Best and Worst Moves Made by Washington Redskins in Free Agency
It's been a relatively low-key start to free agency for Jay Gruden and his Washington team, but fans will draw some comfort from this.
Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen forewent the big-name signings and focused on the draft, and despite the cap space available, that diligence seems to be continuing with the new regime.
That's not to say that every move has been laudable or readily understandable. The following pages look at the best and the worst moves made by Gruden and the front office so far.
Note: All salary information is taken from Spotrac.com.
Best: Jason Hatcher (from Dallas Cowboys)
Jason Hatcher was signed from bitter rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, on a four-year, $27.5 million contract. For a player who will be 32 by the time the season starts, that seems like an awful waste of money.
However, it's unlikely that Hatcher will see out the contract to it's full extent, so the deal is backloaded from a cap hit of $3.75 million in 2014 to $9.75 million in 2017. Hatcher will bring aggressiveness and an additional pass rush from the defensive line, something which Washington lacked in 2013.
In addition to this, Hatcher will be expected to carry responsibilities befitting a senior player while younger players like Jarvis Jenkins and Chris Baker grow into their roles.
...We’ve been talking about addressing [the defensive line] to make sure we have at least six bodies, so they’re fresh and they’re pass-rushers. The last couple years, they’ve been run-stuffers that don’t give you much help in the pass.
Hatcher certainly fits that mold, and Jim Haslett will look to make use of a player who registered a career-high 11 sacks in 2013.
Worst: Tracy Porter (from Oakland Raiders)
He may have won a Super Bowl with New Orleans in 2009, but Tracy Porter has been a backup and a bust with his last two teams. The fact that he counts more toward the cap in 2014 than DeAngelo Hall makes this signing very questionable indeed.
Porter will no doubt compete with second-year player David Amerson for Josh Wilson's spot, and it's hard to see a situation whereby Porter gets the nod. While Amerson didn't storm the league in 2013, he made some plays when his team needed him, including an interception returned for a touchdown against Oakland, and he looks to have a good future ahead of him.
Porter, meanwhile, sat on the bench in Denver in 2012 and got burned repeatedly in Oakland last year. While he is still just 27, Washington is his fourth home in four years, which suggests a player unable to make his mark.
Best: Andre Roberts (from Arizona Cardinals)
Washington needed a receiving option outside of Pierre Garcon, and in Arizona's Andre Roberts, it found one. Roberts has operated as a No. 2 receiver opposite Larry Fitzgerald, as well as catching passes from the slot. Crucially, he has excelled at both.
While the signing of Roberts doesn't give Gruden the big, powerful player to take hits and make catches over the middle—Leonard Hankerson hasn't proved himself and faces a long recovery—it does add further wrinkles to the Gruden offense.
With Jordan Reed likely to catch more passes in 2014, he will also draw more attention. His breakout game against the Bears in Week 8 last year proved that he can dominate a defense, so Roberts will likely be the one to benefit.
Speaking to John Keim of ESPN.com, Roberts was enthusiastic about the time he spent with Gruden:
He was telling me about his style of coaching and what he likes to do and how he likes to use players. I think we’ll be passing more than running. We’ll have plenty of talent at the running back and receiver position for Robert to throw the ball around a little bit.
Although fans may scream that it was the running game that caused opponents problems last year, the whole offense will certainly benefit from a little more balance. Drops, poor route running and poor throws were a feature of the 2013 passing attack, which cannot be repeated if Gruden is to turn this team around.
Signing Roberts is the first step toward doing just that.
Worst: Shawn Lauvao (from Cleveland Browns)
Although this could prove to be a very useful signing, the fact that Shawn Lauvao commanded a contract worth $17 million over four years causes many doubts to creep into the mind.
At 26, 6'3" and 315 pounds, Lauvao is a good size to fill the hole along the interior of the offensive line. Nevertheless, he's only six pounds heavier than Chris Chester, and at times last year, he was an absolute liability in the running game for Cleveland.
It's his abilities in pass protection that Gruden wanted, however, and in that area, he offers an upgrade over Chester or Kory Lichtensteiger. With 2012 draft picks Josh LeRibeus and Adam Gettis failing to make an impression, there is a real need for competent guards who can protect the franchise quarterback.
Lauvao can do that, and Mark Bullock of The Washington Post did a good job highlighting his strengths, but the feeling persists that Allen and Gruden overpaid for a player who has shown nothing beyond potential during his four years in the league so far.
Best: Perry Riley (Re-Signed)
Brian Orakpo may have been the player worthy of the franchise tag and just shy of $11.5 million for 2014, but Perry Riley was the one player Washington couldn't afford to lose. Gaining his continued loyalty for a price of $13 million over three years was a good deal for both parties, too.
With the retirement of London Fletcher and the ongoing saga of Keenan Robinson's injuries, the loss of Riley would have meant there was no one at inside linebacker who could be relied upon to lead the defense and protect the secondary.
For a team that consistently failed to wrap up tackles or stop the run last year, that was an incredibly worrying prospect.
Riley is the sort of player that Haslett needs on his defense, especially if the plan is to draft another starting ILB. Riley is committed to doing the simple things well, which combined with a good instinct for the ball, makes him a trustworthy contributor.
Those aren't exciting qualities, but Haslett needs them in abundance if there is to be a rookie taking the field alongside Riley next year. Stanford's Shayne Skov and Wisconsin's Chris Borland are names being thrown around in reference to the nation's capital. Riley would be the perfect mentor for either of them, just as Fletcher was the perfect mentor for him.
Unflashy but consistently underrated, Riley could prove to be the most important signing Gruden makes in 2014.