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Gibbs: Linebacker A Possibility In Draft

With the loss of Antonio Pierce to free agency and the uncertain health status of LaVar Arrington, head coach Joe Gibbs wouldn't discount selecting a linebacker with one of the team's five draft picks on April 23-24.

"You're always looking at areas where you feel like you have had a loss," Gibbs said on Tuesday. "If you are trying to evaluate [the roster], you want to be deep certainly at linebacker. We think we have some options there.

"You never know what is going to happen in the draft. I don't ever count on the draft because so much can happen there. Certainly we are looking at every opportunity that we can to help ourselves at linebacker."

Arrington underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last week and he is expected to be ready for the start of training camp. Marcus Washington, a Pro Bowler last year, and Lemar Marshall are slated to return to the lineup next season.

Marshall played in place of Arrington last season and would do the same until Arrington is ready this year. But Marshall also could be in line to replace Pierce at middle linebacker.

The Redskins are also hoping that Mike Barrow can return and challenge for the middle linebacker spot. After signing with the Redskins in April 2004, Barrow missed all of last season with tendonitis in his left knee.

"He's progressing," Gibbs said of Barrow. "It's been a long hard recovery for him. I think he's scheduled for full-scale running by the end of May. We're still in the process there."

The top linebacker prospects in the draft include: Derrick Johnson, Texas; Kevin Burnett, Tennessee; Daryl Blackstock, Virginia; Channing Crowder, Florida; Odell Thurman, Georgia; and Barrett Ruud, Nebraska.

Gibbs added that there are no free agent linebackers available that the team is targeting. Last week, the Redskins signed free agent linebacker Brian Allen, although he is expected to serve more as a special teams player.

Gibbs said the team continues to meet with and evaluate players available in the draft. He expects the evaluation process to wrap up this Thursday. Next week, coaches and player personnel officials will conduct a series of mock drafts to play out different first-round scenarios.

"What we do is, we have a scout who is responsible for doing a lot of the research," Gibbs said. "We normally have a coach who has worked the player out and been a part of it. Then we all come together in the meeting rooms. [Vice president of player personnel] Vinny Cerrato leads it.

"The coach will read a report on the player and everything we know about the player, from character to intelligence. Then we have a tape that scouts have put together that shows the good and the bad on the player. And then we just start looking at film until we get a feel for what the player can do for us.

"We put a grade on about 20 different things for that player. Then we put a total grade for that player--that's the Redskins grade. It could be on a scale of 10. And then Vinny will write on there where we think the player fits in with us. Sometimes a player could be rated as a starter, but there'd be no place for him to play on our team."

The Redskins are considering drafting a wide receiver with the ninth overall pick. One of the two elite receivers in the draft, Mike Williams of USC and Braylon Edwards of Michigan, is expected to be available.

Asked how the offense would fit in another wide receiver into the rotation, Gibbs replied: "That'd be speculative right now. We don't what's going to happen with that ninth pick. We're working real hard on it right now. We haven't even finished all of the grading yet."

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