Timing was a key to Redskins' big deal

Officially, the trade that will send three first-round draft picks and a second-rounder from the Washington Redskins to the St. Louis Rams in exchange for this year's No. 2 pick can't be announced or finalized until the new league year opens Tuesday. But it has been agreed upon several days early, and there are some good reasons for that from the Redskins' standpoint.

With that pick, and assuming the Colts draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck at No. 1, the Redskins are expected to draft Baylor quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III. And the fact that the rest of the NFL knows or assumes that is vital to the Redskins as they begin their plans for free agency.

The Redskins have upwards of $40 million in projected salary-cap room, so they'll be able to make very competitive offers for high-profile free agents. But with this deal done before any of those, they'll also be able to answer a lot of the questions those prospective free agents were going to be asking them. Chief among those questions is "Who's your quarterback?"

Coach Mike Shanahan wants to go out and get a No. 1 wide receiver -- someone like Vincent Jackson of the Chargers. And while a big pile of money surely would have been an enticement, the Redskins are not the only team that's going to be offering Jackson a big pile of money. Now they can go to him with the money and the promise of Griffin -- a player who generates a great deal of positive buzz. Not only do the Redskins have their answer at quarterback, they have an answer that's liable to get prospective free agents excited.

The Redskins also have been trying to re-sign veteran linebacker London Fletcher. They consider him a top priority and would love to get him signed before the free-agent market opens Tuesday. Fletcher likes it in Washington but was probably justifiably curious about what the team was doing at quarterback for next season. This deal is an easy one to sell to Fletcher. He's about to turn 37. He doesn't care about the Redskins' 2013 and 2014 draft. He's thinking about the 2012 season, and this deal makes it look a lot brighter for Washington than it did 24 hours ago. Maybe this is the kind of thing, along with some of that big money, that helps bring back this vital veteran piece.

Washington needs to do a lot yet to build around Griffin, for now and for the future. But it has the means with which to do that. If the Redskins hadn't done this deal when they did it, every free-agent signing (heck, every draft pick) they made would have been accompanied by cries of "Yeah, great, but who's the quarterback?" Having done this when they did it, they no longer have to worry about that. They have solved their greatest need early in their offseason, and they still have plenty of money with which to play in the market.