The Washington Redskins have many areas of need entering the 2014 NFL offseason. Chief among them is the coaching vacancies. Any additions to the roster will be determined by the philosophy, scheme, and direction of the new coaching staff. The Redskins also have a lot of salary cap space returning after two years of penalties, so free agents will be acquired.
The problems on the roster are mostly depth-related. Finding talent to build depth on the football team will improve the special teams’ performance next season. You can build a lot of depth through the draft, not just through Free Agency. It also is not mandatory to use all of the salary cap space afforded to us next season. It would be wise to leave space.
But before we address what positions need to be improved, it is wise to address several positions where you can keep a guy who is currently on the roster. The biggest name who will be heading into free agency is Brian Orakpo. While Orakpo spent his first season in Washington as a 4-3 OLB, he spent most of his time rushing the passer and attacking as a blitz option, and not sent out into coverage often. Orakpo also dealt with injury 2 of the 4 years he has played in the Redskins’ 3-4 defense, so his development was stunted as a result. But Orakpo has been good enough in coverage (something he really does do at least slightly more than his league-wide 3-4 OLB counterparts) and has been good enough vs. the run. Orakpo will command a lot of attention in free agency, as other teams do view him as a legit playmaker who commands their own offense’s attention. It would be wise to retain Orakpo, 27, by offering him a contract before he hits the market and inflates his price. Difficult to do considering the recent mismanagement of contracts given to pass rushers (Paul Krueger), but it can be done.
ILB Perry Riley needs to be retained. Riley will not be a highly expensive player, but his future role will command some guaranteed money. Riley has been groomed to become the next leader of the Washington Redskins’ defense, and Riley has shown he can make calls and plays on the field to be that guy. The key will be (if the Redskins remain in a 3-4 defense) to find someone to play alongside Riley in the middle of the defense now that London Fletcher is retiring and Keenan Robinson has not shown the ability to stay healthy for very long.
TE Fred Davis may be retained. Very little interest was shown in Davis last offseason, and he remained in Washington expecting his role to expand with a hot offense. Davis ended up in coach Mike Shanahan’s doghouse, and missed much of the season riding the bench. Davis has not been popular among coaches with his decision making off of the field, so a new coach may decide entirely to just avoid the guy, but a player like Davis can help this offense going forward, especially if paired with young sensation Jordan Reed (who has durability concerns of his own). Davis may also want to leave the organization behind entirely himself, so there are many factors for Davis that may not exist for others.
Now, some areas of concern? Every offensive line position besides LT. LG Kory Lichtensteiger is on a long contract, and while he has had his share of troubles in Washington, he would be worth retaining while grooming a young LG through the draft. Going out and filling all 4 positions with veteran FA talent would be unwise and counterproductive. LG is a position that is less of a need to address immediately with a quick-fix.
C Will Montgomery is in the same boat as Lichtensteiger. While he has underwhelmed, he was asked a lot this season to help aid RG Chris Chester in double teams, which were often beat. It is hard to determine if Montgomery or Chester are at fault for not being able to win 2-on-1 blocks, but Montgomery has at least shown he is a savvy, intelligent player. He could easily remain in the lineup while you address the needs on the right side of the line–widely and unanimously agreed to be the real needs.
RG Chris Chester needs to be out of here. He is not a reliable player and often got beat by defensive linemen who had absolutely no business posting the numbers they posted against the Redskins. Chris Chester got abused by Justin Tuck in both games against the New York Giants this season, and Tuck looked rather pedestrian in the other 14 games. There aren’t many RG’s hitting free agency this offseason, and the ones who are will be near or over 30 years old. One big-name guard is the Kansas City Chiefs’ Jon Asamoah, but he is likely to be retained by the Chiefs.
RT Tyler Polumbus was also bad, although not as bad as Chester. You do not want Polumbus one on one often, and many teams shifted their best pass rusher away from Trent Williams to take on Polumbus in order to get production. Polumbus is likely on his way out, but may remain for depth purposes if the team can find a free agent RT or even someone they like in the draft.
WR’s Josh Morgan and Santana Moss will be gone. Aldrick Robinson is not an outside receiver, and Leonard Hankerson has spent a lot of time injured and is not very productive. WR will be a major area of concern, and while you may be able to find a lot of talent in this year’s draft, going out and acquiring a free agent or two would be ideal. Denver Broncos WR Eric Decker will likely lead the pack, and making an offer to Decker would be a wise decision on the part of the Redskins. Also available will be Philadelphia Eagles’ WR Jeremy Maclin (likely retained), Giants’ Hakeem Nicks (often injured, and a concern about his selfishness), Tennessee Titans’ Kenny Britt (may also be retained), and Seattle Seahawks’ Golden Tate (viewed by many as an underachiever who may not reach his full potential). Chiefs’ all-purpose WR/part-time running back/KR/PR Dexter McCluster may also become available, and would be a key signing for any organization who can lure him in.
Defensively, both DE positions will need to be addressed, although one may be addressed through the draft. Jarvis Jenkins has not looked like what he was expected to be, but the entire defensive line has been underwhelming. NT Barry Cofield is a really good football player, and the emergence of DT Chris Baker is beneficial for the Redskins and gives them some breathing room if they move to the 4-3 or even remain in the 3-4. You may not NEED to spend big money on a free agent along the defensive line.
CB is expected to be addressed, but DeAngelo Hall has earned the right to remain a Redskin. David Amerson made rookie mistakes, but he played well in areas of concern that almost all had of him coming out of college. It remains to be seen if he will overcome all of his problems, but Amerson did show as the season progressed that he wouldn’t make the same mistakes often. With these two on the outside, the focus may turn to the nickelback. While Crawford may be a guy you can plug into that position and get results from, you could still seek out an option in free agency or the draft.
Safety needs to improve. Brandon Meriweather may be kept, and there are two young, learning safeties on the roster. Bacarri Rambo was not impressive as a rookie, but he had moments and games where he looked like he put it all together. The trick is doing it consistently. Philip Thomas was injured early, and did not get to play in a game and show his ability. While these guys may be your future, they are not proven and could learn from veterans. One name largely hoped for is Buffalo Bills’ Jairus Byrd. He may be tagged again, which may mean you would need to make a trade (likely a first round pick) to acquire him, but if he does indeed hit the market, expect the Washington Redskins to make a bid. Drafting a safety may not be extremely likely, but there is a lot of talent at safety entering the draft this year who could be selected by the Redskins.
The last position that will definitely be addressed will be punter. Sav Rocca has overstayed his welcome, not only on the Redskins, but in the league. Injuries continued to tear away at Rocca’s ability, but even when he was (listed as) healthy, Rocca was not performing well. Two years of underperforming will leave Rocca out of a job (at least in Washington if he doesn’t retire) and the Redskins will be pressed to seek out a new option. Pat McAfee from the Indianapolis Colts is expected to hit the market, but the Colts will likely retain the punter going forward. The Redskins may need to look at drafting a punter (not a popular move, but there is Patrick O’Donnell from the Miami Hurricanes who is the nation’s best punter and an exceptional athlete, which always helps matters). Besides, punter is OBVIOUSLY a need for the Redskins and one that proved to be a key breakdown in 2013, so the Redskins may have to pay a larger price for the guy they want to help them improve and succeed.
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