The Washington Redskins have made several key additions in free agency this offseason to address glaring holes on offense and defense. Many of these players will not only make the final 53-man roster, they will also become opening day starters. The question to ask now is who will make the greatest impact for the Redskins.
Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan were the first two players to sign with the Redskins after free agency opened back in March. Both players will compete for wide receiver jobs and Garcon is already penciled in as a starter. With elite vertical speed, Garcon is positioned to have a stellar year as the number one option in Washington.
Garcon possesses similar tools to Robert Griffin III's favorite weapon at Baylor, Kendall Wright. A stellar blend of speed and reliable hands makes Garcon a friendly target for Washington's new quarterback. However, incumbents like Fred Davis and Santana Moss will give RG3 plenty of options and may inhibit Garcon's overall impact.
After addressing the offense, the Redskins turned their sights to the other side of the ball with their next wave of free agents. Bruce Allen brought in seven free agents to compete in Jim Haslett's defense: Brandon Meriweather (S), Cedric Griffin (CB) , Madieu Williams (S), Leigh Torrence (CB), Tanard Jackson (S), Bryan Kehl (LB), and Jonathan Goff (LB). Torrence was cut earlier this month, but the focus on defense still remains in bolstering the Redskins' secondary.
With the departure of Oshiomogho Atogwe (Eagles) and Laron Landry (Jets), the Redskins made a point to address both safety positions by bringing in three veteran free agents. The Redskins also added Buccaneers former head coach, Raheem Morris, to be the new defensive backs coach. I believe the safety position is where Redskins' fans will see the greatest immediate, and long-term impact, from a 2012 free agent.
Tanard Jackson was a fourth-round pick of the Buccaneers in 2007 and quickly developed into a reliable starter. Jackson made a big leap in 2009 by registering 59 tackles and five interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) in just 12 games. However, Jackson made the biggest mistake of his career in 2010 by failing his second drug test, earning him a year long suspension.
Jackson's off the field problems eventually led to him being released this offseason, but now he is back with his old head coach. The Redskins have a huge hole at the safety position right now and Jackson appears to have the inside lane for a starting job at free safety. With Morris' coaching and an elite NFL pass rush, Jackson will make the greatest impact of all the 2012 free agents in Washington.
Prior to his yearlong suspension, Jackson had blossomed into a game-changing safety, in just his third season. I expect Jackson to return to his old form and provide solid coverage along with crucial turnovers. The biggest concerns for Jackson will be his ability to stay out of trouble and off Roger Goddel's radar.
While Jackson's past is clearly a concern, his most recent suspension will serve as his biggest motivator. After sitting out for 16 games, Jackson is aware that he is one misstep away from seeing the end of his NFL career.
One of the biggest helps Jackson will receive this season will be the Redskins' emerging pass rush. With Kerrigan and Orakpo on the outsides, and Jenkins, Cofield, and Bowen up front, Jackson will be able to play as a roaming safety. Rather than being matched up on a single receiver, Jackson will have the opportunity to watch the quarterback and create turnovers.
At first glance, Pierre Garcon appears to be the likely free agent to deliver the greatest impact in Washington. But with a new quarterback and a plethora of receiving options, it is hard to say that any one receiver will have an overwhelming impact.
Jackson is keyed for a starting job at safety, and is looking to capitalize on lost time. With one of the more underrated front sevens in football, the Redskins will be able to generate consistent pressure without blitzing their secondary. This sets up Jackson to have a great season and become a new anchor in the secondary for years to come.