Shaky Washington O-line may get big boost

Updated: October 26, 2004, 5:12 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

The most deficient position on the Washington Redskins' problematical offensive unit is getting another candidate who hopes to remedy the shortcoming.

Vaughn Parker
Parker

Washington has signed veteran lineman Vaughn Parker, a free agent since he was released by the San Diego Chargers early this spring, a victim of the salary cap. There is a good chance that, once Parker assimilates the offense and gets back into football shape, he will win the starting job at right tackle.

The Redskins have already used two different right tackles in an effort to fill the huge void left by the season-ending Achilles injury sustained by starter Jon Jansen during the preseason opener. The absence of Jansen, arguably one of the best right tackles in the league, definitely has had a trickle-down effect on the unit.

Fourth-year veteran Kenyatta Jones, who was released to make room for Parker, started two games but was ineffective. The venerable Ray Brown started four games but, at age 41, is better suited to backup duty, plus he is primarily a guard by trade.

Jones had been signed by the Redskins in 2003 after he was jettisoned by New England. Most observers felt the former fourth-round draft pick had starter-caliber skills, but he lacked consistency. Brown was signed this season as a stopgap, principally as a backup at guard, but was forced to play tackle when Jones struggled.

"It's a hard decision," said coach Joe Gibbs of releasing Jones, "but you have to do what is best for the team."

The addition of Parker, 33, ends a months-long courtship between the Redskins and the 10-year veteran.

Parker initially was considered the top candidate to replace Jansen when the latter went down with his Achilles injury, but he was still recovering from injuries suffered last year with the Chargers. The former UCLA standout tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee early in the '03 campaign and was placed on injured reserve after only three games.

While he was recovering from knee surgery, Parker underwent a procedure to clean out some debris from his ankle. That relatively benign procedure was complicated, however, when Parker developed a staph infection in the ankle. Washington officials monitored his rehabilitation closely, stayed in close contact with Parker and hinted that they might be interested in signing him when he was fully recovered.

Parker signed a two-year contract, the financial details of which were not immediately available, and will try to absorb the Redskins' offense quickly. He is certainly familiar with the blocking scheme, having played four seasons under Joe Bugel when the 'Skins offensive line coach held the same position in San Diego.

The presence of Bugel on the Redskins staff, and his knowledge of Parker's capabilities, certainly played a part in the signing.

A second-round pick in the 1994 draft, Parker had played his entire NFL career with the Chargers before his release. He was a starter in 107 of 121 appearances and started all 16 games in a season five times.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.