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Redskins remaining free agent options

Steve Shoup

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While the first wave of free agency is over and the Redskins came away with the top available safety Landon Collins, they still have a lot of work to do. Though most of the top free agents have already signed, there are still some quality options available for the Redskins. One issue facing the team is the lack of cap space as currently they only have around $14-15M available. Of that money some of it needs to be earmarked to signing draft picks and filling out the roster, so about $5M of that needs to be kept in reserve.

The Redskins can create additional cap space by cutting players such as Josh Norman, Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis and Mason Foster, but each of those players would create a hole on the roster that would need replaced. I would expect at least one more cut from this group, but the team will need to be pretty strategic in how they go about it.

Another consideration the Redskins currently have is whether or not they want to cancel out their potential compensatory picks for 2020. Currently the Redskins appear to be in line for comp picks in the 4th, 5th and 6th round. It’s one thing to give up a 3rd round Comp pick for a player like Landon Collins, but it’s another for a one or two year stop-gap 2nd tier player. Not saying the Redskins shouldn’t even consider any free agents that would cancel out a compensatory pick, but they need to take it into account. At the very least they should try to protect that 4th round pick as that is a pretty decent selection. If the Redskins look at players who were released they wouldn’t risk any of their compensatory picks.

Given their cap crunch and the desire to maybe have some extra draft capital next season, here are some intriguing free agent options for the Redskins that might fit:

Wide Receiver:

Michael Crabtree: Crabtree was cut by the Ravens after one season, but he was pretty productive for them posting 54 catches for 607 yards and 3 TDs. Crabtree’s numbers were on an even better pace before Lamar Jackson was inserted in the line-up and the team drastically cut down on their passing. In the first 9 games of the season before the switch, Crabtree had 42 catches for 492 yards. He was on pace for a 75 catch 900+ yard season. Crabtree is not the biggest receiver, but he has a track record of being a viable Red Zone target and touchdown machine. In his 3 previous seasons he had 25 combined touchdowns. Crabtree also typically gets used a fair amount in the slot so he can help replace Jamison Crowder. His contract demands shouldn’t be too high, and he’d give the Redskins a solid veteran who could fill a variety of roles as needed.

Jordy Nelson: Just a few years ago Nelson was one of the best receivers in the league, teaming up with Aaron Rodgers for some monster seasons. Unfortunately age and injuries have crept up and diminished his upside. Nelson might not be what he once was, but he can still be semi-productive. He had 739 yards on 63 catches in 15 games for the Raiders last season. Though not the deep threat he once was, he’s a quality possession receiver who has always been good in the Red Zone. He also has plenty experience in the slot so he can help both inside and outside.

Overview: Neither Crabtree or Nelson would “fix” the Redskins receiver problem, but both would be positive additions and could very well be the top receiver on the team. Whether the Redskins are breaking in a young QB or starting one of their veterans, adding a reliable veteran receiver would be a big help. The rest of the free agent options aren’t any better, and some might even be more expensive. Adding a veteran like this, shouldn’t preclude the Redskins from adding a receiver in the draft, it just lessens the need to maybe reach for one.

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Offensive Guard:

Josh Kline: Kline just signed an extension with the Titans a year ago, but they soured on him after a down season. Kline is just 29 and has been a starter the last four years (last three in Tennessee) after being signed as a UDFA by New England in 2013. While he’s coming off a bad year, Kline had been a solid starter previously for the Titans. He’s missed just two games over the last three seasons combined, and has experience at both guard positions. He’s never going to be a top tier starting guard, but there is little reason to believe he can’t bounce back to being a solid starter again.

Overview: The other guards who were cut have either already signed, are contemplating retirement (T.J. Lang, Josh Sitton), or are probably better fits at tackle (Mike Remmers). There are a few other starting quality guards out there, but none who really project as top level starters. Is it worth giving out a decent contract and losing a 4th or 5th comp pick to land one of them is a question the Redskins have to ask. With how strong the Draft class is among guards, it’s probably a better idea to just re-sign guys like Kouandjio and Cooper and draft a guy in the 2nd or 3rd round.

