Sunday, January 20, 2013

Improving the Redskins

The Redskins' season is over. No major coaching changes (though I disagree with keeping Danny Smith), so the changes will all be player-personnel. Where do the Redskins need to improve. Who is available? Who can they pursue financially (considering the Redskins will, for another season, be $18 million short of salary cap space). I think any player listed is a viable option financially, but not in combination with many other players. This mainly applies because not many NFL players are willing to take a backloaded contract as they want to be paid upfront, granted most of the backloaded money is guaranteed. Most of what the Redskins can and will offer will be bonuses which may not be met and could still cost them if they are. So it's difficult to gauge how and on who the Redskins will spend their money.

Several things are for certain though. Players around the league want to play on a team that can run the football. Defensive players in particular, as they get, presumably, a little more time on the bench to rest. Offensive players love it because they can bolster their own stock and it improves their number of opportunities to make plays. Players around the league also want to play with sensational young QB Robert Griffin III. Most defenders don't want to play him (they do, but they'd rather be on his team) and every offensive weapon would love to have a QB who can do the things he does. A lot of offensive players will also want to play for an innovative mind like Kyle Shanahan who finds ways to help his team succeed.

So let us first take a look in-house and what the Redskins may be considering doing to either retain, reshape, or release their own talent.

Redskins Free Agents


Rex Grossman, Darrell Young, Fred Davis, Chris Cooley, Logan Paulsen, Brandon Banks, Jordan Black, Tyler Polumbus, Nick Sundberg, Kory Lichtensteiger, Lorenzo Alexander, Rob Jackson, Chris Wilson, Bryan Kehl, Kedric Golston, Cedric Griffin, David Jones, Tanard Jackson, Madieu Williams, Sav Rocca

The names that stick out from that list are Darrell Young, Fred Davis, Logan Paulsen, Nick Sundberg, Kory Lichtensteiger, Lorenzo Alexander, Rob Jackson, and Sav Rocca. The rest are likely to be allowed to walk, but I think the Redskins biggest decisions from their own personnel lie with these players.

Darrell Young is a player the coaching staff is big on. Teammates love the guy and he has been a very reliable player. Young is a restricted free agent, so the team has the advantage with him. Chances are they re-sign Young to a lengthy contract.

Fred Davis is a bit of a question mark. Coaches love the player. They kept him around this past season even though he faces a year-long suspension if he fails a drug test. It says a lot that they trusted him enough to keep him. But Davis' 2012 season was cut short with a torn achilles. There is an option of a tag but the TE tag price is getting higher every year. They may want to sign him long term sooner than later. There's a chance they let Davis walk but a greater chance they retain him.

Logan Paulsen came in this season after Davis went down and played very well. Not the most reliable pass-catcher there is, but he can catch, and he works through the middle of a defense nicely. He's an exceptional blocker and a tough player. Coaches love him. He won't be too expensive. He will be retained.

Nick Sundberg is the long-snapper, and coaches love him. He had some troubles early on but has gotten better over time through experience. I think there's a very low chance the team lets him walk.

Kory Lichtensteiger has played well for the Redskins under Mike Shanahan. He could be a pricey player, however. But he could also be a guy willing to take a discount or bonus-laden contract. I don't believe the team parts ways with Kory.

Lorenzo Alexander is going nowhere but the Pro Bowl for the Washington Redskins again next year.

Rob Jackson stepped in this season after Brian Orakpo hit IR for a torn pectoral. Jackson was one of the team's biggest playmakers on defense and was a big reason for the turnaround and 7-straight wins to lead the team to the first division title since 1999. He won't be a pricey contract, yet, but if he keeps playing at this level, he will be looking for/deserving of one. The Redskins will retain Jackson.

Sav Rocca will probably be let go. He had his worst year with the Redskins, granted he was injured for quite a while. He did manage to play better late in the stretch, and he's willing to tackle returners. The team can probably go younger and cheaper, however, so he may be a casualty. Not ruling out retaining his services, but it seems more likely the Redskins go another direction.

Some players the Redskins may decide to cut or restructure deals with? DeAngelo Hall, Santana Moss, Brian Orakpo, Brandon Meriweather, Roy Helu, Jr., Jammal Brown.


So what are the Redskins needs? From most important to least important:

Secondary
Offensive Line
Linebacker
Punter
Running Back

Secondary was a major concern for the Redskins in 2012. I mean, it was almost historically bad. Safety looks to be the biggest concern for the Redskins who will probably be parting ways with Tanard Jackson, Madieu Williams, and maybe even Brandon Meriweather. But the good news is, a lot of talent is likely to be available to the Redskins at Safety.

