In one offseason, the new Washington Redskins brain trust of Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen have done more for the team's offensive line than former VP/Football Operations Vinny Cerrato did over several years. First, Washington selected Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams(notes) with the fourth overall pick, and now Shanahan and Allen have engineered a trade with the New Orleans Saints. The ‘Skins get tackle Jammal Brown(notes), and the Saints get ... well, the compensation is pretty interesting.
The Redskins already owe the Philadelphia Eagles a mid-round conditional pick for Donovan McNabb(notes) (either third- or fourth-round, depending on certain escalators), and they now owe the Saints another conditional mid-rounder (same deal) - basically, the compensation to the Saints is dependent on the compensation to the Eagles. One team will get Washington's third-round pick in 2011, and another will get the team's fourth-rounder. There are other late-round picks involved - a possible 2011 fifth-, sixth-, or seventh-rounder back to Washington from New Orleans, and a 2012 sixth-rounder in the same direction. Again, these are all based on 2010 playing incentives, so we'll have to wait and see how it shakes out. What we do know is that Cerrato probably would have skipped the complicated stuff and just given the Saints Washington's entire 2011 draft for Brown, which is yet another reason it's good that Shanahan and Allen are in charge now.
Why such low compensation for a left tackle who went to the Pro Bowl in 2008 - a player who the Saints slapped with a first- and third-round tender this past offseason? Brown is a talented player, but a pretty serious injury risk - he missed the entire 2009 season after hip surgery, and he's never played a full 16-game season in his NFL career. Still, if Brown comes back from injury as he was, the Redskins made a great trade that reinforces a line that was overwhelmed in 2009 after years of neglect. The question about Brown is how much he's been helped by Drew Brees'(notes) quick release. While the Saints' lines have been highly regarded in overall pass-blocking numbers over the last few seasons, aficionados of offensive line play also note that Brees is virtually unparalleled when it comes to getting rid of the ball in time. Will Brown regress back to the mean with a quarterback who's not quite as quick-twitch?
The next step for Brown, as it still is for McNabb, is to come to terms on a longer deal. Brown is a restricted free agent once he signs his tender, and McNabb is under contract through the end of the 2010 season, as well. For the first time since George Allen (Bruce's dad) created the "Over the Hill Gang" in the 1970s, the Redskins seem to have some real sense behind their trading of draft picks. Initial word has Williams playing left tackle though he played just one college season on the left side; this will be sorted out in a Redskins offseason that just gets more and more interesting every day.