dana Stubblefield away from San Francisco along with the luring of “Big Daddy” Dan Wilkinson away from Cincinnati. Both players received matching deals of $36 million over 6 years, and for the second time a free-agent move would resemble what was to come after Dan Snyder and Co. took the helm.
The pairing of Stubblefield and Wilkinson fell way short of expectation. Stubblefield was generally ineffective, and publicly aired his discontent. Later he would flee back to the 49ers and dwindle into nothing. Dan Wilkinson provided the Redskins with career years, allotting 15.5 sacks in his first two seasons with the franchise, but ultimately tied up more many than his play was worth.
In 1999 Charley Casserly finally amended the Gilbert signing with a trade that allowed the team to pick Champ Bailey, but before that move could offset the damage; Casserly was out, Cerrato was in, and the Redskins coaching carousel would begin it’s run of instability. A ten year oversight of the defensive tackle position ensued.
The biggest draft mistake concerning defensive tackle could be that the Redskins did almost nothing at all for the position. One 6th round pick was spent on Kedric Golston midway through Joe Gibbs’ second era, but that’s it. The next stop was Albert Haynesworth and we are only now loosened from the tanglings of that egregious miscalculation.
The Sean Gilbert ordeal may be an afterthought now, but at the time he was one of the better players in the league and in his one season for the Redskins he accumulated an astonishing 55 tackles. The story of Gilbert demanding a pay increase, which led to a season long holdout in 1997, is still somewhat of an unfolding saga – and not just for the Redskins.
Self ordained bounty hunter Derrell Revis is presently under Sean Gilbert’s council, as Gilbert is Revis’ uncle. Gilbert is even seeking to replace DeMaurice Smith as Director of the NFLPA, and thinks player contracts should contractually bind them to a team for no more than three years. Feel free to draw your own conclusions on that idea.
Somewhere over the course of the next two drafts the Redskins will add the pieces they want for their 3-4 alignment and begin a new journey at the core of their defense. Only a handful of college teams employ the same 3-4 base and this years standout defensive tackles from those schools, Louis Nix (Notre Dame) and Aaron Donald (Pitt), may be gone well before the Redskins make their first pick.
In the meantime the Redskins have built a stable of defensive lineman to rotate in and out for the 2014 season, with still more room to add whomever may become available.