The Redskins knew that they were getting damaged goods when they traded for Jammal Brown in May of 2010. The former Pro Bowl tackle had missed the entire 2009 season after undergoing surgery to repair a sports hernia and a hip injury. Mike Shanahan bet that he could get a few quality seasons out of Brown when he sent a third-round pick to the Saints for Brown and a fifth-round pick.
Brown played 15 games in 2010 but the hip still clearly bothered him. The lockout prevented him from rehabbing the injury with team trainers and as the season wore on it became apparent that it was still hampering his play. He started 12 games and was inconsistent at best.
The Redskins hedged their bets when they resigned him after the lockout ended. They gave him a five-year, $27 million contract with $8.25 million guaranteed. But all of the guaranteed money has been paid. If the Redskins decide they want to move on, they would actually save $200,000 against the salary cap (a $4.4 million dead cap charge vs. $4.6 million charge if he’s on the roster).
“He has been hampered with injuries,” said Shanahan. “I think next season, his future will be determined by how he heals up in the offseason.”
“He’s going to be here throughout the offseason getting in the best shape he possibly can get in to give himself an opportunity to start next year. If not, he understands it’s a short career if he can’t stay healthy.”
That sounds cold but the truth in such matters often does. Brown will be 31 before next season starts, hardly over the hill for an offensive lineman. Still, healing can sometimes be slower as athletes age and if the hip has been bothering him for three seasons there is good reason to suspect that it may never be right.
The question is, how long does he get to show that he can get and stay healthy? Free agency starts in a little over two months and the draft is about six weeks after that. It seems likely that unless Brown shows remarkable progress the Redskins will need to either sign or draft a potential replacement for Brown.
They could go with either Willie Smith or Tyler Polumbus, both of whom filled in for Brown when he was injured, at right tackle. That would be a risky strategy at best, however. Polumbus is best suited for a reserve/utility role. And while Smith did not embarrass himself when he was pressed into action he probably needs another year of seasoning before making him a 16-game starter.
But Smith’s presence could alter the team’s thinking. If they believe that he could take over as a full-time starter in 2013 they might go with a lesser free agent. If they are unsure about his ability to be anything beyond depth a premium free agent or a high draft pick could be brought in.
At this point, barring a miraculous recovery, the odds that Brown is on the 2012 opening-day roster seem to be even money or perhaps lower.