The Redskins track record in free agency or in re-signing their own players is to strike early and not give other teams a real shot at them. This has led the Redskins to “win” a number of their top targets in free agency and not let their own players hit the open market, but it’s also led to a number of bust free agent signings and wasted money. While many people think that the time of the free spending Redskins and contracts they regret ended with Vinny Cerrato’s firing, the fact is it’s still been going on.
In 2011 the Redskins signed S O.J. Atogwe before the lockout taking advantage of the fact that he was released and he could be locked up before the start of the league year (and the lockout). Unfortunately after the lockout and the salary cap reduction, his contract looked really bad by comparison, and the Redskins had to cut him the next season. They would have probably cut him regardless, but they ended up paying extra money in 2011 and 2012 dead money because of their rushing to sign him. Now it is tough to criticize the regular 2011 free agency period too much since it was so late due to the lockout, but the Redskins rushed to sign Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen, Chris Chester, and Josh Wilson in the first couple days of free agency. They also re-signed RT Jammal Brown, who was coming off a down year and a number of injuries. Of those 5 players only Cofield has proved worthy of the contract, and the others have become liabilities against the cap. If the Redskins let the market set itself a bit more perhaps they could have avoided one or more of these contracts. Maybe they would have missed out on a player or two, but they could have perhaps found a cheaper option instead.
Things didn’t change too much in 2012. Even with the Redskins facing a major cap hit, the Redskins didn’t change their strategy. They re-signed players Will Montgomery and Adam Carriker to 4 year deals, tendered Fred Davis the franchise player and in the first two days of free agency gave out big contracts to Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan and Brandon Meriweather. Let’s look at each situation: Will Montgomery was coming off a good year, but he was journey man player though-out his career. His average of $3 million a year isn’t bad, but due to the cap penalty and the Redskins wanting to spend big, the way they structured the contract now hurts them more than it should. Carriker was a former first round bust from the Rams, who had turned in a pair of average seasons for the Redskins the previous two years. Players with similar or better profiles were signing for 2-3 years and $2.5-4 million a year averages. The Skins decided to give Carriker a 4 year $20 million deal. Even if he had been healthy these past two seasons this would have been a bad deal and a waste of money. Making Fred Davis your franchise player was also a crazy move. Davis was coming off his”best season”, but even that season was filled with drops, disappearing for long stretches, poor blocking and bad route running. On top of all of that he was suspended the last 4 games of the year due to repeated substance abuse violations. That is not a profile of a guy that you franchise. His market probably was going to be fairly small, and he likely wouldn’t have signed a deal worth the Franchise tender. Even if he did go to another team, it really wouldn’t have been a loss for the Redskins (and that was pretty clear at the time).
As for the free agents the Redskins signed in 2012, Pierre Garcon was signed for top 10 WR money and the 2nd highest free agent deal that offseason. He’s come close to justifying it, but it was a lot of money to spend on a WR who had never cracked 1,000 yards and would never really be a top 10 WR. The other two big signings didn’t make any sense at all. Josh Morgan had flashed a little potential in San Francisco, but he was coming off a broken leg that wiped out much of his previous season and he wasn’t even going to be ready for OTA’s. Morgan had never shown that he was a star and had never cracked 750 receiving yards. He’s the type of guy you take a flier on with a cheaper deal. He’s definitely not a guy you give $12 million to over 2 years. If the Redskins had waited for the market to set they likely would have gotten Morgan at a far reduced price. Meriweather was another player that didn’t make sense to invest good money in. He had a bad track record in New England for streaky play and a penchant for getting penalties for his big hits. He was benched and subsequently cut by Bill Belicheck due to his unwillingness to play within their system. The Bears and Lovie Smith took a shot at him the next year, but the same issues occurred and they benched him pretty early on. Meriweather couldn’t even regain his starting job in Chicago, when the Bears top two safeties were out. The Redskins gave him $6 million over 2 years despite the fact that two of the top defensive minds in the game said he couldn’t play for them. If you sign a guy like Meriweather it should have been for between $1-1.5 million over one year, not a two year deal at 3 times the price.
The Redskins didn’t have a lot of cap room in 2013, but that didn’t stop them from making some bizarre moves. Instead of using what money they had to bring in a free agent or two, they closed ranks and basically just re-signed everyone. The Redskins handed out a 5 year $17.5 million deal to G Kory LIchtensteiger. Lichtensteiger was a favorite of Mike Shanahan, but his market was going to be severely limited (if it was there at all). He’s viewed as a zone guy only and a very small one at that. Most teams weren’t going to be interested, and it’s doubtful that many would have seen him as a starter. Licht was coming off a season where he gave up 10 penalties and was seen as a liability. The year before that he tore his ACL and MCL, making long term deals quite a risk. If the Redskins let the market set itself for Lichtensteiger, it’s likely he would have signed for a 2-3 year deal with an average closer to $2 million. Lichtensteiger wasn’t the only odd signing of the year. They also once again jumped aboard the Fred Davis train, despite the fact that he was coming off an Achilles injury and his status for the start of the season was in question. Given that the Bills were offering a two year deal with a total package a little over $3 million. The Redskins offered Davis $2.5 million plus incentives for one year. The Redskins offered Davis more money essentially for 1 season, and it was a season that was highly in doubt due to the injury. There was no reason to do that, and it was a clear overpay by the Redskins. In lesser moves the Redskins signed LS Nick Sundberg and Punter Sav Rocca to multi-year deals. Sundberg was considered an average long snapper and was coming off a year where he missed serious time due to injury, there was no reason to offer him more than the league minimum for one season. Rocca was a old punter coming off a really bad year and an injury, yet the Redskins gave him over $1 million a year and two years. Those would have been bad moves for a team with plenty of cap room, yet the Redskins made them despite being right up against the cap.
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The Redskins have to do a better job this year in letting the market set itself and not bidding against themselves as they have in the past. So far the signing of DeAngelo Hall and Chris Baker seem reasonable, but there is some risk that after the market opens those deals become regrets. Now Brian Orakpo is the type of guy you invest in, so it’s not as much an issue with him and you definitely don’t want him hitting the open market, but Perry Riley should be allowed to test the waters before any real negotiations begin. For the rest of the Redskins signings they need to be smart and not rush into any deals. Let the market establish itself and find the best values out there.