Moves the Washington Redskins Will Regret Not Making This Offseason
It's difficult for fans of the Washington Redskins to find fault in the offseason that general manager Bruce Allen has put together.
Allen made it a point to take care of the players already in the program. He's been strategic in adding cost-effective pieces to improve the special teams. And when an opportunity came to land a big fish like wide receiver DeSean Jackson, he did it—without breaking the bank.
The reality, however, is that this team was 3-13 last season. If Rome wasn't built in a day, these Redskins certainly won't be fully constructed in one offseason.
There are still areas of this roster that are a far cry from being playoff-caliber. Allen has done his best, but let's break down the moves that Washington has not made and how they may affect the type of season new head coach Jay Gruden and Co. will have in 2014.
Addressing Right Tackle
Quarterback Robert Griffin III has arguably the best set of offensive weapons in football. But does it mean anything if the offensive line cannot protect him?
Incumbent right tackle Tyler Polumbus actually improved last season after a dismal 2012 campaign. Still, the Redskins cannot afford to feel comfortable with him as the clear-cut starter in 2014, especially with no depth in sight.
The NFL draft is an opportunity for Washington to add some competition for Polumbus. It’s also possible that the front office could acquire a veteran tackle via trade.
Standing pat, though, will be a recipe for disaster.
Last season under Gruden’s direction, the Cincinnati Bengals’ offensive line allowed a league-low 47 hits to quarterback Andy Dalton. Gruden will preach to Griffin the importance of avoiding unnecessary shots, but that message is much more effective with the proper personnel in place.
Signing Safety Mike Mitchell
The Redskins’ current starting safeties are Brandon Meriweather and Ryan Clark.
Meriweather is one more illegal hit away from being suspended for a substantial amount of time.
Clark, 34, will provide Washington with much-needed leadership—but how much does he have left in the tank?
The Redskins did identify a young, experienced starter who could have stabilized their thinnest position, but they let him slip away.
Safety Mike Mitchell—whom the Redskins did express interest in during free agency, per The Washington Post’s Mike Jones—ended up signing a five-year, $25 million deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers. ESPN.com’s Scott Brown broke down the cap-friendly deal:
Mitchell’s cap hit in 2014 will be just $2.2 million, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and the guaranteed money in his contract is just $5.25 million, with $4.75 million from his signing bonus plus a $500,000 roster bonus due in April.
The 26-year-old Mitchell started 13 games last season for the Carolina Panthers. He tallied 66 tackles, three-and-a-half sacks and four interceptions for the NFL’s second-ranked defense.
Recognizing there were, and still are, several holes to fill on the roster, it’s curious that Washington didn’t make a more aggressive attempt at locking in an affordable starting safety in the prime of his career.
Replacing London Fletcher
In addition to re-signing their own Perry Riley Jr., the Redskins also acquired three free-agent linebackers who can all contribute on special teams: Adam Hayward, Darryl Sharpton and Akeem Jordan.
Sharpton started eight games last season for the Houston Texans. Jordan started 10 for the Kansas City Chiefs. Both are candidates to play alongside Riley this season, but neither should be considered the heir apparent to the recently retired London Fletcher.
If Washington is going to fill Fletcher's shoes in 2014, it needs to happen in the NFL draft. And without trying to sound like a broken record, Wisconsin’s Chris Borland is the guy.
From size to instincts, Borland is similar to Fletcher in so many ways, it’s eerie. He’s hard-working and possesses great character. Borland also played in a 3-4 defense in college and can provide much-needed help on special teams.
NFL Media draft expert Mike Mayock referred to Borland as a “sawed-off” Luke Kuechley, via NFL.com’s Mike Huguenin. I’d say that’s high praise.
The Redskins will need to address the offensive line and the secondary with two of their first three picks in the draft, and it’s anybody’s guess which position they attack first. Just know that an ideal replacement for Fletcher is out there if Washington wants him.
Kudos to the Redskins brass for keeping cornerback DeAngelo Hall in D.C.
Hall, despite his penchant for inopportune personal-foul penalties and risk-taking, has matured throughout his time in Washington and will be called on to lead the defense in 2014. He's no spring chicken, though.
Aside from the 30-year-old Hall, Washington has a mix of largely unproven young guys (David Amerson, Richard Crawford) and run-of-the-mill veterans (Tracy Porter, E.J. Biggers). Any way you slice it, corner is still a concern.
It's nearly impossible for a three-win team to patch up every hole in an offseason, but should Hall have to miss any time in 2014, the Redskins secondary will be, in a word, vulnerable. The pressure is firmly on the Redskins offense to put up 28-plus points weekly.
Releasing Guard Chris Chester
According to Over The Cap, Washington would save $2.7 million by releasing guard Chris Chester this offseason. Based on his performance in 2013, such a move may be necessary.
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The numbers suggest the 31-year-old’s play is regressing, and new blood is needed. The Redskins signed guard Shawn Lauvao to a surprisingly lucrative four-year deal worth $17 million this offseason, via ESPN's Adam Schefter. Lauvao is a better pass-blocker than Chester, but he struggles in the run game as last season’s minus-12.9 run-block grade, per PFF, indicates.
Washington needs a versatile interior lineman who can do it all. The easy solution is to acquire one through the draft but—even after the front-office's stellar offseason—the needs still outweigh the allotted draft picks and salary-cap space that remains.
All statistics and player information are courtesy of NFL.com unless otherwise noted.