By Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir
The Redskins go into the draft later this month returning 21 of their 22 starters plus some key players who spent much of the Redskins’ 10-6 season on injured reserve.
But they still have some holes in their lineup as they try to gear up to defend their NFC East title, particularly in the secondary, and some other needs. Should they go into next month’s draft looking to fill those needs? Or should they take the best player available and perhaps look elsewhere to fill those needs (working with almost no cap space)? Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir debate the question in this week’s edition of the wildly popular Point-Counterpoint.
Rich Tandler: It will be very tempting to draft for need to compensate for the lack of cap space but Mike Shanahan and company need to do all they can to resist the urge. Taking, say, a free safety on whom you have a third- or fourth-round grade when your pick comes up in the second round creates two problems—you have wasted the pick and you still will have the need. They can’t let a short-term situation like the salary cap penalty keep them from sticking to their principles and building this team for the long term. If they have to patch a few holes with minimum-salary veterans in the meantime, so be it.
Tarik El-Bashir: I’m all for drafting the best player on the board. It’s smart business. But if there ever was a time to make an exception, this month’s draft is that time. The Redskins are pressed right up against their penalty-reduced salary cap ceiling. And the draft analysts agree that this is a deep pool for defensive backs. That should mean that a talented safety will drop a few spots to No. 51. Do your homework. Know all of the top safeties available. And pick the best player when you’re on the clock. That would be my approach, anyway.
Tandler: This could well be one of those years where the stars align and, because of the deep pool of talent at safety, the best available player at pick 51 may well play free safety, the position of greatest need. But sticking to the philosophy of taking the best available can’t stop in the second round. It worked for them last year when they bypassed other perceived needs in the fourth round to take quarterback Kirk Cousins. His value was demonstrated last year and the pick will pay big dividends this year while RG3 rehabs. They need to stick with taking BPA from beginning to end.
El-Bashir: Every rule has an exception – even the ‘best player available’ philosophy that, in most years, makes solid sense. But not this year. Not for the salary cap-challenged Redskins. Matt Elam, Johnathan Cyprien, Shamarko Thomas, Phillip Thomas, Bacarri Rambo, T.J. McDonald, J.J. Wilcox, D.J. Swearinger, Shawn Williams and the list goes on. Due to an extremely deep pool at safety, both free and strong, there’s an excellent chance that a very good prospect is going to be on the board at No. 51. And I hear the Redskins could use a very good safety. Sounds like an easy decision to me.