Washington Redskins Offseason Plan: Offense Part 3
In Part 1 I looked at the Redskins offseason plan for Quarterbacks and Fullbacks, and in Part 2 I looked at the guys up front on the offensive line. Now in Part 3 of how to reshape the offense, I will look at the skilled positions, Wide Receivers, Tight ends and Running backs.
Lets get the easy one out of the way. Tight end is the one position that the Redskins actually have both depth and skill at. I’m a firm believer that the Redskins need to capitalize on that, and try to work out the best trade possible involving Fred Davis. While Davis along with Chris Cooley, form one of the better tight end units in the NFL, the Redskins need more than that if they hope to compete. Having the best tight ends in the NFL with holes at almost every other position, is like having the best bullpen in baseball, but no starters or lineup to speak of.
I know fans of Davis and Cooley will point to the Patriots, and the success they had with two rookie tight ends this year. Unfortunately that isn’t an apples to apples comparison since the Patriots have a far superior team including a really good offensive line. They can run two tight end sets and get them both involved in the passing game. The Redskins on the other hand can’t, they need all the help they can get in blocking, which limits the opportunities for both tight ends. Also, because the Redskins offense is so inefficient, there are just naturally less offensive plays to get two tight ends involved. The Redskins need to cash in on Davis while they still can, and move forward with Chris Cooley as the central figure of their offense.
1. Trade Fred Davis:
Despite not having big numbers last year, and only having one year left on his contract, Fred Davis should have a decent sized trade market. He has become a better blocker, and in his limited opportunities he has shown that he can be a weapon in the passing game. Any contender that either needs a tight end, or wants another pass catching option could be in the market. Also, look for a few surprises to enter the mix. I think teams like the Rams and Panthers could look at a tight end to help their young quarterbacks, and even teams like the Titans and Cardinals could be interested in Davis. The return won’t be great, maybe a 3rd or a 4th rounder (depending on where the pick is), but it will go a long way into helping make the Redskins a better team.
2. Promote Logan Paulsen, and don’t invest too much into the position:
Paulsen showed himself to be a good blocker and seemed to be at least average in the passing game. He won’t be a star, but seems like a good 2nd tight end in the NFL. The Skins will need to add a third tight end, but shouldn’t look to invest too much in the position. If they are smart they will bring in two guys, one veteran and one rookie and let them battle it out in training camp. One former Redskin, Robert Royal could be a target. He won’t stretch the field, but he is a good blocker and is a decent target in the intermediate and short passing games.
Receiver is an area that needs a lot of work, and one that won’t be an easy fix. The first order of business is for the Redskins not to fall victim of the temptation of signing an ‘elite’ wide receiver. Now I realize the fans might want it, and the coaches might want it, but going out and spending big money to bring in a top wide receiver (or using their first round pick on one) is not the answer for the Redskins. Stud receivers might be fun to watch, and impact certain plays and games, but their impact to bring the Redskins to a level of contention is minimal. The Redskins instead should be looking at bringing their receiving corps up to at least league average standards. They should target guys who are good, but not so great or over-hyped that you spend a significant amount of your cap space on. Right now the only returners are Anthony Armstrong, and Brandon Banks in my book (that are under contract). Terrance Austin, should get a look in camp, but barring injury shouldn’t be considered a vital part of this team going forward.
Anthony Armstrong came out of nowhere last season to emerge as the Redskins deep threat. He showed a good amount of promise and great speed, but the Redskins and their fans should temper their expectations. I don’t see him regressing as much as I wonder if he will develop any further. Armstrong will turn 28 next month, which makes it less likely he will improve drastically. And despite being the Redskins top deep threat and 2nd best receiver, he would start on maybe 5 other teams in this league, and would struggle to crack at least the top 3 for over a third of the teams in the NFL. Now Armstrong has value and considering how cheap he is, he represents a steal for the Redskins, I just wanted to illustrate how dire their situation is. While Brandon Banks showed himself to be an elite returner, it remains to be seen how much he can contribute to the offense. If Coach Shanahan doesn’t think he can contribute a lot, he has to consider keeping 6 receivers for the season, which might not be such a bad thing.
1. Re-sign Santana Moss:
Moss might be getting up there in age, but he still is the Redskins most productive receiver. He no longer may be among the game’s elite but, he could still start for most teams in this league, and at the very least would be a very significant weapon. The rumor is Moss is looking for $5 million a year for 2-4 years. The Redskins should have no issue paying him that amount, and he should easily be productive for that length of time. I know some may say forego signing Moss and instead target a top receiver like Santonio Holmes or Vincent Jackson, but that isn’t going to solve your issue. They are going to cost at least twice as much as Moss, and will only improve the Redskins a slight amount with Moss being gone.
2. Ignore The Big Name Free Agents:
The Redskins need to do two things for their receiver corps in the draft and free agency: Add size and improve overall talent. While the Redskins could do that by signing someone like Vincent Jackson or Sidney Rice (if they aren’t franchised), they will spend way too much on that single player. And if you combine that with what Moss is making than, you will have put a significant amount of resources into your receivers. Instead the Redskins should target someone from the 2nd level and 3rd levels of free agents to team up with Moss and Armstrong to form a decent top 4 receivers on your depth chart. I would look at a pair of receivers who flew under the radar this season, but could flourish in Washington.
Breaston has a bad wrap of being off injured, but in reality he has only missed 4 full games over these last three seasons. While he has been hampered in other games or maybe not 100%, he hasn’t missed what I’d call significant time. In those three years Breaston has amassed over 2,400 yards, despite being the third receiver for the first two years and dealing with a horrible quarterback situation last season. Breaston doesn’t really increase the Redskins size, as he is just over 6′, but he would be a good addition to their receiving corps.
While much of the focus is on the Chargers fellow free agent receivers, I think Naanee is a potential steal. Sure Malcolm Floyd and Vincent Jackson are better players right now, but I love what Naanee brings to the table. He has been buried much of his career on the depth chart, but he is a 6’2″ receiver, with great speed and quickness. He won’t command a huge contract, can help on special teams, and gives the Redskins great size and potential.
3. Spend A Late Round Pick On A Receiver:
Unfortunately the Redskins lack the draft picks to really address their receiver position, but hopefully if they add a couple more in the mid-rounds they will be able to address their other needs to take a late round flyer on a guy. I think they should look at a true 6’3″ or taller, big red zone target. I am only looking at guys that I expect to be around in the 6th and 7th rounds, and here are two of the best options:
Physically Brown is one of the most dominating threats on the football field, but questions about his attitude, injuries, and suspect surrounding talent have kept him from being a force in the collegiate game. Brown has limitless potential, but he has to show he has the work ethic, and is injury free to achieve that goal. There is a chance he goes higher based on that potential, but if he is still around in the 6th or 7th round he would be an excellent pick for the Redskins.
Gurley is 6’5″ and has shown very good hands, but he will fall in the draft because of his speed. Gurley is more of a possession receiver/red zone threat, but the good news is that is exactly what the Redskins are looking for. If Brown is off the board Gurley would be a nice addition for the Redskins. He is a bit more polished, and could contribute early on, but his ceiling remains fairly low. While he may never be a starter, he should be a reliable backup who offers legit size for the Redskins.
The Redskins don’t have as big of a need at running back as they do receiver, but it is still a need area for them. Clinton Portis will be let go at some point this offseason, and while Ryan Torain emerged as a solid starter, there are some concerns going forward with him as the primary back. I know a lot of Redskins fans look at Torain, and think he is a star tailback, but I’m not sure if I see that. Torain seems to be the ultimate feast or famine type back. He will break off a big 15+ yard run, and then get 6 total yards on his next four carries. While there were a couple games he was able to sustain a more consistent rushing attack, for the most part he was more highlight reel than substance. Torain also shows little ability in the passing game (either receiving or blocking).
The biggest question with Torain is his ability to stay healthy. Torain has missed more time due to injury than Clinton Portis, and hasn’t taken 1/10th of the abuse Portis has (I mean per year, not even accounting for a career total of abuse). Backing up Torain is rookie undrafted free agent Keiland Williams. Williams showed advanced ability in both pass blocking and receiving the ball out of the backfield. While he doesn’t have a break away ability he is a tough runner, who performed well when asked to run the ball. He is a solid backup going forward and will see the field, given his ability to help in the passing game. I think the Redskins should look to bring in two running backs, one through the draft and the other through free agency to give competition to Torain and Williams.
1. Sign Brandon Jackson:
Now I realize Brandon Jackson has been considered a bit of a bust in Green Bay, but he could be worth a shot as a guy who just needs a change of scenery. He might never be a feature back, but he has shown himself to be a good receiver out of the backfield as well as a valuable pass blocker. He is still young and could have some upside as a starter. The downside is he doesn’t really differ from Torain and Williams that much, but it is worth the investment.
2. Draft Dion Lewis:
There are a number of small quick backs in this draft, but one that I see consistently falling to the 5th or 6th round range (I’d take him in the 5th just to make sure) is Lewis. While Lewis isn’t considered to have true elite speed as most small backs, he is quick and is extremely shifty. He always finds holes and seems to run with great vision, patience, and intelligence. If you figure that he obviously doesn’t have prototypical size or speed, than what he did at Pitt is that much more impressive. Lewis would be a great addition to the Redskins and a true change of pace from what the rest of the running backs on the roster bring to the table. Now there are other options the Redskins could consider if they fall into the 5th round, but Lewis is one of my favorites and I think would be an absolute steal.
Now I realize the names I’m proposing adding to the skill positions aren’t ‘sexy’, or the real big names on the market that everyone knows about, but I think they are great fits and values for the Redskins. Last year Washington tried to bring in veteran players to the skill positions and they failed miserably. This year the Redskins should focus on young players with upside, who’s value has been overlooked. And that strategy remains true in both free agency and the draft. Sure there are some other names than those that I mentioned, but the fact of the matter is the Redskins can’t afford to spend a draft pick in the first 3 or 4 rounds (if they even end up with picks in those rounds), or a major free agent signing on these positions.
Washington will get more bang for their buck, putting their major resources into rebuilding the offensive line, and adding an influx of talent to that defense. Now these signings and picks might not completely solve the Redskins needs long term, but they at least have a chance of doing so, and will improve Washington in terms of both talent and depth. They might not be stars, but the guys I listed are a vast improvement over the Roydell Williams’, Terrence Austin’s and James Davis’ of the league.