The soonest that either Trent Williams or Fred Davis will play for the Washington Redskins again is 2012, and the question now is what the Redskins can or will do about that. Davis is a restricted free agent, so if they wanted to send him packing they could do so by tendering him at a level that tempted other teams to sign him. But they're not likely to get fair value if they do that. Williams was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2010 draft, and he's not going anywhere. You could make a convincing argument that these are the two best offensive players the Redskins have right now, and as they look to rebuild their offense this offseason the way they rebuilt their defense in the last one, they seem to have little choice but to build around them.
That's going to be a headache for Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, who has not been shy about preaching his belief that high-character players are important to what he's trying to build in Washington. I don't know Davis at all. I do know Williams fairly well, and he's never struck me as a bad kid. But based on the repeated knucklehead actions that have resulted in their current four-game suspensions, it's perfectly fair for the Redskins to wonder whether they'll be able to count on either guy going forward. And that's a problem, because they need to.
If the season ended right now, the Redskins would hold the No. 5 pick in the draft. The Colts, picking first, are all but certain to take Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. But the teams that hold the No. 2, 3 and 4 picks -- St. Louis, Minnesota and Jacksonville -- each has taken a quarterback in the first round in one of the past two drafts. So unless someone traded up and jumped the Redskins, at this point, they'd have their pick of Matt Barkley or Landry Jones or Robert Griffin III or whichever quarterback Shanahan liked the best. And they have to take a quarterback, honestly. They can't do what the Bengals did this year, draft an impact wide receiver in the top five and hope their Andy Dalton is waiting for them at the top of the second round. If Shanahan gets a top-five pick and doesn't come away with a quarterback, he's making himself fair game for every criticism anybody wants to level at him about stubbornness.
The point is that, come 2012, the Redskins are likely to have a talented rookie quarterback around whom they'll be building their offense. And it'd be awfully nice if that young quarterback knew his supremely talented left tackle and his huge pass-catching tight end were the kinds of guys on whom he could count, week in and week out. The problem now with Williams and Davis is that they're not. They're such determined and remorseless violators of the drug policy that the NFL was set to suspend them for a year before the NFLPA negotiated it down to four games. What evidence do we have that this suspension will deter them from further knucklehead behavior?
It's a problem, because in addition to quarterback the Redskins need to address wide receiver and probably at least one position on the offensive line besides left tackle. They believed they had a franchise guy at left tackle and an emerging star at tight end. What Williams and Davis have done is call those two positions, at which the Redskins believed they were set, into question.
Argue all you want about the merits of what Williams and Davis actually did to get themselves in trouble. Experience tells me that you will, and colorfully so, in the comments. But the fact is, whether you agree with the law or the NFL's rules, Williams and Davis knew the law and knew the rules and presumably knew what would happen to them if they kept getting caught. And they kept doing the drugs anyway. Which either means they don't care about being suspended and disappearing for months at a time when their teammates need them, or that they're too dumb to comprehend the consequences of their actions. Whichever it is, it's an issue for a Redskins team that's trying to build something sustainable and reliable and doesn't need new question marks popping up in places where they thought they had their problems solved.