Haynesworth, Hall deals raise troubling questions for Redskins
Redskins signed Albert Haynesworth, DeAngelo Hall to lucrative deals
Previous big-money defensive signings have often flopped for Redskins
Haynesworth, Hall both followed by concerns about maturity
I wish I could convince myself the story will have a different ending this time. I wish I could block out my almost reflexive "Same old Redskins'' reaction to another couple of blockbuster, stroke-of-midnight free agency signings by Washington and see them as individual moves to be judged on their own merits.
After all, both Albert Haynesworth and DeAngelo Hall are the kind of players you're supposed to go after in free agency, meaning they're young enough to believe their best football might still be ahead of them. Haynesworth won't be 28 until June, and with seven NFL seasons under his belt, he's in the prime of his run-stuffing talents at defensive tackle. Hall is only 25, entering just his sixth season, and was thought of as one of the better cover corners in the league up until he and Bobby Petrino met in 2007.
But then as I roll those pertinent facts around in my head, I ask myself the following question: How many times have we actually seen a Redskins free-agent signee actually go on to play the best football of his career in Washington, as planned? Especially on the defensive side of the ball?
Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith and Mark Carrier certainly didn't. They were well past prime time. Adam Archuleta? Dana Stubblefield? Jeremiah Trotter? Jesse Armstead? I could go on, but I think you're seeing the trend.
You could argue Cornelius Griffin worked out well, as did Shawn Springs (who may now be cut with Hall re-signed), Marcus Washington (just cut this week), and Andre Carter. But did any of them really create the kind of long-term impact the Redskins paid for? Were any of them part of creating a real Super Bowl window of opportunity in Washington?
The answer is no, and it's not even debatable. The Redskins have consistently landed defensive free agents who have played better with their previous teams -- and sometimes subsequent teams -- than they have for Washington.
Maybe Haynesworth and Hall will be different. Maybe the concerns over whether Haynesworth's drive and work ethic will be affected by his huge payday are unfounded, and the fact that two other organizations (Atlanta and Oakland) have given up on Hall in the past year is just a matter of circumstances that can be explained (the '07 Falcons and '08 Raiders did have massive-scale dysfunction in common).
I'm not even going to quibble so much with the money the Redskins spent this time, because, well, with 2010 looking like an uncapped year, who can say if it'll really matters if they broke the bank for Big Albert and might have given Hall (at about $9 million per year) more than anyone else would have been willing to spend on him?
It's more the reappearance of the Redskins' shopping-spree mentality that should give Washington fans pause. It's a style of roster-building that has failed time and time again in D.C., and yet here we are again, maybe staring at a Groundhog Day scenario after the Redskins seemed to have learned their lesson by laying low during the '08 free agency season.
Do Haynesworth and Hall have upside? Absolutely. But they also carry some undeniable risks, and in Washington's case, those risks almost always seem to come back to bite them in free agency. Haynesworth can be dominating, but he has missed 22 of his team's 112 games due to injury (almost 20 percent) and owns 24 career sacks in those seven seasons (3.4 per year). If injury or a downturn in effectiveness should occur, that $41 million guaranteed to Haynesworth could lead to him taking his place alongside other Redskins free-agent flops of this decade.
As for Hall, his attitude problems and immaturity were on display in Atlanta and Oakland, and it's wildly optimistic to believe his relatively successful late-season stint with the Redskins last year guarantees he's a different man. Big money didn't make him grow up; otherwise Oakland would have gotten his best last season.
In the NFL, the proven way to success is to build through the draft and supplement wisely through free agency and trades. Too many top-dollar free-agent moves end up being counterproductive because the whole never winds up being equal to -- let alone greater than -- the sum of its parts. Cohesiveness and chemistry generally seem to be victims of a team that's over-active in free agency, and nobody should know that lesson better than the Redskins, from 2000 on.
Running a search for Redskins free-agent signings of the past this morning, I came upon this rather ironic quote by owner Daniel Snyder: "Those that know how to succeed know how to not make the same mistake over and over again. That's how you succeed, and that's something I've done all my life.''
Snyder reportedly said that on Feb. 25, 2001, just before free agency opened that year, and no doubt was reflecting on the huge free-agent failures endured by his '00 team -- which was billed as the NFL's first $100 million salaried roster.
Today, with the Redskins having handed Haynesworth a deal worth $100 million all by itself, you wonder if history is again repeating itself? You wonder if the Redskins are making the same mistake over and over again? And you wonder why anyone in Washington would be all that confident that things will turn out differently this time?