Early Look At The Redskins Offseason Plan: Part 3
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.
Now I’m sure there will be plenty of concern about my offensive offseason strategy, as I not only didn’t take a top 5 QB, but I didn’t address the WR position with a big name free agent or Justin Blackmon/Alshon Jeffery at the top of the draft. Here is my look at each offensive position and some more of my reasoning why I went in this particular direction.
Between Matt Flynn and Ryan Tannehill the Redskins will have gone a long way to fixing their quarterback woes. Not only does it give the Redskins great depth and potential, but it keeps them from making the classic mistake of forcing a young quarterback to start too soon.
By adding Peyton Hillis and David Wilson to incumbents Roy Helu, Tim Hightower and Darryl Young, the Redskins will finally have the weapons and talent to bring their running game back to among the league’s best. Hillis can be the short yardage, power back, who can also get snaps in a fullback role, as well a pass protector for the quarterback. Wilson can be the homerun hitter, who gets about 5-10 touches a game and helps out on special teams. Helu if he continues to develop could be the feature back. While he might not be an Adrian Peterson type, he should be good for about 20 touches a game. Young will primarily continue his role as a blocking fullback (though he does have some pass catching ability) and playing special teams.
Now it is true I do think fixing the running game is more important than adding wide receiving talent. As it stands now the Redskins have at least a solid corps of pass catchers (albeit currently injured) in Santana Moss, Fred Davis, Leonard Hankerson, Chris Cooley and Niles Paul. That I think far exceeds their running game prospects of Helu, Hightower (returning from injury), Ryan Torain and Evan Royster (who I would look to bring into camp). Also while perhaps the running backs will benefit more from improving the offensive line (though the WR’s will as well since they will have time to run their routes), the receivers will get even a bigger boost from the improved quarterback play.
In addition I think it is pretty clear that a strong rushing attack will be key for this team succeeding. For as much as you hear it is a ‘passing league’ now, you still see plenty of teams relying heavily on their rushing attacks as they are making a playoff push. The truth is you need both to be effective if you want to win in the NFL, as you can probably count the number of quarterbacks who could succeed without at least a solid ground game on one hand. Improving the ground game will go a long way to easing the new quarterback’s transition to the team, which is why it should be the priority.
With resigning Fred Davis and restructuring Chris Cooley, the Redskins should be fine at TE for at least the next 2 years. They do need to at least kick the tires with upgrading their 3rd TE, which right now is currently Logan Paulsen. I would look to the 6th or 7th round for a strong inline blocker type who could, further help protect the quarterback and in the ground game. One name to watch that fits the bill is George Bryan from North Carolina State. He’s a solid pass catcher and a great blocker, but he lacks downfield speed which will probably let him fall in the draft.
I know many people were probably looking for Vincent Jackson, Dwayne Bowe or some other big name receiver to be on this free agency list, or draft Justin Blackmon or Alshon Jeffery instead of trading back, but neither of those types of moves make much sense.
Unfortunately receivers are highly overvalued on the free agent market. Guys like V. Jackson and Bowe are probably in line for contracts that pay them over $10 million a year, and would probably be more like $12 million a year on average. That is more than any of the free agent targets I mentioned, which include far more valuable positions like QB, OL and DL. Even a guy the next tier down like Marques Colston will probably make between $8 and 9 million a year. For that kind of big money the Redskins could sign both Ben Grubbs and Peyton Hillis, which just makes far more sense. As for the draft, and a guy like Justin Blackmon, the Redskins have too many needs to use a premium pick on a WR. It might be fun and sell jerseys, but you can’t value a WR over taking an OT, QB or CB if they don’t trade back.
I didn’t leave the Redskins’ receiving corps empty handed as I have them taking Dwight Jones and Ryan Broyles in the 2nd and 4th rounds respectively. While some Redskins fans might still have a bad taste in their mouth from recent 2nd round busts like Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly and Taylor Jacobs, they need to remember that none of DeSean Jackson, Vincent Jackson, Brandon Marshall, Steve Johnson, Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, Steve Smith, Miles Austin, Greg Jennings, Marques Colston, Brandon Lloyd and numerous other top receivers weren’t first round picks. Both Jones and Broyles have the ability to join that list and would be nice additions for Washington to add. Jones will have more immediate impact, but both can be really good players and really good Redskins.
With trading Gaffney, and hopefully the Skins moving on from Donte Stallworth and Brandon Banks, their depth chart would have some openings. I think Moss, Hankerson, Jones and Paul would be the top 4 options with Broyles and one of Aldrick Robinson, Terrence Austin or whatever UDFA’s the bring in, rounding out the group. There is some risk going with a young group, but Hankerson made good strides and if he comes back healthy with a full offseason he should be ready for a significant role. The Redskins could look to bring in a moderate veteran if the market collapses, but they shouldn’t break the bank, and the veteran shouldn’t have an issue if the young guys start above him.
