Washington Redskins Chatter: Fact or Fiction Ahead of the Start of Free Agency
There's one more week until free-agent rumors are quickly replaced with concrete reality.
Last offseason, the Washington Redskins were silenced by cap penalties that prevented them from improving a roster just one year removed from winning the NFC East.
The trickle-down effects in 2013 included a 3-13 season, a fired head coach and major holes at key positions.
But 2014 is a new year. With approximately $30 million of cap space to work with, expect general manager Bruce Allen and new head coach Jay Gruden to bust out of the free-agency gates with guns blazing.
For better or worse, Allen and Co. will enter this weekend with a well-thought-out plan and execute it swiftly.
Let's play a little fact or fiction with the latest chatter involving the Burgundy and Gold before free agency begins on March 11.
All stats and player information courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference unless otherwise noted.
Major Moves Will Be Made in the Secondary
The Redskins successfully re-signed cornerback DeAngelo Hall, but that was just the beginning.
With a gaping void at safety and paper-thin depth behind Hall and fellow corner David Amerson, there are various avenues in which Washington can rebuild its secondary. Below is a list of both high-end and cost-effective candidates:
|Jairus Byrd||BUF||S||27||Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 in Buffalo reported Sunday that the Bills are unlikely to tag Byrd, meaning his days with the team could be numbered. He will be the top safety in free agency.|
|Chris Clemons||MIA||S||28||CSN Washington's Rich Tandler thinks Clemons is a player the Redskins will have an interest in.|
|Vontae Davis||IND||CB||25||Signs point to Davis staying with the Indianapolis Colts, but according to The Indianapolis Star's Stephen Holder, a deal is "far from imminent." Davis is a D.C. native.|
|Mike Mitchell||CAR||S||26||The MMQB's Greg Bedard lists the Redskins as being the best fit for Mitchell.|
|Aqib Talib||NE||CB||28||The Washington Post's Mike Jones told Bleacher Report over a month ago that he expects the Redskins to target Talib. Allen and some of the coaches know Talib extremely well.|
However the front office decides to tackle the secondary, one thing is clear: Big changes are coming.
Offensive Line Is a Free-Agency Focal Point
Last Friday, former Redskins general manager Charley Casserly said on the NFL Network that beefing up the offensive line to protect quarterback Robert Griffin III should be a priority for Washington in free agency (via Rich Tandler of CSN Washington):
If you think of Gruden in Cincinnati, they had a much bigger offensive line than what he's inheriting in Washington. So they need to get bigger to be able to drop-back pass better. They don't have a first-round pick so in free agency look for them to come roaring out of there in free agency for offensive line help.
Casserly is spot on—improving the light offensive line is on par with remaking the secondary. Now the question is which free agents will be fielding calls from Bruce Allen.
From a familiarity standpoint, the Cincinnati Bengals' Anthony Collins is a logical target to replace Tyler Polumbus at right tackle. Collins (6'6", 308 lbs) played for Gruden in Cincinnati and showed an ability to play both left and right tackle.
Another intriguing name is Kansas City Chiefs guard Geoff Schwartz, who is thought of by many as the best guard on the free-agent market. Tandler has the 27-year-old on his list of free agents the Redskins could sign.
Schwartz, ironically, spent part of last month working as an intern at ESPN 980 in Washington D.C., the radio home of the Redskins:
Thanks @ESPNRadio980 for putting up with me the last two weeks...Also not letting me know my polo was inside out all day today! Enjoyed it— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) February 28, 2014
On his last day at the station, Schwartz talked about his impending free agency on ESPN 980's Inside the Locker Room. The Denver Broncos and New York Giants came up as potential suitors, but when asked if he's heard anything from the Redskins, Schwartz replied, "No, unless my agent didn't tell me."
Teams can't officially start negotiating with players until March 8, so it's possible that Washington could have interest in the mammoth 6'6", 332-pounder. But if it does, it'll have to get in line.
Other names to watch include Cleveland Browns prized center Alex Mack and Chiefs guard Jon Asamoah. Last month, The Washington Post's Mark Bullock took an in-depth look at both of these players, as well as Cincinnati's Collins.
Washington will also look to bolster the O-line in May's NFL draft, but identifying experienced linemen to keep Griffin upright starts next week.
Kenny Britt Would Be a Nice Fit in D.C.
New coach Jay Gruden likes his receivers to be able to block. Although Britt was benched multiple times for effort reasons in Tennessee, he once was a willing blocker and destroyed opposing defensive backs on occasion at Rutgers.
Do the Redskins really want to spend any amount of money on a guy whose track record since being in the league includes multiple arrests, a torn ACL and questions about on-field effort?
In 12 games last season, Britt caught 11 balls for 96 yards and zero touchdowns.
In a perfect world, Washington would have been able to pry Anquan Boldin out of San Francisco on a two-year deal, but according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Boldin and the Niners are closing in on a new contract.
