Early Look At The Redskins Offseason Plan: Part 2
This is a Three Part Series. Part 1 focuses on guys the Redskins should look to cut or trade, as well as what they should do with their own free agents.
Part 2 is a look at the moves the Redskins should make in free agency and the draft.
NFL FREE AGENCY:
QB Matt Flynn:
I know this is going to be a lighting rod signing for many people who just simply want the Redskins to draft their next quarterback with their first round pick. While it is quite possible that a name like Matt Barkley or Landry Jones is still sitting on the draft board when the Redskins select, it is far from a guarantee. And any discussion of trading up for them make zero sense for a team like Washington that has a multitude of needs.
Flynn might not be a sure thing, but he’s got a lot of potential and upside. And unlike a rookie quarterback, he can start from week 1. He’s got good size and arm strength, and his apprenticeship behind Aaron Rodgers has been a valuable teaching experience. He could have a decent free agent market, but the Redskins would be wise to use Daniel Snyder’s purse strings to land the former Packers signal caller.
Offensive Guard Ben Grubbs:
Grubbs is a Pro Bowl caliber guard for the Ravens and was actually coached by Skins O-line Coach Chris Foerster in Baltimore the year he was drafted. He’d be an immediate upgrade at LG, and could really help out Trent Williams development. While the Ravens would hate losing him, they have a number of big name free agents next year, and just spent big money on Marshall Yanda along the line.
Center Chris Myers or Center Dan Koppen:
Chris Myers should be the top option for the Skins, but he’s likely more expensive and more likely to resign with his current team. Here is why either makes sense for Washington.
Myers: Myers was actually drafted by Mike Shanahan in the 6th round in 2005, but he made a name for himself with the Houston Texans after signing there as a restricted free agent in 2008. That means Myers has played for both Mike and Kyle Shanahan, and he knows the offense inside and out. He’s a prefect fit for a zone blocking scheme, and he’s been very productive. While the Texans are sure to want to resign him, given his need to be in a ZBS system, there won’t be as big of a market for him. He will be 31 next season, but he should have 3-5 more good years in the NFL.
Koppen: Koppen has been the unsung hero for the Patriots offensive line over the last few years. While guys like Mankins and Light get most of the credit, Koppen has probably been their most consistent lineman. He’s started since being drafted in the 5th round in 2003, and has been highly productive. He’s also saved his best football for when it has mattered the most, as in 14 career playoff starts, Koppen hasn’t given up a single sack or committed a single penalty. Koppen broke his leg and ankle in week 1 this year, and will be 33 next year which should limit his market.
Offensive Tackle Anthony Collins:
Collins isn’t a big name free agent signing, but he could be an important one. While he shouldn’t be signed with the idea that he’d start, Collins has experience at both tackles spots and could be a valuable swing tackle. Given Trent Williams having to miss time now in each of his first two years, and the fact that the Redskins should have a rookie starting at RT, having a quality 3rd tackle is key for Washington. If the Redskins weren’t able to get a day one starting quality tackle in the draft Collins would be able to handle the role.
Running Back Peyton Hillis:
While some may say that running back isn’t a major need, I think this is an area the Redskins need to seriously upgrade. The reason the Shanahan offense worked in Denver and works in Houston is because of the strength of their running game. The need to respect the rushing attack opens up the passing game quite a bit, and the lack of talent in D.C. these last two seasons has been staggering. While Roy Helu has some promise, Mike Shanahan needs to give him some help, and I see him looking towards his former draft pick Peyton Hillis to fill that need. Hillis has been extremely disappointing this season, and has seen his price tag fall down quite a bit. He should be worth taking a flier on as I see him coming in at an affordable rate.
Defensive End Calais Campbell:
Now I know most people would rather see the Redskins address the NT, or CB positions with a big defensive signing (or not make a move on defense at all), but this to me is perhaps the best move for the team. Right now the Redskins defense is good and on the cusp of being considered playoff caliber. And while it is true most of their inefficiencies come in the secondary a stud DL like Campbell would go a long way to making everyone else around him better (ex. Justin Smith in SF). The best news is Campbell is usually only considered a ‘good defensive end’ and not the budding star that he has played like these last 3 years. Now part of that is playing for Arizona, and part of that is due to playing in the ‘shadow’ of Darnell Dockett (despite the fact that Campbell has out produced him), either way it means two things. One the Cardinals are probably less inclined to place the Franchise Tag on him (especially with the money they just gave Dockett), and two, his price on the open market will be less than it should be.
