The NFL has been in something of a lull when it comes to player moves as they work through assessments of college players and prep for next week's draft. Even so, NFC East teams (mostly the Redskins) gave us a something to talk about:
- Washington was happy to announce the re-signing of inside linebacker London Fletcher. This was a smart move despite Fletcher's age (he turns 37 next month) because of his first-rate production and the example he sets for his younger teammates.
- The Redskins want to re-sign running back Tim Hightower, whom they acquired via trade from the Cardinals before last season. Hightower blew out his knee early in the season and has reportedly worked hard in rehab to get back on the field. A new deal has been slow in coming (which is actually a good thing because it's stupid to overpay running backs) and Hightower visited the New England Patriots this week. Since Hightower wants to stay in Washington, and Washington wants him back, this was largely a posturing move designed to gain some leverage in negotiations. The Skins would be smart to call his bluff and let him go to New England if the Pats are willing to pay him more. Stay tuned: Washington could be waiting on the outcome of the upcoming arbitration hearing on their salary cap penalty before deciding how much they want to pay Hightower.
- Washington's future quarterback Robert Griffin, III was in the news when "unnamed sources" slurred him with the "selfish" label. Hmm, brand new accusations from Anonymous? Bring your hip boots before wading in those waters.
- Skins wide receiver Niles Paul will be shifting to tight end next year. The 6-3 Paul apparently has had trouble keeping his weight below 230 -- not because he's been getting frisky with the Papa John's menu, but because he's a big, strong kid. His "natural" weight appears to be 234, according to Skins trainers. They want Paul to maintain his weight between 232 and 238. Oh by the way, at 230 pounds, Paul ran the 40 in 4.45. Just sayin'.
- Returning for a moment to the salary cap penalties on the Skins and Cowboys, a report emerged detailing why the other teams were so torqued and wanted even harsher punishments. Washington loaded money due to DeAngelo Hall and Albert Haynesworth into the uncapped year; Dallas did the same with Miles Austin. Those deals drove up the value of the franchise tags for WR, CB and DT, which made keeping players like Vincent Jackson, Haloti Ngata, and Jonathan Joseph. My reaction: too bad. Every team could have made similar contract adjustments in the uncapped year, because (to repeat what I've been writing since this story broke) the league approved every contract, and LEAGUE officials told the Skins and Cowboys they'd broken no rules and done nothing wrong. Essentially, this report further cements the perception that owners were engaged in illegal collusion to hold down player salaries during the uncapped year. Now they're upset because they're having to pay more under the newly negotiated CBA. Make no mistake: Washington and Dallas were punished for stepping out of line -- they (along with sorta the Saints and Raiders) who refused to collude. The hearing before an arbitrator will be in May.
- The Redskins will look within to fill their need for a solid veteran backup at inside linebacker: do-everything special teams start Lorenzo Alexander. In addition to making big-time plays on teams, Alexander has played defensive end, outside linebacker, and will now move to the inside. Big, physical, smart and high-energy, Alexander should be good in this role too.
- Skins trainers have added a wrinkle to their offseason conditioning program -- Pilates. The exercises will be mandatory for players at least once a week this offseason, and strength and conditioning coach Ray Wright says he has some other tricks up his sleeve.
Tomorrow -- Rushmore Sunday: NFC East Cornerbacks