The Redskins will acquire a veteran receiver in free agency, but keep an eye on what happens in May.
Wide receiver in this year's draft is so deep that the Redskins could be sitting at No. 34 overall with a legit chance to snag FSU's Kelvin Benjamin, Oregon State speedster Brandin Cooks or even USC's Marqise Lee. If those options fall through, Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews may be around at the top of the third round.
Bottom line: There will be plenty of options at receiver for Washington this offseason—most without the headaches that Britt would potentially bring.
Linval Joseph to the Redskins?
The MMQB's Greg Bedard ranked his top 100 free agents before the start of the new league year. At No. 10 was Giants defensive tackle Linval Joseph:
An emerging DT in a 4-3 scheme, Joseph also appeals to 3-4 teams looking for a nose or end to play both gaps. Joseph gives teams options, so he'll be popular.
Bedard went on to list Washington as the best fit for Joseph, noting: "You'd think the Giants will try to retain him, but if they don't, Redskins could pounce."
It feels like we've seen this movie before.
Three years ago, the Redskins plucked defensive tackle Barry Cofield away from the Giants and their 4-3 defense to play nose tackle in the 3-4. Cofield's been reliable health-wise, but at 6'3", 305 pounds, he hasn't exactly been an ideal fit for what he's asked to do.
Joseph (6'4", 328 lbs) is bigger than Cofield and could likely play nose or end as Bedard suggests, but he won't come cheap.
For as sweet as it would be to weaken a division rival, the Giants are probably more inclined to try to keep the 25-year-old Joseph over 30-year-old defensive end Justin Tuck, who is also an unrestricted free agent.
Add all that to the fact that the Redskins re-signed defensive tackle Chris Baker to a three-year deal worth $12 million last week, via ESPN's Adam Schefter.
While it wouldn't be a bad acquisition, the likelihood of Joseph coming to Washington seems unlikely.
Kirk Cousins Gets the Trade He Desires
Redskins backup quarterback Kirk Cousins hasn't been shy about his desire to start for another NFL team in 2014, via MLive.com's Peter J. Wallner:
I feel it's a win-win for me. If I were to get traded and get an opportunity to start somewhere, that'd be a great thing for me. But if I'm back with the Redskins, I enjoy it in D.C., I enjoy the fan base and the organization and I love my teammates.
A trade's not happening, Kirk.
Failure to employ a competent backup quarterback is a recipe for disaster in the NFL. Without one, a season can get derailed before it even starts.
For a team with depth issues, Washington's quarterback situation is rock-solid and affordable. Per OvertheCap.com, Cousins and starter Robert Griffin III's combined 2014 cap number is only $6,447,926.
Comparably, Dallas' Tony Romo will make $21,773,000 this upcoming season. The Giants' Eli Manning will collect $20,400,000.
Instead of worrying about getting value for Cousins, the Redskins brass should embrace him and take advantage of the fact that they're paying peanuts for the most important position on the team for at least the next two seasons.
Unless a team is willing to give up a first- or second-round pick—and no team is—why part ways with a bargain of an insurance policy for Griffin? It's convenient to forget that Cousins' heroics at the end of the 2012 season were a major contributing factor toward the Redskins winning their first NFC East title in 13 years.
Cousins' time will come—he may even play man of the hour at some point this upcoming season—but it doesn't behoove Washington to trade away what could be a vital piece should Griffin go down.
Perry Riley Jr. Will Be Re-Signed
The Redskins and linebacker Perry Riley Jr. both know deep down that they need each other, but it may take a few days into free agency before publicly admitting it.
Riley has been groomed to take over the defensive play-calling from the retired London Fletcher. Losing him would mean starting from scratch at both inside linebacker positions and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett having to rely on a player who's never been in his system to call the plays.
Riley, like all players who hit the free-agent market, has earned the right to talk to other teams and gauge his worth. Last month, The Washington Post's Mike Jones reported that league insiders expect the 25-year-old Riley to seek a deal worth an ambitious $7 million annually—similar to what Dannell Ellerbe received from Miami in 2013.
Unfortunately for Riley, his team is coming off a three-win season. Ellerbe was just over a month removed from winning a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens before cashing in with the Miami Dolphins.
The Redskins are probably willing to give Riley a little more than what he's worth to keep him in burgundy and gold, but nothing's for certain until the other 31 teams have spoken.
And when they do, it's likely that logic sets in and Riley stays put.
Will Rak Be Back?
The Redskins like Orakpo and would prefer to keep him. But some in the organization are said to be wary that retaining him is too expensive.— MarkMaske (@MarkMaske) March 1, 2014
A decision on whether or not to use the franchise tag must be made by Monday at 4 p.m. ET.
Whether or not the Redskins keep Orakpo will considerably alter the way they approach free agency. Stay tuned.