2003 Free Agent Acquisitions – Report Cards II

Washington Commanders


S Matt Bowen:

Bowen was taken by the St. Louis Rams in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL Draft out of Iowa. He started at strong safety twice and played in all 16 games. He also had 12 tackles against the Chargers that year. He signed with the Packers in 2001 and spent two seasons under the radar in Green Bay but Vinny Cerrato and the Redskins coaching staff definitely had their sights set on him. Matt was signed to an offer sheet by the Redskins in March. The Packers had a week to match the contract the Redskins offered him but declined to do so. Bowen was highly touted by Redskins front office for his awareness and hard hitting ability.

That hard hitting was already on display on the Redskins third day of training camp last summer. His former Ram teammate Trung Canidate was running to the outside of the field when Bowen came in full force and knocks Canidate into midair. But Bowen was stone-like, looking down at Canidate. He quickly looked up and just walked away from the stunned back without saying a word… like it never happened. That immediately got Bowen national attention and the attention of Redskin fans not too familiar with him or his talents.

Bowen had a good and very productive season despite the lack of hard hits previously displayed in training camp and with Green Bay. Bowen was fifth on the team with 94 tackles and was tied second on the team with 3 interceptions. The downside Bowen brought to D.C. was his lack of quality coverage skills and it showed. Safties are not meant to cover but are also not allowed to let receivers get by which is what Bowen did a few times. Nevertheless, his first season with the Redskins was successful but look for Bowen to have less tackles in 2004 with an improved pass rushing defensive on the way via free agency.

Grade: B

DT/DE Peppi Zellner:

Zellner’s tenure in Dallas was a little shaky. He was pulled over and arrested for possession and intent to distribute cocaine just 3 months before the Redskins signed him in May but the charges against him were dropped because his brother claimed responsibility for having the drugs in the car. During his four years in Dallas, Peppi was very good at rushing the quarterback and matching his strength with anyone on opposing offensive lines.

Peppi was brought in on a one-year deal from Dallas to serve as a backup defensive lineman. Throughout his whole career, he had been mainly used as an end but subbed in as a defensive tackle for the Skins on many occasions, too. Similar to his traits from when he was a Cowboy, Zellner brought in his great pass rushing ability and his intensity to the field in 2003. He didn’t start in any games for the Skins but played in all 16 with the Skins and made 23 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 forced fumble. Zellner showed a lot of heart, toughness, and skill and it may just convince new defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Greg Blache to re-sign him as a reserve for 2004.

Grade: B-

DE Regan Upshaw:

Regan was drafted 12th overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1996 NFL Draft and was the only lineman on the team to start all 16 games. Regan played for them the next two seasons and spent the 1999 season as a Jacksonville Jaguar. He then ventured 3,000 miles to play for the Oakland Raiders. He started 69 out of 86 games and recorded 33.5 sacks in his first seven seasons in the league. In 2002, Upshaw started in his first Super Bowl against his former team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Upshaw signed with the Redskins on March 1st to a five-year deal to eventually replace Bruce Smith as the starting right defensive end. Upshaw started 8 games in his first season in Washington and recorded 22 tackles, 1 sack for a loss of seven yards, and forced two fumbles. Regan was solid all season but not a fierce pass rusher. He is not very aggressive at the snap of the ball but was a decent tackler. Regan most likely will return next season but to be a backup to possibly Jevon Kearse or Grant Wistrom.

Grade: C

DT Bernard Holsey:

Holsey came to the Redskins just days before the start of training camp last summer a journeyman backup. He spent the bulk of his career with the New York Giants (1996-1999), played for the Colts in 2000, sat out the whole 2001 season, and was with the Patriots for 8 games in 2002.

Bernard started all 16 games at defensive tackle for the burgundy and gold in 2003. He totaled 41 tackles and registered 2.5 sacks to lead all defensive linemen. It’s a safe bet to say that he performed better than expected and at 286 pounds, he proved to athletic enough to put consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks all season long. Holsey will become an unrestricted free agent when free agency hits March 3rd but if he is to return next season, it will be primarily for backup duty since the team is guaranteed to reload for defensive tackles.

