The Redskins have yet to address their offensive line this offseason and with their 1st and 2nd round picks (plus their first the next two years) going to finding a new QB (presumably Robert Griffin), their draft options are limited. While most of the top free agent options have already found new homes there are a few targets still out there for Washington.
Demetrius Bell– Bell is considered the top tackle left on the market, and while that in and of itself isn’t saying much, he does possess good starting potential, and the ability to help out at either tackle spot.
Pluses: Bell is young (28 next season), and was very impressive at LT for the Bills last season. He’d be a huge upgrade over Jammal Brown, and could even play LT if Trent Williams gets injured/suspended in the future.
Negatives: While Bell was very good for the Bills last year, it was really only about 40% of the season, as a knee injury and shoulder injury limited him to just 7 games. Bell also has further injuries in the past, and had to have surgery on his knee after the season. Another concern, is that he is basically a one year (or part of) wonder, as he wasn’t nearly as effective in 2010 or 2009. Cost could also be a concern, as while the injury history and lack of a consistent history should depress his market, the lack of tackles available could still land him a pretty decent sized contract.
What it will take to sign him: The Skins really shouldn’t go beyond 5 years $25-27.5 million deal, given the risk. And with that the guaranteed money should be under $10 million.
Tony Pashos– Pashos is no better than a stopgap option, but he had a solid year for the Browns last season and should come fairly cheaply. He is coming off an injury, but as long as it wouldn’t cost to much he’d be at least a league average RT.
Marcus McNeil- McNeil is a former two time Pro Bowl LT, who is still fairly young. Unfortunately his play fell off big time last year, and he missed a good amount of time due to a neck injury. Exactly how much the Redskins could reasonably count on him is unclear, but if he’s healthy you could get a pretty good talent at a bargain basement price. Unfortunately that could be a big if.
Kareem McKenzie– McKenzie is coming to the end of his career, but he could have one more solid year in him. He had a down year for the Giants last season, due in part to some knee problems, but if they check out he could offer a minor upgrade.
Jake Scott– Scott is the best guard still on the free agent market and would be a nice addition to the Skins. While not elite, or great, Scott brings a lot of experience and ability to the table. He’s the type of player that if you sign to a 4 year deal, he’ll give you one good year, two above average years, and one average to below average year.
Pluses: Scott has been extremely durable starting 16 games each of the last 7 years. Scott is also widely thought of as a very good pass blocker, which is key given that the Redskins threw the ball 62% of the time last season. Scott also fits the typical zone blocking style of blocker, at 6’5″, 292. He also shouldn’t be too expensive, making him a potential value signing.
Negatives: Scott doesn’t have too many negatives, but they are there. He is 31, so this is more of a 3-4 year fix, just to protect Robert Griffin as he’s developing. He also isn’t as strong as a run blocker, which could be a slight issue if the Redskins look to become more balanced with a more mobile QB. Scott has also been penalty happy in the past (though he wasn’t last season)
What it will take to sign him: It shouldn’t take more than 4-5 years at $4-4.5 million a year to land Scott at this point. Given his consistency, I’d say he’s well worth that investment.
Vernon Carey– Carey for a long time was one of the best right tackles in the game for the Dolphins, but after having a medicore 2010, Miami moved him inside (bad idea considering Marc Colombo handled RT). Carey didn’t perform much better on the interior, but he still wasn’t bad. Carey does offer versatility to play either guard position or right tackle, which is a big plus. Given his recent downward trend and him turning 31 this summer, he’s by no means a long term solution. But at a moderate price he could be a great short term option for the Skins, even if he doesn’t earn the starting role. It’s also worth noting that the year he was drafted in the 1st round, OL coach Chris Foerster was Miami’s offensive coordinator, making it very likely that he signed off on the pick.
Eric Steinbach– Steinbach two years ago would have been considered one of the best guards on the market (and a top 10 guard in the NFL), but a back injury forced him to miss all of last season, which came directly after his 2010 campaign, his worst as a pro. While the door shouldn’t close on Steinbach just yet, there is a bit of an injury risk. On the plus side he is a sub-300lbs guard, who when healthy fits the Redskins zone-blocking scheme pretty well. Steinbach is a classic high risk/high reward signing, as even with a cheaper contract, if he were to miss significant time, the Redskins depth could be strained.
Chilo Rachal– Rachal is the one young option out there, as he will turn just 26 this season. He was under offensive line coach Chris Foerster in 2008-9 in San Francisco, so there is definitely familiarity there. Rachal was a 2nd round pick in 2008, and became the 49ers starting RG for the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Last year he opened the season as their starting guard, but was replaced due to ineffectiveness after the 3rd game. When he got some limited opportunities after that he did nothing to distinguish himself. At his best Rachal looks like a good starter who really excels in the ground game. He’s been okay pass blocking, but it is definitely his weakness (that and committing penalties). The real question for the Redskins is was last year’s ineffectiveness due to not fitting in with the new staff ? The long lockout? Or is it a sign of things to come? At the very least he’d be an interesting option to the mix, but even with a young age, the Redskins shouldn’t look to commit too much money.
Dan Koppen: Koppen prior to fracturing his ankle in the first game this past season, had started 79 of the Patriots last 80 regular season games. He’s a former Pro Bowl player, who is well thought of as a leader.
Pluses: Koppen fits the zone blocking scheme, with nice size and quickness. He’s also a strong run blocker, who rarely commits penalties. He’s well thought of as a leader, and comes from a winning tradition. He would provide pretty good leadership for a rookie QB, and could help ease his transition into the NFL.
Negatives: Koppen is coming off a bad ankle injury, and while he should be recovered, he might not be as quick as before. Also he’ll be turning 33 early in the season. You might get one or two good years out of him, but that is about it. He also is at best just a marginal upgrade over Will Montgomery.
What it will take to sign him: Koppen can still start in this league and should be looking for a 3 or 4 year deal. I would guess given his pedigree, he can still get about $4 million+ a season. That is probably a bit pricey for the Skins.
Jason Brown: There isn’t much of a way to sugarcoat it, as Jason Brown has been pretty awful the past two seasons in St. Louis, and is considered a huge bust of a free agent signing for the Rams. While normally a guy with the last two seasons he’s had should be crossed off your Free Agent wish list, but there are a few things in his favor. Brown was drafted by the Ravens and Foerster was his first offensive line coach, one that helped mold him into what many thought was one of the best young centers in the league when he hit free agency after the 2008 season. He also has some familiarity with working next to Chris Chester, which can be a plus. Brown will be just 29 next year, and has the versatility to play any of the three interior line positions. He shouldn’t be considered a starter off the bat (though he could earn that job), but signing him to a cheap 1-3 year back-up deal makes some sense.
Given the risk involved with all the tackles, I’d probably pass on them, and look to sign a pair of the remaining players. Jake Scott would be the logical top target in terms of talent. Vernon Carey‘s ability to help out at RT could be key, especially if the Skins look to draft one in the 3rd or 4th round. Carey could hold down the position, until the rookie was ready to take over. Rachal and Brown have strong familiarity with the Skins line coach. Rachal has the starting upside and Brown would offer the versatility to back-up three positions. Some of the other guys are worth a look, but I’d primarily focus on landing two of Scott, Carey, Rachal and Brown (all at the right price).