Dashon Goldson is likely to be kept by the San Francisco 49ers, which could result in SF making a cap-casualty of Donte Whitner. Whitner is exactly the kind of talent the Redskins are looking for, and more importantly, need. He's a much better option than the familiar LaRon Landry who probably won't be making a return to the Burgundy and Gold, and a more promising option than a Kenny Phillips. Jairus Byrd of Buffalo is set to become a Free Agent, but multiple sources indicate that the team will be using the franchise tag on Byrd as quickly as possible, and that he may even be locked into a long-term contract soon enough, using the tag to bide their time to hammer out the details. Should he hit the market, he would ultimately be the main target for the Redskins, who could also find themselves in the market for Pittsburgh's Ryan Mundy, who knows the scheme Washington runs as Jim Haslett suggests it's all the Steelers' scheme anyways. In the draft, many Redskins fans are hoping for D.J. Swearinger out of South Carolina, a dynamic young safety with speed, size, the ability to play the pass and the run, and make sure tackles.

At cornerback, the Redskins could (but may not) be looking at an Aqib Talib, Tracy Porter, or Brent Grimes, who fall in the pricier of targets. They could also be looking at Kelvin Hayden, Quentin Jammer, Mike Jenkins, Rashean Mathis, Leodis McKelvin, Sean Smith, and Cary Williams. All are guys with experience on the outside, which the Redskins want/need. Granted, Richard Crawford looked improved late in the year, they want that other guy in case they part ways with Hall or move him to safety. Another body never hurts. Leodis McKelvin, Sean Smith, and Kelvin Hayden are all viable options who won't command major money but can produce like a big-money player. Many are also hoping the Redskins go with someone in the draft, which will be full of corners this year, but outside of the top first-round talent, it's a little difficult to guess who is going to be better than good, and the Redskins right now need better than good.

Offensive line is a big need strictly because of how many positions are available. 2012-13 starters Kory Lichtensteiger and Tyler Polumbus are set to hit free agency, but as I said before, I believe the team likes Kory enough to bring him back. Polumbus, on the other hand, proved himself incapable, many times, of pass protection, and the Redskins have to be concerned with that as they evaluate him. Jammal Brown is almost expected to go as well, but his exit from the team would likely come with a price, and that's something the team dug themselves into. There are some FA's available who could do the job, but I expect Mike Shanahan to be looking for something long-term, and considering his zone-blocking scheme requires athletes opposed to the greatest of one-on-one maulers, he could settle for someone in the late rounds that he's comfortable with starting games immediately.

Linebacker is more a need of depth than a need of a superstar. I expect the Redskins to retain both Rob Jackson and Lorenzo Alexander, and they may keep Bryan Kehl who contributes on special teams as well as subs in on defense when the Skins go with their LB-heavy packages. An outside linebacker will be acquired one way or another, and while I believe coaches like Keenan Robinson and Perry Riley enough to man the middle after London Fletcher retires, I wouldn't put it past coaches to look at an ILB after injury almost cost Fletcher some games when the team was already without Robinson. I would look more towards the draft than Free Agency if I'm expecting the Redskins to grab an extra body at ILB for cheap.

Punter is an issue I bring up as a cause for concern because field position didn't do the Redskins a lot of favors in 2012 and it could be something that may have changed the early part of the year. Rocca was injured, however, and healing could help him return to the field. But there are plenty of "cheaper" options available, especially young talent. Also having Shane Lechler possibly due to hit the market and not make a return to the Oakland Raiders, it's always worth taking a look at a guy who can punt it further than anyone else. Or turn to a rookie, undrafted Free Agent after the draft...

Running Back isn't a big issue, but it's an issue nonetheless. The team has a decision to make with Roy Helu, Jr., and it's very possible they release the quick, young back. Evan Royster played a lot of snaps for the Redskins, but he made a lot of mistakes, and oftentimes made them more than once. He's not the most confident of blockers and he has been far from successful as a runner this year. Alfred Morris is a big bruiser who doesn't really contribute in the passing game. Coming off a year of being one of the most productive and physical rookie running backs ever, Mike may want to limit how much he throws on Morris as he tries to open the offense up some more to keep RGIII in the pocket. A receiving threat out of the backfield would be ideal, but where to turn? Reggie Bush is the best speedster available in free agency, but he could be looking for big-time money and big-time minutes, and I don't believe he'll find the latter here. The former, he could probably get for his ability to play in the backfield, at receiver, and contribute on special teams (he'd be a much better option than, say, Brandon Banks). New Orleans Saints running back Chris Ivory is also scheduled to hit the market. Passed over for the more dynamic Darren Sproles, Ivory's speed is a surprise for most because he's not that small. He's a decent pass-catcher and has the ability to make defenders miss in the open field, so he could be a suitable option. Jerome Harrison and Felix Jones are also possible options, but Harrison's inability to contribute in recent years could leave him out of the question and Jones is often injured and a we're still reeling from the ridiculous decision to field Tashard Choice here in Washington. There are also a lot of backs available in the draft, many of whom run pretty well and contribute to the ever-changing college game which is relying more heavily on pro-style offenses and passing.

So there are some of the many possibilities for the Redskins this offseason. Have we forgotten some options? Leave a comment and let us know what you think the Skins will do.

5 comments: