Washington Redskins Offseason Plan: Part 2 Offensive Line
In my Redskins Outlook detailing the offensive line, I was pretty critical of the unit and think that wholesale change is necessary for the Redskins to be effective. Now I will look at some free agent and draft options that can fit the Redskins needs. To remind everyone I’m using pre-2010 free agency rules which allowed players with 4 or more years of service eligible to become unrestricted free agents. Also, given likely cuts/trades and expiring contracts the Redskins look to have a sizable amount to spend in free agency (just how sizable will be dependent on the new Salary Cap). For a more detailed look check out part 1 below:
Luckily the Redskins have one tackle position set (unfortunately it is the only position along the offensive line that is set), they do need to find a long term answer for right tackle though, and right now that answer isn’t on the roster. Here is how I’d approach the tackle vacancy this offseason:
1. Let Stephon Heyer walk as a free agent/Cut Artis Hicks/Let Jammal Brown walk as a free agent:
Now I’m guessing there wouldn’t be much uproar over the first two steps involving what to do with current Redskins, but that the fans won’t approve of getting rid of Brown. Personally I don’t understand why everyone wants to peg Brown as the short or the long term answer at tackle. I know people will point to his last couple games of the season as pretty decent performances and worthy of an extension. The problem with that is we are only looking at 3-4 games, which if using just the last couple of weeks than Rex Grossman looks like an effective starter at QB, and Ryan Torain looks like a bust at running back (neither which is true…though admittedly I’m not super high on Torain). Sample size matters, and the overall picture doesn’t look good for Brown. All-in-all he had a bad year last year, and really was awful for 3/4 of the season (he also had multiple injuries which is becoming a chronic concern). Yes he improved the last couple of weeks, but he also faced two of the weakest defensive lines in the Jags and Bucs during that span (he did shut down the Giants pretty well though). I don’t see the logic in giving in a multi-year commitment based on a couple of weeks. This is a guy who missed the entire 2009 season, and while he was a Pro Bowler in 2008, the 2nd half of the season his performance dropped dramatically. Three good weeks in two and a half years is a bit scary for me. Unless he signs for a bargain basement deal, he isn’t worth it in my opinion.
As for Heyer and Hicks I think it is time to move on from both. Heyer tries hard, but he is just overmatched and has never lived up to his potential. Hicks looked to be a solid signing last year as a potential starting guard/swing tackle, but he didn’t look good in either role. The Redskins can free up some money by cutting him, as well as find a better option.
2. Sign A Free Agent Capable of Starting:
The market looks to be wide open, and fairly deep when it comes to starting caliber tackles. Now I’d expect a couple of the top guys (Willie Colon and Doug Free) to be Franchised, and while I love Jared Gaither’s talent, I’m guessing the price tag will be $8-10 million a season, which doesn’t make much sense for Washington. Matt Light is starting to show his age, and might not transition to well to the right side. That leaves three primary targets:
Tyson Clabo (Atlanta): Clabo got his first Pro Bowl appearance this year and that could price him out of the Redskins range, but he is worth looking into. Since he profiles as a RT only, his price tag shouldn’t get too exorbitant (one would hope), meaning the Skins should at least have a shot for him. He is a great run blocker and pretty good at pass blocking as well.
Marshall Yanda (Baltimore): Yanda moved over to RT this year to replace Gaither, and performed remarkably well. He is a more natural guard (which is another big need area for the Skins), but looked like he can be a long term tackle based on his performance last year.
Ryan Harris (Broncos): Harris is an intriguing talent who was originally drafted by Mike Shanahan when he was in Denver. When he is healthy he shows the ability to become a dominate right tackle. Now a big part of his issue is his health as these last two years have been filled with nagging injuries.
3. Draft A Young Tackle In The Mid Rounds:
Even if the Redskins end up signing a guy like Clabo who is known for his health, Washington could use a good young cheap backup. Right now the Redskins don’t have a 3rd or a 4th round pick, but hopefully they will trade back in round 1 and potentially move players (Haynesworth, F. Davis, McNabb etc.) to acquire more 3-5th round picks.
In that range I’d target one of the following: James Carpenter, Joseph Barksdale, Jason Pinkston, Chris Hariston, Marcus Gilbert, and James Brewer. All have the upside to potentially be a starter one day, but none are real complete products. Any of them would be a great addition and third tackle for the Redskins.