This is the group with the most overhaul (for good reason).
Gone are Jamaal Brown, Sean Locklear, Tyler Polumbus, Will Montgomery, Erik Cook and Maurice Hurt (Cook and Hurt should be back to battle for jobs, but I’m guessing they don’t make the cut). In their place are Ben Grubbs, Anthony Collins, Chris Myers, Mike Adams and Lucas Nix. Those five new linemen along with Trent Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger, Chris Chester and Willie Smith. My starting lineup would be as follows:
LT: Trent Williams, LG Ben Grubbs, C Chris Myers, RG Kory Lichtensteiger, RT Mike Adams.
Collins and Chester would be active on game days along with one of Nix or Smith. This line is a strong balance of talent, potential and depth. It is a huge automatic upgrade for both the running game and the passing attack, and will be key for turning this team around.
While I didn’t spend a lot of time upgrading this position, I did want the Redskins to make one big move in signing Campbell. Now I’ve already mentioned much of the merits, so I won’t reiterate the whole point, but just to say this. Right now the Redskins defense has a number of good to really good players, but they have few stars. In fact the only one they probably have is London Fletcher (Landry, Orakpo and Kerrigan show plenty of star potential, but they aren’t consistent enough to warrant the designation), and he is nearing the end of his career. Campbell gives them another star, and the difference between him and Carriker in terms of production is pretty vast.
Now why didn’t I go nose tackle? Well the reason is pretty simple, and that is need and resources. Barry Cofield has played pretty well in the middle, and while he might not be a star there, he’s gotten some solid pressure on the quarterback, plugged up the middle, and been a big part of the Skins’ defensive resurgence. With rookie Chris Neild giving solid backup production, and injured 2nd round pick Jarvis Jenkins having some ability to play a similar role to Cofield, it isn’t as dire of a need as some seem to think. With most of the resources going towards the offense or the DB’s in the draft, there just doesn’t seem to be much room to add a NT. I would look to maybe use a late round pick on a guy who might have the size, but you try to stash for a year on the practice squad.
Now the way I see the defensive line rotation playing out is with Bowen shifting over to LE, Campbell playing RE and Cofield remaining in the middle. Jenkins should be the primary backup to all of them, and that should keep them all fresh.
Campbell also has the versatility to play outside in nickel sets, meaning you could put Jenkins and Bowen in the middle to rush the passer with Orakpo and Kerrigan overloading one side. It’s a play the Redskins run now some, but when they overload the one side, teams usually can scramble in the other direction, allowing them to buy time. Now with Campbell on the other side, that option will be closed off.
The main thing here is obviously resigning London Fletcher. Once that is done the Redskins can at least be confident in their starters. But I would be concerned about the lack of a competent backup, which is why Dan Connor would be somewhat of a priority signing. I could see him subbing in for both Fletcher and Riley, allowing them both to stay fresh.
At outside linebacker I wouldn’t change a thing as the Redskins have really good starting talent and promising depth. Their rush linebackers are easily a strength of this team, which is why adding help up front is so key, since it should free up Orakpo and Kerrigan.
DeAngelo Hall’s performance has been fairly weak this season, as he has given up big play after big play, and unlike previous seasons he isn’t producing the turnovers to balance it out. While his salary isn’t guaranteed next season and he could be easily cut (with only a minor cap penalty), it is doubtful the Redskins make that move. Since to replace him they’d have sign a big name guy and pay him even more than they’d save from Hall. Josh Wilson on the other hand has been a bit of a bright spot for the Redskins, as he’s been their best cover corner so far this season. And while their are some blown assignments, but for the most part he’s played at a high level.
Beyond the two starters it gets ugly fast for the Redskins, as Kevin Barnes has struggled as the nickle corner for much of the year, and no one has distinguished themselves beyond that. With Barnes entering his final year before free agency, the team could look to deal or cut him if his play doesn’t improve.
To revitalize the Redskins cornerbacks, I think it needs to be a focal point of the draft (which is one of the biggest reasons to advocate the trading back strategy). Adding Jonathan Banks and Leonard Johnson, gives Washington two guys who could play early. Banks might struggle vs the slot receiver, but his size should allow him to play outside kicking Josh Wilson inside, which was the role he played with the Ravens last season. Johnson has the upside, and should be able to contribute some as a rookie. If Barnes is still on the team I could see Johnson even passing him on the depth chart.
If he comes back at a reasonable deal, then I think LaRon Landry will remain a Redskin. While he can be frustrating at times, the Redskins lack depth to replace him, and there really aren’t any other interesting names on the free agent market. With Landry back the Redskins won’t have to make safety too big of a focus (mainly due to resources being put into more pressing needs). I would look to add a mid-round safety like Aaron Henry though, so that way hopefully between him and DeJon Gomes, Washington could build up the depth that they need.