If the Redskins replace Carriker with Campbell, and add him to the fray with Kerrigan and Orakpo then the Redskins defense really could be in the elite category. And while it isn’t a DB signing, the more pressure and production up front, leads to an easier time for the secondary. Also, with another talented pass rusher up front, the Redskins won’t have to blitz as many players to generate their high level of pressure, leaving more guys in coverage. As for argument that this cuts into Jarvis Jenkins playing time, it is a valid concern, but one that shouldn’t dictate the Redskins free agent strategy. Jenkins has the size and leverage to help out at the NT position, and he can also backup both Campbell and Stephen Bowen as well. Which should mean that Jenkins should be able to get 40-50% of the snaps next year, which is a good amount, especially since you don’t want to overwork him coming back from an injury.
ILB Dan Connor:
Connor is an interesting case as he’s always been productive when given the chance, but the Panthers have had so many quality linebackers that, he’s never been counted on as the full time starter. Connor is a little small for the scheme, but he has excellent instincts and is a sure tackler. While some might point to the emergence of Perry Riley, it is important to remember that the sample size is still pretty small. Connor at the very least offers an insurance policy in case Riley doesn’t continue to develop, and quality depth if he does. Right now the Redskins really don’t have any future depth at ILB, and we’ve already seen this year London Fletcher sitting out a series or two during a couple of games dealing with nagging injuries. Fletcher is likely only going to need more plays off going forward, so having quality depth and the heir apparent would be key. Now this will depend on what kinda of contract Connor wants, but if there isn’t a strong market for him the Redskins should pounce.
With the signing of Matt Flynn, the Redskins will have at least partially filled their biggest need, which doesn’t pigeon-hole them to take a quarterback with their likely top 5 pick. That leaves the Redskins with options, and options equal leverage when it comes to making a draft day trade.
The Redskins could still look at drafting a quarterback high now that draft pick bonuses have been reigned in, or they could look to draft a top player at another position such as a CB or OT. Finally the Redskins could choose to trade back (using that leverage) and stockpile early round picks to fix multiple holes. This to me is the best strategy for the team, and will help bring them back to prominence the quickest.
While there are a number of various scenarios that could occur, the one I’m going to focus on is the Redskins moving back into the late first round (pick 25 +), likely through a pair (or more) of trades. Now it is a bold strategy, but if executed properly the Redskins should be able to add up to 4 extra picks in the first 4 rounds, including two 2nd rounders, a 3rd rounder and a 4th rounder. Both the 3rd rounder and one of the 2nd rounders should be in the middle of the round (from the first trade back), while the other 2nd rounder and 4th rounder should be near the end of the round. This would give the Redskins 9 picks in the top 130, including 5 of the top 70 selections. Here is my breakdown of what I’d do with those 9 selections:
1st round – OT Mike Adams:
Adams has played really well since coming back from suspension this season and he appears to have grown up and answered any questions about his work ethic or character. He looks to be in the late 1st round range, and could be an instant starter for the Redskins at RT. If he’s off the board other possibilities include: OT D.J. Fluker, OT Ricky Wagner, QB Ryan Tannehill, CB Chase Minnifield.
2nd round – QB Ryan Tannehill:
While I have faith in Flynn to be a starter, and a good one at that, the Redskins would be wise to ‘double-down’ at the quarterback position, and grab a young guy who can develop into a better starter or a trade chip in a couple of years. The guy I think with the highest upside is Tannehill, a former converted WR. Tannehill looks fairly advanced considering he worked primarily as a WR as a RS-Freshman and Sophomore. While I don’t think he’s as ready as say a Matt Barkley or Landry Jones, I think he has a higher ceiling. And if the Redskins can give him 2+ years to sit and develop they could have a really special talent. If he is off the board (or they selected him with the 1st rounder) other possibilities include: OT Zebrie Sanders (unless they already took Adams), CB Jayron Hosley, G Kelechi Osemele, CB Xaiver Rhodes.
