The Redskins can't possibly be surprised with the latest turn in the Albert Haynesworth saga. Just about everyone saw this coming from a mile away — well before Washington agreed to bring him aboard.
A mere one season after signing a seven-year, $100 million deal that guaranteed him $41 million and made him the highest-paid defensive player in league history, Haynesworth already wants out. He's disgruntled over his revised role in the defense under coordinator Jim Haslett, who's implementing a 3-4 alignment and wants the mammoth lineman to move to adapt. It's not a scheme Haynesworth has any interest in playing, so he's rebelling by not showing up for the team's mandatory minicamp.
Looking to go somewhere that will allow him to play his natural position of 4-3 tackle, the ninth-year star has asked for a trade. Of course, he did this after accepting the $21 million bonus he was due in March, a signal to the 'Skins that he was on board for 2010. While far from a class move by Haynesworth, it was not one that should have caught team owner Daniel Snyder, who prefers to make moves with his heart instead of his head, off guard.
As soon as "Big Albert" hit free agency in the '09 offseason, skepticism reigned over his motivation once he cashed in on a megadeal. Although he was coming off two very productive campaigns with the Titans in which he established himself as a premier run stopper and inside pass rusher, most saw this breakout fueled primarily by a chance to get rich upon hitting the open market. After all, the University of Tennessee product was mostly a disappointment during his first five NFL seasons, and health was always an issue. Football observers across the country anticipated that a boatload of money was all Haynesworth was after, and that his effort would severely decrease as soon as he got it.
This concern apparently didn't register with Snyder, who has made it a habit over the years to prefer splashy signings to smart ones. He has thrown huge contracts at big-name free agents like Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith, Mark Carrier and Adam Archuleta, and not one of them has panned out. The failure of those players obviously didn't teach Snyder much, as he was more than willing to back up the Brinks truck for Haynesworth despite numerous warning signs. Not only was Haynesworth's effort a question in Tennessee, but he also had an apparent anger management problem — he intentionally stomped the head of helmetless Cowboys C Andre Gurode in 2006 — and displayed wayward behavior away from the field, having been cited for multiple traffic violations.
But Snyder went ahead and wrote Haynesworth an enormous check, anyway, and now the owner really has a mess on his hands. Haynesworth, whose play in '09 fell well short of expectations, never has appeared to be on the same page as Haslett or new Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan and has proven to be a gigantic distraction all offseason. His attitude — take the money and run, literally — has angered many of his teammates, causing them to call him "selfish," among other non-flattering terms. It has gotten to the point where 'Skins players might not welcome him back even if he does decide to return, putting the club between a rock and a hard place.
According to reports, the Redskins' first move will be an attempt to recoup some or all of the $21 million bonus they handed Haynesworth three months ago. That way, the team could cut him loose without taking too heavy of a loss on its poor investment. However, the NFL Players Association could put up an intense fight against such actions, dragging its feet and likely hindering Washington's chances of reclaiming money that was promised Haynesworth in his contract.
Trading the 6-6, 350-pound behemoth is also an option, but GM Bruce Allen and Co. have been shopping him for months with no success. The Titans and Lions reportedly have shown interest, but those teams and Washington haven't been able to come to any sort of agreement, probably because nobody is about to pay a significant portion of the $21 million bonus, as the 'Skins are likely asking them to do. Anybody looking to deal for Haynesworth would be wise to drive a hard bargain — they're the ones with all the power in these negotiations.
Barring a trade, Snyder's only remaining course of action would be to buy Haynesworth out of his deal and let him walk. It almost certainly would be a costly, lengthy maneuver, but it might be the only way for the owner to move on and somewhat save face with a roster of players very unhappy with their highest-paid teammate.
Should Haynesworth be so adamant about not playing for the Redskins simply because they changed defensive schemes? Of course not — he signed an extremely lucrative contract just one year ago and absolutely should honor it. But Snyder could have avoided this entire fiasco had he listened to all the warnings about Haynesworth and not taken the bait. Instead, he fell in the love with the guy, paid him handsomely and now must deal with the consequences of one of the worst signings in NFL history.
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