Grade: C

DT Martin Chase:

The Redskins traded for Martin in August to fill up the depth chart at defensive tackle due to Brandon Noble’s injury. Chase was a backup in New Orleans for 3 seasons after spending two seasons in Baltimore in which he sat out his entire rookie season as a Raven with a severe ankle injury. The Saints claimed him off of waivers during the 2000 preseason from the Ravens. Chase only had four starts during his first five years in Baltimore and New Orleans.

Chase played at least 40% of the team’s defensive snaps which is why the Saints will get a 6th round draft pick in return. During the time Chase was given to play, he didn’t put up a lot of statistics. His status for returning to the team in 2004 is pretty questionable but may be brought back for the same reason he was brought here in the first place, to add depth to defensive tackle. Wherever his NFL destination may be in 2004, Chase is looking to make an impact and improve on his skills and strength.

Grade: D

DT Lional Dalton:

Lional was acquired from the Broncos in a trade for a 7th round draft pick (since he didn’t play 40% of the snaps, the sam stipulation for the Chasr trade). Thanks to the trades, Lional and Martin Chase were reunited in Washington. They were both teammates in Baltimore during the 1998 and 1999 seasons.

Lional was also brought in to provide depth at defensive tackle. He started 9 games and played in 12 and had 17 tackles and 1 sack. He performed moderately during his 12 games in 2003 but never really shined at the right times. Due to his lack of production and his salary, the Redskins released him on February 24th and saved $1.4 million for the 2004 offseason salary cap.

Grade: D

DT Jermaine Haley:

Jermaine spent 1998-1999 playing in Canada with the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts. Taken in the 7th round of the 1999 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins, Jermaine’s size (6 ‘4, 325 pounds) attracted the ‘Phins enough to select the former junior college standout. He didn’t play for the Dolphins that year but started 4 out of 15 games played in 2000, 5 of 12 in 2001, but didn’t start in 2002 although he appeared in every game.

Jermaine has not been a big factor on the defensive lines he has been on but he impressed the Redskins brass enough to sign him for his ability to plug up running lanes. Haley was signed to an offer sheet in April, the Dolphins declined to match the offer one week later and received a 7th round pick in return. In 2003, he only appeared in 6 of the first 8 games. Due to a broken thumb, Haley missed the last 8 games of the season. While healthy, Haley totaled 13 tackles and no sacks. Haley did not have a good season in his Redskins debut and his return next season will be in a backup role.

Grade: D-

DT Brandon Noble:

Brandon signed with the Redskins after having one of his best seasons in 2002 as a mainstay on the Dallas Cowboys defensive line. In 2000, Noble had career bests in tackles (69) and sacks (3.5) while starting all 16 games. He was quickly snatched up by the Skins and introduced to the media on the 2nd day of free agency and was immediately slated to be the a starter at defensive tackle.

During the second game of the preseason against the New England Patriots in August, Brandon was trying to break through the Patriots offensive line. When the play was over, he was still on the ground. He was on the ground for several minutes. On that play, Brandon suffered a dislocated kneecap and multiple ligament tears, which instantly put him on IR for the 2003 season and may jeopardize his whole career. As he was leaving the field on a cart, he gave the fans an encouraging thumb’s up, hopefully a sign of things to come. Since the injury occurred, Noble has aimed to return to play this upcoming season but like Holsey, may have to be delegated to backup duty.

Grade: E

DT Darrell Russell:

Well controversy is the guy’s middle…uhh… maybe full name. The stud defensive tackle out of USC was a highly heralded #2 overall draft pick by the Raiders in 1997. During his time in Oakland, he appeared in two Pro Bowls and averaged 45 tackles per season and 6 sacks per season. But trouble struck quickly and often for the talented Russell. In 2001, Darrell failed a drug test in which he tested positive for the drug Ecstasy and was suspended for 4 games that season. In 2002, Russell was charged with 25 felony counts in which he allegedly drugged a woman and video taped his friends raping her but all charges were dropped citing lack of evidence. He was suspended for the entire 2002 season due to that incident. The Raiders felt that they were more than cooperative when dealing with the controversy he brought and released him in late October of 2003.

