Offseason Outlook: The Washington Redskins

Published: Jan 29, 2014 21:06pm EST
By Lance Rinker, Managing Editor for Konsume Sports

Please Note: This article was updated Jan 29, 2014 @ 09:06pm EST

 

The Washington Redskins have begun their offseason earlier than they had hoped when the 2013 football season kicked off, but they are in one of the more enviable situations compared to many other organizations around football. Though there is much work to be done on the roster, the team is expected to have approximately $30MM or so in cap space to make it easier to dramatically improve.

The first order of business for the organization is going to be figuring out what to do with their free agents. Below is a list of the team’s free agents, courtesy of Pro-Football Focus, and it’s pretty clear that not too many performed at a very desirable level to warrant being brought back.

                                      2014 Free Agents: Washington Redskins

Name Pos Age Rating Snaps
Brian Orakpo ED 28 24.9 827
Josh Morgan WR 29 0.8 391
J.D. Walton C 27 0 0
Rex Grossman QB 34 0 0
Dezmon Briscoe WR 25 0 0
Bryan Kehl LB 30 -0.1 4
Darryl Tapp ED 29 -1.6 86
Nick Barnett LB 33 -1.7 70
Rob Jackson ED 28 -2.9 186
Josh Wilson CB 29 -4.2 982
Santana Moss WR 35 -5.2 570
DeAngelo Hall CB 30 -5.5 1013
Chris I. Baker DI 26 -5.6 418
Reed Doughty S 31 -7.4 415
Fred Davis TE 28 -7.6 246
E.J. Biggers S 27 -11.8 431
Perry Riley LB 28 -12.3 1002
London Fletcher LB 39 -28.6 931

London Fletcher has been the leader of this defense for the last seven seasons but it appears his time is coming to an end now that he plans to retire. Fletcher has had a marvelous career and was everything anyone could have hoped for when he signed with Washington before the 2007 season.

Bring’em Back

This would be a far longer list of players if we were to focus on who is undeserving of being re-signed by the team, but the focus here is which players are important to bring back next season.

Brian Orakpo - OLB

Brian Orakpo is considered one of the best linebackers in all of football, especially in the 3-4 Defense, and if he’s not the best then he’s most certainly in the top four. He has the pass rushing prowess similar to Robert Mathis and is dominant when it comes to stopping the run. Essentially Orakpo has it all and is very likely to be paid that way.

If the team is serious about bringing him back, which they reportedly are, then a contract similar to what Mathis signed in 2012 (4 years/$36MM) is the baseline for negotiations. By the time it’s all said and done I would expect Orakpo to sign for something close to $42MM for between five and six years.

Josh Wilson - DB

Unlike teammate DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson still has the ability to be a playmaker in the secondary and isn’t all hype based on his name. Even though this past season wasn’t a particularly good one for Wilson, it’s likely that had far more to do with the Redskins inability to rush the passer and far too often stressed their secondary.

Another plus about Wilson is that he’s still just 28 years old and is likely to provide more of a spark on defense than Hall. He has the ability to rush the passer himself and, though he’s just 5’9”, he has the speed to keep up with most receivers and could thrive if used as more of the second defensive back or in the nickel.

Perry Riley – ILB

Perry Riley is the guy that has the talent and necessary tools to be far better than he has shown, especially for someone that was drafted in the fourth round, 103rd selection overall, out of the 2010 NFL Draft. He has done some wonderful things rushing the passer, in pass coverage, and even against the run but it’s rarely ever in the same game and he’s been inconsistent at best during his four-year tenure with the team. As long as no other team blows his socks off with a competitive offer, we should expect Riley to be back with the team in 2014.

Cut’em Loose

While a portion of their cap space will be used in re-signing these players, specifically Brian Orakpo, there are still two players that could (and likely should) find themselves cap casualties.

Stephen Bowen – DE

Once upon a time Stephen Bowen was a great pass rushing and run stopping defensive end, but that was back in 2009 and he’s slated to be paid $4.4MM base salary in 2014 and count $7.02MM towards the salary cap. For someone that ended the season on injured reserve due to a knee injury, after dealing with a knee injury towards the end of the 2012 season, coupled with his diminished ability to be a difference maker on defense, this becomes a no-brainer.

Adam Carriker – DE

Adam Carriker is another player that has dealt with some serious injury issues while being paid a hefty sum of gold. When you’re not even sure if he’ll be able to play, and play well, during the 2014 season it’s difficult to justify paying him $4.7MM and having him count $6.76MM towards the cap.

If both of these players are released, as expected, then the team will save an additional $5.22MM against the cap for the 2014 season and bring their total cap space to upwards of, if not more than, $35MM. The real question is what can this team do with all their cap space that would make the most sense in free agency?

With serious questions marks in the secondary, the defensive front, a lack of quality depth and a true number two receiver behind Pierre Garcon, and of course a lack of balance along the offensive line new Head Coach Jay Gruden and General Manager Bruce Allen have some decisions to make. The good news is that this year’s draft is incredibly deep at offensive tackle and wide receiver. The bad news is that the Redskins don’t have a first round pick, so they are unlikely to get immediate starters with their first two picks.

At least there are enough players available in free agency at key positions that would provide upgrades compared to who they had this past season. And though it could be declared easy enough to just sign free agents and hope for the best, the real test here is to sign quality free agents with upside which means signing players who are still relatively young.