Mid-2nd Rounder – WR Dwight Jones:
Jones is a big 6’4″ receiver with excellent leaping ability. Right now he is in the mid-late 2nd round range, and would be an excellent pickup here for the Redskins. He might not be a day one starter, but he can contribute as a rookie, and has the potential to develop into a really good starter. His size will give the Redskins another redzone threat to go along with Cooley and Fred Davis. If he is off the board other possibilities include: WR Mohamed Sanu, OT Levy Adcock, OG Barrett Jones, CB Stephon Gilmore
Late 2nd Rounder – CB Jonathan Banks:
Banks is quietly having a fantastic season for Mississippi State, but he is overshadowed by conference stars Morris Claiborne and Dre Kirkpatrick. Banks is a big physical corner who can match-up with Hakeem Nicks and Dez Bryant, and has the upside to develop into a number 1 CB down the line. Banks started his career as a FS, and it shows, as he is consistently one of the best tacklers on the field for Miss. State. He is strong coming up in run support and has even shown himself to be an excellent blitzer of the edge. He’s got good ball skills and instincts, that make him somewhat of a turnover machine. He’s a bit under the radar now so he could definitely fall to the late 2nd round range. If he is off the board other possibilities include: RB David Wilson, G Kevin Zeitler, C Ben Jones, QB Nick Foles, OT Levy Adcock
Early 3rd Rounder – RB David Wilson (or LaMichael James):
The Redskins could use their own version of LeSean McCoy, and could find one with their selection here. Wilson is the more complete back and should be the top target here. He has electric speed and game breaking ability and he’s more than capable of helping out in the return game as well. Adding him brings another weapon to this offense, and could have a huge benefit down the road. If Wilson or James are off the board other possibilities include: WR Marvin McNutt, WR Rueben Randle, CB Coryell Judie, G Kevin Zeitler
Mid-3rd Rounder: G Lucas Nix:
The Redskins at this point will have done a good job at reshaping their offensive line, but I think they still need to add another interior lineman, which is where Nix comes in. Nix has played all along the Panther’s offensive line, but he is best suited at guard in the NFL. He’s more advanced as a pass blocker right now (which is good since usually that is where rookies struggle), and if Kory Lichtensteiger isn’t fully recovered from his knee injury, Nix could start for him. He’s a good value pick here, and really completes the Redskins O-line overhaul. If he’s off the board other possibilities include: OT Nate Potter, C Michael Brewster, CB Casey Hayward, WR Joe Adams, FS Robert Lester.
Early 4th Rounder – CB Leonard Johnson:
The Redskins should double up on the CB position in the draft since they didn’t address the area in free agency. Kevin Barnes will be entering his last year under contract so the Redskins could use some real depth here. Johnson has a lot of upside and has handled himself well against a number of quality receivers this year. He can play either outside or inside vs the slot receiver. Other possibilities include: QB Kellen Moore, QB Kirk Cousins, CB Shaun Prater, WR Jermaine Kearse
Mid/Late 4th (Oak. pick) – WR Ryan Broyles:
This is just a fantastic value pick for a team with extra draft picks. Broyles was a borderline top 50 player before his knee injury and the Redskins could likely land him in the 120 pick range. While there is a risk due to the injury, Broyles might not offer much production as a rookie, while recovering from his knee injury, but if he regains form he could replace Santana Moss as the Redskins slot receiver going forward. Other possibilities include: WR Jeff Fuller, WR Juron Criner, DE Kaleb Ramsey.
Late 4th – FS Aaron Henry, Wisconsin:
With the long term health of both O.J. Atogwe and LaRon Landry somewhat up in the air, and a young guy with some upside makes sense here. Henry projects as a solid free safety with some starting potential going forward. He’s a solid value at this pick.
Rest of the draft:
With having 9 picks in the first 4 rounds, the Redskins could look to use some of their late round selections to move up in particular rounds to land their top targets. For what picks they do have remaining in the final 3 rounds the Redskins the Redskins should look to take the BPA, but have a focus on any NT, ILB, TE (blocking variety) or OL prospects.