Despite all of the problems that Russell had faced during his tenure in the NFL, the Redskins chose to gamble with the skilled but troubled player. Redskins front office members opted to look at his upsides: he was only 27 when he was signed by the team, he was very productive in Oakland, and due to his age, there was still time to mold him into the Pro Bowl caliber tackle he used to be. But Russell received very little playing time in his short stint in burgundy and gold. He only had 6 total tackles (3 solo) and forced a fumble during the eight games he played in the 2003 season. Russell was late for a team practice during the last week of the season and was suspended for the season finale against the Eagles. He claimed that he got lost on his way to Redskins Park. Just days later, it was announced that the team would not bring back the infamous defensive tackle for the 2003 season. It is very easy to say that his stay in Washington was a failure but his stay in the in the nation’s capital put some light on Russell which may make teams have second thoughts to turn away from the young man with a promising future.

Grade: E

CB Alex Molden:

Alex was a late free agent signing (May 23rd) for the Skins and was maybe viewed as a possible replacement for Champ Bailey if he chose to leave in 2004, which he did. Alex had a good career with the New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers after being a 1st round draft pick by the Saints in 1996. He had 12 career interceptions and 8 sacks during his first 7 seasons. Molden was released by the San Diego Chargers in a salary cap move and also to go along with Marty Schottenheimer’s youth movement.

He entered the preseason as a backup cornerback and didn’t fair too well against the receivers he faced. Alex was burned several times in the preseason and was released during the second round of cuts at the end of training camp. He signed with the Detroit Lions one day after their first regular season game, was on their roster for their first four games but only played two and made only 1 tackle. Molden was released by Detroit after week five. The Lions release of Molden was a sign that the Redskins made the right decision by cutting him because the Lions are still very thin at cornerback and attempted to trade for Bailey the past dew weeks but were unsuccessful at doing so.

Grade: E

Special Teams

RB/KR/PR Chad Morton:

One of the four heralded “Jet-Skins”, Chad Morton arrived in D.C. to revive a Redskins special teams unit that has been severely lacking in return yardage and touchdowns since fan favorite Brian Mitchell joined the hated Philadelphia Eagles in the 2000 offseason. Morton brought a spark to the Redskins with his agility, speed, and sense of awareness. The Redskins blew their chance to acquire the versatile Morton from the New Orleans Saints in 2001. Their were rumors that the Skins were on the verge of trading for Morton, but they instead opted to receive running back Robert Arnaud. In week 1 of the 2002 season, Chad Morton had 2 kickoff returns for touchdowns against the Bills and was put on the national spotlight throughout the season.

The team signed Morton to an offer sheet in early March. The Jets claimed they matched the full contract but it turned out that they matched it incorrectly and the matter had to be solved by an arbitrator (Richard Bloch, who just so happened to be a Redskins season ticket holder). The Redskins were awarded the stud returnman so they forfeited a 5th round draft pick to the Jets. Morton averaged 23.4 yards per kick return, 9.9 yards per punt return, and 1 touchdown in 2003 compared to the Redskins team average of 20.7 yards per kick return, 10.5 yards per punt return, and 1 touchdown in 2002. Chad returned his first touchdown 94 yards in week 13 against his first NFL team, the New Orleans Saints. He also had 48 carries for 218 yards at running back while starting twice in 15 games for the 2003 season.

Grade: B-

K John Hall:

John Hall was the 2nd member of the “Jet-Skins” to switch from the green and white to the burgundy and gold. This is another underrated acquisition because it has brought stability to a team that went through kickers like the Redskins go through free agents. Everyone remembers the 2000 season when the Redskins juggled kickers Brett Conway, Kris Heppner, Scott Bentley, Eddie Murray, and Michael Husted. In 2002, the Skins went relatively lighter and played the season with three kickers: Brett Conway, James Tuthill, and Jose Cortez.

As evidence from the 2000 and 2002 seasons, this team has been desperate to sign a franchise kicker since Chip Lohmiller’s left after the 1994 season. John Hall had a field goal percentage of 75.8% in 2003, which is 11.8% higher than the average of all three kickers who were with the team in 2002 and made 9 more field goals than all three kickers in D.C. in 2002. Hall kicked the game winning field goal on opening day against his former team and started off his Redskin career on the right foot.

Grade: A

Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Jake Russell

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