You knew this would be a very different Redskins team going forward.
A new general manager. A new coach. And now, room on the roster for new players. Lots of room.
Room created by the release of some long-time and well-liked Redskins.
With the start of free agency and the uncapped year just hours away, the club announced a major reconstruction project Thursday night.
Gone are the following players, their contracts terminated:
- Randy Thomas, G
- Cornelius Griffin, DT
- Antwaan Randle El, WR/PR
- Rock Cartwright, KR/RB
- Fred Smoot, CB
- Ladell Betts, RB
- Todd Collins, QB
Also exiting via waivers: Running back Marcus Mason, fullback Eddie Williams and defensive end J.D. Skolnitsky.
"Obviously it's a day of change for the Redskins," general manager Bruce Allen said. "We made some decisions that we feel address some of the concerns we have and address our plans for the 2010 season and beyond."
It is often said that football is a young man's game. Samuels retired at 32. Smoot will be 31 next month. Cartwright, Betts and Randle El are 30, Thomas and Griffin 34 and Collins 38.
The Redskins opened the 2009 season with the NFL's highest average age. They will now be getting younger. The more obvious aim, after cutting players who were part of a 4-12 team, is to get better.
Thomas' exit was a mild surprise, coming as it did on the same day that left tackle Chris Samuels formally retired. The only starting lineman from last year's opening-day lineup still under contract is guard Derrick Dockery and the line was perilously thin in terms of depth.
Can the Redskins rebuild that area in one off-season of free agency, the draft and possibly trades?
"Yes," Allen said.
Thomas, a 12-year veteran, played in only two games last season and was lost with a torn triceps. He had said he had every intention of continuing his career and was a constant presence at Redskins Park. Just hours before his release he attended Samuels' news conference. Samuels, of course, missed the final 11 games of the season and his career due to a neck injury.
Neither Cartwright nor Betts has played for any team but the Redskins. Both were drafted by the club in 2002, Betts in the second round and Cartwright in the seventh.
Betts finished last season on injured reserve with a knee injury suffered in the Nov. 22 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Subbing for an injured Clinton Portis in 2006, he started nine games and rushed for 1,154 yards.
Smoot served two tours with the Redskins. The popular and garrulous cornerback was a No. 2 choice in 2001, made 13 starts and had a career-high five interceptions. He departed as a free agent, spending 2005-06 with the Minnesota Vikings. When they released him, the Redskins quickly signed him back.
Griffin, a 10-year veteran defensive tackle, played the last six seasons here after breaking in with the New York Giants. Collins, a 15-year veteran, led the Redskins to the playoffs in 2007 in relief of an injured Jason Campbell when he made his first starts since 1997 while with the Buffalo Bills.
Randle El's struggles as a punt returner and the emergence of young receivers Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas figure in the Redskins' thinking. Kelly and Thomas are bigger targets and Thomas has doubled as a kick returner.
The Redskins made these cuts now, Allen said, "to give these players an opportunity at the starting line of free agency to be able to find a job. If all of them sign in the next week, we'll be happy for them."
Allen said that owner Daniel M. Snyder imposed no financial restrictions on free-agent signings in the first uncapped year since 1993 and that he expected to be very busy with telephone calls at a minute past midnight.
"We have a game plan that we have shared with ownership and they have not only embraced it but hope we execute it," Allen said.
Larry Weisman, an award-winning journalist during 25 years with USA TODAY, writes for Redskins.com and appears nightly on Redskins Nation on Comcast SportsNet. Read his Redskinsblitz blog at Redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.