Thoughts on the Redskins First Day of Free Agency

2014-free-agency Redskins Personnel Washington Commanders

NFL Free Agency Recap Video:


Re-signing LB Perry Riley:

-Perry Riley seemed like a guy who was primed to get overpaid on the market. Just 26 years old, Riley’s racked up a number of tackles the past couple of years and the ILB market has been moving pretty fast of late. Riley had been throwing out numbers close to $7 million a year, and with the way the market was moving it looked like he could get near that. At the very least it looked like Riley would get $5 million year probably over 5 years. In the end Riley ended up signing a 3 year deal for $13 million making him a nice value signing. Riley is an average to above average player so far and this pays him in that range. With the Redskins needing two ILB starters, this locks up one spot relatively cheaply.

Signing WR Andre Roberts:

-This was a great move by the Redskins as Roberts is a great fit for them overall. Roberts is young with starting experience and the ability to play the slot. At 4 years $16 million and $8 million guaranteed, Roberts offers some nice value. Two years ago the Redskins signed Josh Morgan who was coming off an injury and not as productive as Roberts for a 2 year $11.5 million deal with $7.5 million guaranteed, so compared to that deal Roberts is a steal. Roberts can be a solid number 2 receiver for the Redskins and shift into the slot role when the Redskins go three-wide. That was the role he played in Arizona in 2011 and 2012 when he started every game as the Cardinals number 2 receiver. Roberts played at such a high level that he started over 1st round rookie Michael Floyd in 2012. Last year Floyd took over the starting role and Roberts came in more during three wide receiver sets, and he say his playing time cut down to about 60% of the time (it was over 80% in 2012 and 90% in 2011). Still even in a reduced role, Roberts produced at a solid level for the Cardinals. Another thing that really sticks out about Roberts production is how well he did in 2011-2012, when he had a combined  115 catches, 7 TDs, and over 1,300 yards despite playing with some of the worst QB play in the league.

The Roberts signing is a great one for the Skins because if they play him as their number two receiver he will be below the average price of about $6 million that most teams pay for that position and he should be able to produce close to that average level. Roberts also adds versatility to play both inside and outside, which is nice on a team that is short on slot receivers. Roberts signing means the Redskins aren’t in such dire straights at wide receiver as a top two pairing of Pierre Garcon and Andre Roberts might not be top 10 in the league, but it’s not too shabby either. The Skins need some additional help, but now can focus on cheaper receivers and mid-late round draft picks. Given their needs it isn’t recommended, but Roberts signing could allow the Redskins to draft a receiver earlier if they are okay with him redshirting a year, similar to Michael Floyd in Arizona. The Redskins would just have to ask if they are okay in 2015 paying Roberts an average of $4 million a year to be just a slot receiver.

Signing G Shawn Lauvao:

-This is a signing I just don’t understand. The Redskins signed Lauvao to a 4 year deal for $17 million and a reported $5 million guaranteed. While the full contract breakdown isn’t known yet, it’s hard to make the numbers look good for this signing. Lauvao is 26 (turns 27 in Oct.) and has started 43 games for the Browns over the past three seasons. Lauvao is considered a decent pass blocker, but not a great run blocker and hasn’t really played in a zone scheme before. He’s known as a tough physical blocker who will play to the whistle. Those are the basic positives of Lauvao. Other than that the Redskins don’t have much to hang their hat on. Watching Lauvao you see some things that you like; size, physicality, decent awareness and athleticism, but you see a lot more that you don’t like. Lauvao doesn’t do well with quickness and can be slow off the snap, this allows the defender to win the leverage game more often than you’d like. Another concern is his ability to drive a defender out of the play. While zone blocking is more on the move, you still have to move the defender out of the area and control him so he can’t disrupt the play, you just don’t see that alot from Lauvao. While his initial awareness for blitz pick-up looks pretty good, he didn’t do a good job of keeping track of the play. On a couple plays where the QB broke contain or the running back cut back, Lauvao was unaware of where the ball was and let his defender go, who then went on to make the play. These can be tough plays for an offensive lineman, but for the Redskins they are going to be crucial.

The biggest issue with Lauvao isn’t just his lack of positive production, but what the Redskins paid for it. If their idea is to save money why are they paying Lauvao 70% what top FA guard Zane Beadles got on the open market ($6 million average)? Lauvao isn’t 70% of the player that Beadles has been, so right there you are overpaying. That also doesn’t account for what other free agent guards are signing for or that are still on the market. It is very likely you could have gotten at least one of them for Lauvao’s price or even less if they are a veteran. Lauvao did not seem like a guard who was going to command this type of money at the start of free agency. He wasn’t highly regarded on most free agent lists, including the 14th guard ranking on Rotoworld, unranked on CBS with at least 11 guards ahead of him and ranked 71st among all offensive linemen for ESPN (didn’t make their guard list for some reason, but clearly would be very low). While free agent lists aren’t the be all, end all it’s worth noting that some highly respected NFL minds like Pat Kirwan and Bill Polian. This is simply not  a guy you invest this much in and had you waited a month or more you are probably able to get him for a fraction of that price (maybe 2 years $4 million).

In the end Lauvao is a guard who had more starting experience, but not nearly as strong of a reputation as Chris Chester did when he signed a 5 year $20 million deal in 2011, and 3 years into that deal the Redskins are regretting it. Lauvao is making more and has a higher guarantee %, and it’s likely that by next year or the year after this is another wasted deal.

Signing LB/ST Adam Hayward:

-This was a small  signing, but but was pretty smart in the grand scheme of things. Hayward has been a solid back-up linebacker and special teamer for the Buccaneers and the Redskins need help in both areas desperately. For $3 million over 3 years that is a pretty small price to pay to fill those roles. Hayward might not be Lorenzo Alexander, but he’ll definitely be a major upgrade over what the Redskins were trotting out there a year ago. If the Skins get desperate, Hayward could play some more significant snaps at ILB, but ideally he’d be just a back-up. The good news is he’s played about 150 or more snaps a year, and hasn’t been totally lost out there. A lot of key special team linebackers are liabilities if they get forced into the starting line-up for any amount of time. Hayward might not be good if forced to play, but he shouldn’t kill the Redskins either.

Re-Signing WR Santana Moss:

-While I’ve yet to see the terms of this deal, it should be expected to be for for about the league minimum which is set at $955K. As long as the Redskins don’t give him a signing bonus over $65K, they can use the veteran exception and for salary cap purposes count his salary between $570-635K (depending on how much of a signing bonus they give). That means Moss is basically the same price as an average street free agent and will be one of the cheapest contracts on the roster. The lack of a big signing bonus also means that Moss can easily be cut if he’s not going to make the team. This is a no risk, moderate reward signing that makes sense on a number of levels, here are some of the key points:

-Moss brings a veteran presence and plenty of experience working with RGIII. Whether it is just helping in camp or through the season that has value.

-Moss can play the slot, something that not a lot of people on the Redskins roster can do. Andre Roberts who was just signed can play the position but he’s not limited there. Other than him the only other real slot receiver on the roster is Nick Williams and he is hardly a lock for the team.

-Moss is just one year removed from a very productive year. In 2012 Moss was huge for the Redskins throughout the season, particularly with Pierre Garcon and Fred Davis missing significant time. Without Moss the Redskins probably don’t make the playoffs that year.

-While Moss had a poor year last year, that was more by his standards than anything else. For a receiver making $600K without a strong track record no one would have really complained about his production.

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