Washington loses strong leaders in reshaping roster

Dashon Goldson's positive impact in the locker room resonated during his time in Washington. Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports/Ken Blaze

When the Washington Redskins won the NFC East in 2012, they entered the offseason without a lot of cap room (thanks to the penalty), but also with the belief that not a whole lot needed to be done.

It’s different this time -- and that’s not a bad thing. Monday provides evidence that the Redskins aren’t focused on sentimentality or trying to keep everyone together.

They not only cut two defensive starters (Jason Hatcher and Dashon Goldson, though the latter could return with a much lower salary at some point), they also let it be known that a handful of vets won’t return. Among them: Terrance Knighton, Darrel Young and Alfred Morris. The latter two, in particular, have meant a lot to fans and the organization. People there like them (like is probably not strong enough); it would be easy to re-sign and forge ahead for another season.

Maybe their decision to let them leave will be bad in the end. Maybe Morris in particular. But you can also say the decisions are being guided by one thought: Is this player good enough to provide the help needed to win a championship? In Morris’ case, as the lead back, their answer is no, he’s not. Anyone can disagree with their point, but it’s the way they’re shaping decisions.

Obviously not every player they keep will be at that level, but if they feel they can improve a position they will try to do so, whether in free agency or the draft. They like Kory Lichtensteiger, for example; if they can upgrade there they definitely will. They like Will Compton; it won’t stop them from looking for someone better.

It’s the attitude the organization must have if it ever wants to build something and not just get hot at the end of a season every several years. There’s a risk in some of this, as the Redskins locker room will definitely change. Some offseasons that’s a good thing; not this time.

Perhaps players such as Hatcher and Goldson are finished, but their impact in the locker room resonated. You need players who can play; and you need some of those who can play to be strong leaders. Both were this past season. Young and Morris have been model players in their time with Washington, and the former was always available in good times or bad. Knighton was a strong voice, too.

But their departures do not mean the Redskins will return to a certain culture. I even asked Kedric Golston about this after the season (he might not be back) because these moves have long been possibilities.

"No matter who’s here or who’s not here, you want guys who come in that are cut from the same cloth," Golston said, "guys that love football, that care about their teammates and are unselfish, and you can create an atmosphere like the one we had."

The Redskins built a strong locker-room culture last season. They want to continue doing so, while building an even stronger roster.