Addressing the Secondary

The Redskins have had a difficult time putting together a capable secondary for the better part of five years now, but they have an opportunity to piece one together this offseason. There are three players set to become free agents that would be wise additions to the roster and would add a collective level of talent to the secondary not seen since the days of Fred Smoot, Carlos Rogers, and LaRon Landry. The players below not only have above average talent, but they are also still in their prime athletic years and won’t break the bank.

Alterraun Verner – CB

Behind the likes of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Alterraun Verner is one of the best, young, available free agent corners on the market. While he may not have the name recognition of a Rodgers-Cromartie or even a Vontae Davis (who is a bit overrated when you break down his performance), Verner does have the ability to shut down whatever receiver he’s covering at any given time.

He managed to hold opposing quarterbacks to a 49.4 percent completion rate in 2013 while picking off five passes, defending 14, and allowing those same quarterbacks a collective QB Rating of 55.8. Verner isn’t going to come cheap, especially at just 25 years old, but he’s also not going to cost you an arm and a leg which the likes of Rodgers-Cromartie or Davis will.

Sam Shields – CB

The Green Bay Packers would be silly not to make a serious run at re-signing Sam Shields, as every team needing a quality number two corner, or even a 1a, would be silly not to make a serious run at signing him away from the Packers.

Shields, in similar fashion to Verner, shut down opposing receivers by allowing just 50 percent of passes thrown his way to be completed. He also picked off four of those passes, defended 12, and gave up just a 72.7 QB Rating overall. The combination of Verner and Shields as this team’s top two corners would provide the Redskins the ability to shut down the opposing team’s passing game more often than not.

Taylor Mays – SS

However, as impressive as a Verner and Shields tandem would be at stopping the pass, you can’t really protect against the deep ball unless you upgrade at safety as well. That’s where the underrated and under-utilized Taylor Mays comes in. He’s solid at 6’03” and 203 lbs. while also being capable of delivering the big hit.

However, the Cincinnati Bengals used him on just 36.6 percent of their defensive snaps in 2013 and just 33.3 percent in 2012. Mays would contribute well to stopping the run and protecting over the top against the deep ball, both being major areas of concern for the Redskins.

Addressing the Front Seven

If one thing is certain about this defense it’s that the front seven struggled mightily against the run, unless your name was Brian Orakpo of course. A major overhaul isn’t necessarily needed, however, but bringing in a couple of new pieces to help complement the existing core could do wonders in regards to having a balanced attack.

Linval Joseph – DT

There are two driving factors in needing to sign Linval Joseph to shore up the defensive line. The first is that he has the ability to smother a running back, get his hands on the quarterback when rushing the passer, and has fantastic tackling technique (he missed just two tackles all season). The second factor is that he played for the division rival New York Giants this past season and signing him away from them would strengthen the Redskins front seven while simultaneously weakening the Giants.

Brandon Spikes – MLB

With London Fletcher retiring and not having an obvious replacement for him on the roster already, the Redskins need someone to come in and fill the void at MLB. The best man to take on that role and wreak havoc on opposing running backs and quarterbacks is Brandon Spikes. What he lacks in pass coverage skills, which are below average at best more often than not, he more than makes up for an aggressive and hard hitting style of play that will make rushers think twice about going up the middle and cause quarterbacks to release the ball just a little too quickly when they see him coming.

Addressing the Offense

The Redskins offense was electric with a healthy Robert Griffin III under center during his rookie campaign in 2012. However, all was not rainbows and sunshine in 2013 as he wasn’t quite right coming back from his gruesome injury and the coaching staff had a difficult time adjusting to the inconsistent play at certain positions. All-in-all the offense wasn’t bad, but there was just too much inconsistency that plagued them to be as efficient as they needed to be.

Alex Mack – C

When one of the best centers in the game becomes a free agent and is still in his prime you have to make a decision if you’re willing to offer him the type of contract he really deserves, and then whether you’re willing to sweeten the pot just a bit more if that’s not enough. In the case of Alex Mack he would be more than worth it as he would come right in and stabilize an offensive line that has been put together with duct tape and super glue for years.

That’s not to say the offensive line was horrible, because they weren’t, but they had a difficult time protecting the quarterback by giving up 43 sacks for a loss of 306 total yards.

Mack gave up just two sacks and his quarterback was hit just five times all of this past season, a major accomplishment considering he was tasked with protecting a group of quarterbacks that were indecisive and had a tendency to hold onto the ball for far too long. If the Redskins were to make a splash, aside from re-signing Brian Orakpo, than this is the guy to do it for.

Golden Tate – WR

Other than Pierre Garcon, the Washington Redskins really do lack a receiver that can make something happen after the catch. That’s where Golden Tate comes in as one of the best wide receiving options available. He’s just 26 years old and has the ability to make defenders miss, evidenced by causing the most missed tackles by a receiver in the NFL with 23.

In addition to his elusiveness, he also has great hands and will catch nearly 70 percent of anything thrown within his vicinity. He has the playmaking ability of a number one receiver but his size (5’10”, 199 lbs.) makes him better suited for the sidekick role as the number two man.  

In Conclusion…

It’s unlikely that the organization would be able to pick up each and every one of these players mentioned above, but even if they were to just address their issues in the secondary and front seven they could once again become a formidable team to go up against. It’s a fresh start for many players in this organization with a new coaching staff in town, most notably for Robert Griffin III, but their high volume of cap space allows them to be aggressive in free agency as long as they don’t get too caught up in the biggest and flashiest name on the market. 


 

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Lance Rinker
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