Early in training camp Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Blache, speaking with the media about Marcus Washington, spotted the linebacker and pointed out what he saw: a happy, bouncing, smiling player.
And when Washington was healthy, the coaches were the ones smiling, bouncing and happy. Alas, Washington couldn’t stay healthy long enough, prompting the Redskins to cut him and save $4 million against the salary cap this season.
“As free agency approaches there are difficult choices that have to be made. This certainly was a hard decision because Marcus played such an important role on our defense and in our locker room,” Redskins coach Jim Zorn said.
Washington was a key member of the defense since 2004, when he made his first and only Pro Bowl. He was adept at taking on blockers and playing the run as a strongside linebacker. And he could pressure the passer. Though he struggled in coverage, he did improve in that area until injuries started to take its toll.
Washington missed a combined 12 games the past three years after playing in all 32 his first two.
The question now is who replaces him? The Redskins do not have an answer on their roster with H.B. Blades having served as a stand-in during the season. But Blades is smaller than his listed 5-foot-10 and is not a legitimate full-time replacement.
The Redskins could sign a veteran in free agency, though the combination of their still-bloated cap and some unspectacular players would make that a short-term solution.
Bart Scott would be a prized catch, though he’s spent the past couple years as an inside linebacker in a 3-4. However, he has played on the outside in a 4-3. The New York Jets Eric Barton is probably best suited for a 4-3, but he’s 31. Buffalo’s Angelo Crowell is coming off knee surgery and might have a chronic knee condition.
The draft could provide more answers. USC linebackers Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews, Jr., both play on the outside. Virginia’s Clint Sintim might be the best possibility, barring Aaron Curry falling to 13.
But that also depends on what they do at end. If the Redskins feel better about their situation at end after free agency, they could opt for a linebacker in the first round. They might be able to trade down a few spots, pick up another draft choice and still get Sintim.