After spending all of the offseason being among those who were no-brainers to make the Washington Redskins' 53-man roster, Todd Wade may not be such a sure bet.
The reserve tackle currently is sidelined with a sprained ankle that he suffered in the Hall of Fame game against the Colts. While he has been out, other players have filled the backup role quite capably. Chad Reinhardt, Andrew Crummey, and Devin Clark, in particular, looked pretty good protecting Todd Collins and Colt Brennan and paving the way for Ladell Betts and Marcus Mason.
Tackle Stephon Heyer also missed Saturday's game with a sprained knee. Last year, he was a rookie free agent who ended up starting ahead of Wade at right tackle down the stretch as the Redskins made their run to the playoffs. That would indicate that Heyer is ahead of Wade on the depth chart.
Wade carries a base salary of $1.78 million for 2008. Now, it needs to be said that the Redskins rarely if ever make roster decisions based strictly on money, especially when such choices involve a savings of (a mere?) $1.3 million or so. However, the savings will appear on the "pro" side of the ledger when examining the pros and cons of a potential release. (There would be $1.17 million in dead cap in 2009, but that money already has been spent.)
Wade will be 32 prior to the bye week. The 30+ backup player on a team with a new head coach is an endangered species. When you add an injury into the mix it makes it that much more difficult for such a player to hang on, especially when said player has a reputation for being somewhat fragile.
All of this does not mean that Wade is as good as gone. He has 96 career starts and that is a good thing to have on your resume. While it's true, as alluded to above, that some new coaches like to do some housecleaning and put their stamp on their new teams, that urge has to be balanced against the need to win games. Jim Zorn didn't inherit a rebuilding project; he took over a playoff team. While he wants to build for the future, he also needs to win some games now.
So, while keeping Crummey or Clark instead of Wade might make the team better in 2010, Zorn might not be around to enjoy the fruits of that decision if he doesn't have the Redskins in playoff contention in 2009.
The view here is that it comes down to this. If Wade can get back into the field by next week, he'll have a chance to fight for his job. If he gets that chance, it's better than even money that he'll win it.
If, on the other hand, he remains sidelined until late this month and the younger, cheaper alternatives continue to play well, it's likely that Wade will spend part of Labor Day weekend cleaning out his locker at Redskins park.