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NFL Free Agency: Washington Redskins Will Be Active, Because They Must Be Active

News that the Washington Redskins are set to be active in free agency has been met with trepidation by many fans, but given the state of the roster, the Redskins have no choice but to be active.

UPDATE: A previous version of this included Brandon Lloyd as a free agent signing. The Redskins actually traded for him.

The NFL lockout is likely to end soon, and the NFL free agency period will soon follow. It'll be fast, it'll be furious and it will be wild. It will also scare the heck out of Washington Redskins fans who have been down this dark, scary road before. Since Dan Snyder took over as the team's owner, the Redskins have spent money on the wrong people and been saddled with horrible contracts for years.

Naturally, with that history, there was a largely negative reaction to Jason La Canfora's piece the other day, in which La Canfora suggested the Redskins are chomping at the bit for free agency to begin.

The Washington Redskins, who largely sat out the free-agent market in 2010, are prepared to make a splash this year, numerous sources familiar with the team's offseason plans said Tuesday.

Facing a serious lack of talent at crucial positions, the longtime NFC East doormats have put together a list of high-end free agents they want and will be very aggressive in pursuing them as soon as the NFL lockout is lifted, according to the sources.

I can see it now. Images of Deion Sanders, Brandon Lloyd, Adam Archuleta and Albert Haynesworth are flashing in everyone's mind. The mythical "Offseason Champs!" banner is already being hung, much to the chagrin of your dreams. There's every reason to be cynical about this.

There's only one problem: what's the alternative?

Face it, folks: the Redskins have an unbelievable number of holes on their roster. Even after securing 12 players in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Redskins' roster is incredibly thin. The team desperately needs some offensive and defensive lineman. They could use another big-play wide receiver. They always need more linebackers. They need a cornerback to replace Carlos Rogers, who is sure to depart. They could maybe use another running back, depending on how the team feels about their rookies. Oh yeah, and they also need a quarterback.

Now, granted, they don't need all these things right away, since there is something to be said for taking it slowly and going through a rebuilding process. But they also need some of these things right away, unless they want to field an incomplete team. How else do people expect these holes to be filled, if not in free agency?

Also, the Redskins are flushed with cap space that they pretty much have to spend in some way. Currently, the Redskins owe $80 million for 50 players, but they could potentially shave that number all the way down to $48 million if they release a number of players, including Haynesworth and Donovan McNabb. Whether they do that or not remains to be seen, and the rookie salaries will affect that number as well. Still, the Redskins will have lots of money to play with, and while it's not good to spend just to spend, you also can't just hoard that money.

The issue with the Redskins hasn't been splurging in free agency; it's been splurging in free agency on the wrong guys. The success stories (London Fletcher) are far more infrequent than the failures (Lloyd, Archuleta, Haynesworth). But there are success stories. When the Redskins signed Fletcher in 2007, he was 32 and undersized, but that's worked out pretty well, hasn't it? The Redskins need to be looking for this year's London Fletcher, not avoiding free agency altogether.

Who is that guy? It's a tough question. Cullen Jenkins of the Green Bay Packers is a possibility, since he fills a legitimate need at nose tackle. An interior lineman like Marshal Yanda of the Baltimore Ravens would be a great get, considering the depleted state of the Redskins' guards. Those are the kind of players the Redskins need to target, instead of overpaying someone like Santonio Holmes (though even Holmes can help this team).

Will the Redskins spend on the right guys? That remains to be seen. But no matter how bad history has been to the Redskins in free agency over the years, it's not right to just sit out when the team has so many holes and so much money to spend.