In my opinion the Redskins need to replace both of their guards if they want to really have an offensive line capable of being playoff caliber. Here is what I would target:
1. Cut or Trade Derrick Dockery/Let Will Montgomery walk as a free agent/Move Kory Lichtensteiger to backup G/C:
Derrick Dockery is still a starting caliber guard in this league, just not in a zone blocking scheme like the one the Redskins employ. If they can get any sort of trade value out of him (even a 7th rounder or moving up draft position in a particular round) they have to do it. Montgomery filled in alright for the Redskins last year, but he is no better than a backup interior lineman. He could be resigned in that capacity, but he basically is the same player as Kory Lichtensteiger and rookie Erik Cook. As for Lichtensteiger, I thought he was about as awful as can be last season, and believe as long as he is starting the offense will have issues. He has some versatility so that should keep a roster spot for him (as should the fact that he is a Shanahan guy). Hopefully Lichtensteiger is no more than at the bottom of the Redskins depth chart his season (as opposed to being at the top last year), as they need outside help.
2. Sign a Mid-range Free Agent:
Given the Redskins various needs I think they will have to use both free agency and the draft to fill their guard issue. I don’t think they have the money to sign to free agent guards, even if neither is a stud. I think the Redskins should target the 2nd class of guards and look at one of the following players:
Robert Gallery (Raiders): Injuries will keep Gallery for getting top money, but it shouldn’t keep the Redskins away. If the price is right Gallery could be a great addition to the Redskins offensive line. They just hired the Raiders assistant offensive line coach to the same role with the Redskins, meaning there is some familiarity there.
Chris Chester (Ravens): Chester became a full-time starter this season and he didn’t disappoint for the Ravens. While he isn’t exceptional in any one area, he is versatile and pretty athletic making him a good fit for Washington’s scheme.
Daryn Colledge (Packers): Colledge has had a bit of an up-and-down career, but he is a capable starting guard. He doesn’t dominate as much as you would like but he gets the job done.
Justin Blalock (Falcons): Blalock is probably the top guard in the 2nd tier so the price tag could be too high, but he gets the job done. He is the type of guy who will start every game for the next 5 years, but no one will mention. He won’t standout and be an All-Pro, but he also won’t make mistakes that will get him noticed as well.
3. Draft 1-2 Guards:
Given their lack of picks, I doubt they could get two starting caliber guards from the draft (though it would be a great strategy), but they should at least target getting one. I think they should look long and hard at using their 2nd round pick (or a 2nd round pick if they trade back and add more) on a guard. The guys I’d look at in the 2nd-3rd round range are Danny Watkins, Rodney Hudson, Ben Ijalana, Orlando Franklin and Will Rackley. If they have extra picks, they could look at guys like John Moffitt, Clint Boling, and Lee Ziemba in the 5th-6th round range as backups, with the potential to start down the line.
The Redskins center Casey Rabach has been good for them in the past, but it is quite apparent that the game has passed him by. He was awful last season, and was even more exposed, because there wasn’t even average talent next to him at guard. Luckily the Redskins could have a great solution to solve their center woes this offseason, and here’s how:
1. Cut Casey Rabach:
File this under no-brainer, Rabach is making too much money and is well below average, Washington needs to cut him as soon as a new CBA is signed.
2. Sign Ryan Kalil (Panthers):
Normally free agents this talented (back-to-back Pro Bowls) and this young (will be just 26 next season) don’t reach free agency, but I don’t see how the Panthers can retain him. They can’t use a Franchise tag on him since, all offensive linemen are grouped together, meaning the Tag would account for over $10 million (or more than $3 million more what the highest paid center Nick Mangold makes). And considering the Panthers have top free agents at RB and DE, Kalil might not be a priority for them to resign. Kalil would be a perfect fit for the Redskins offense, and worth every penny they’d have to pay him. They will have to outbid plenty of other teams for his services, but he should be the Redskins top priority this offseason.
Some might have questioned why I didn’t target better quality tackles and guards, but in my opinion, I think Kalil is the best value out there. Centers get overlooked, but when it comes down to it are just as important as the other offensive line positions. You can get one of the top 5 centers in this league (who is still just 26 and has a pretty clean injury history), for around the same price that you could re-sign Jammal Brown. Brown would be lucky to be ranked in the top 30 offensive tackles, and even that is probably a stretch. If the Redskins can sign Kalil, and then two good values at tackle and guard, they should be a vastly improved team next year. Harris and Yanda are my two top targets at tackle (if the price is right) and Chester and Gallery are who I’d be looking for at guard.
Now the reason I really want add some linemen in the midrounds, is I think there is some great value there for the Redskins. There are very good starting caliber guards who should be available in rounds 2 and 3. As well as a number of good tackles in those mid-rounds. This is why it is paramount that the Redskins add additional picks, so they can reshape this line into a new version of the Hogs.