Pass Rusher:

Justin Houston: Houston is definitely the premier player that won’t factor into the compensatory formula on the open market at any position. He’s arguably the top pass rusher still out there so his contract will take some maneuvering if the Redskins want to fit him in, but he would fill their need off the EDGE. Houston was drafted the same year as Ryan Kerrigan and has had a similarly productive career. He peaked with a 22 sack season back in 2014, and has failed to get back to double digits since then. Partly that is due to dealing with injuries as he’s missed 21 combined games over the last four seasons. When he’s on the field though he still makes his presence felt as he had 9 sacks in 12 games this past year. The injuries will likely keep his contract a bit more manageable, but I wouldn’t expect a major discount. If the Redskins are serious about having a top defense though, this would be the player to add.

Nick Perry: Perry was released by the Packers in part due to Green Bay signing Preston Smith from the Redskins. Perry was a late bloomer after the Packers drafted him in the first round in 2012, as he didn’t become a full-time starter until 2016. In 2016 and 2017 Perry had 18 sacks and a high number of pressures in 26 combined games and looked like a key part of Green Bay’s defense going forward. Injuries continued to be an issue for Perry last year as he managed just 9 games and only 1.5 sacks. While it’s clear Perry is not a guy you can rely on for 16 games, he has shown himself to be a good pass rusher when he’s healthy. His price should be considerably reduced, and he has the upside to produce a 10 sack season if he gets 12-14 games. Signing Perry also shouldn’t change the Redskins draft strategy as well as they could still target the position early.

Cassius Marsh: Marsh has bounced around the last couple of years, but he’s been a solid situational pass rusher. The 49ers gave him a bigger contract and tried to expand his role, but that didn’t work out a year ago. Still only 26, Marsh had 5.5 sacks last season and he could pair with Ryan Anderson or a rookie to add ability off the EDGE. He shouldn’t cost a lot, and would be an upgrade over Pernell McPhee as an EDGE rusher.

Overview: There are a few bigger names still out there, but Houston and Perry are relatively comparable so signing someone else wouldn’t make a ton of sense. Probably the most likely outcome is the Redskins address this position early in the draft (potentially first round) and save money. Maybe they’d still consider Perry or Marsh if the price isn’t too bad. And if they really just want depth there are some other cut players they could look at.

Inside Linebacker:

Mark Barron: Barron would allow the Redskins to release Mason Foster, who adds value on a below market deal, but is coming off a rough season. Mason Foster is average at best as a starter, but between public comments he made last season and clashes with fans on social media it might make sense to move on. The Redskins though are thin at LB with Shaun Dion Hamilton and Reuben Foster both carrying some risk. Signing Barron would allow the Redskins to move on from Mason Foster, while at the same time having an All-Alabama top trio of linebackers. Barron entered the league as a safety, but was converted to linebacker and had multiple productive years as an undersized coverage linebacker. He was banged-up last season and didn’t play as well, but he’s a solid bounce back candidate.

Overview: There is not a lot out there in the free agent market (either UFA or guys who were released), so while cutting Mason Foster makes sense after a tumultuous season last year, it’s risky if they don’t have a replacement in mind. Shaun Dion Hamilton showed some promise last year and Reuben Foster has plenty of upside, but both players carry risk. Maybe the Redskins will look to the draft to add a top player in the early rounds or more depth later.

Safety:

Eric Berry: Berry on paper is one of the biggest names on the market and if he’s healthy his performance will likely meet the expectations that come with it. Unfortunately Berry has dealt with a lot recently as a heel injury limited him to just two games this past season, and he suffered a torn Achilles in the first game of the 2017 season. When Berry is on the field he is a playmaker and potentially one of the top free safeties in the game. What’s unknown is if he can still play at that level and if the injuries will continue to hamper him. While he might be willing to play on a prove-it deal, it will still likely be a costly prove-it deal. That could make it difficult for the Redskins to maneuver the cap to accommodate him. While probably unlikely a Collins-Berry safety duo would be potentially the best in the league and could completely turn around the Redskins secondary.

Overview: There isn’t a lot of other good options. Glover Quinn has been a good starting safety, but he’s reportedly considering retirement. It seems unlikely he’d put off those plans to join the Redskins. Kurt Coleman is interesting, though his play has fallen off the last few years and he’s seeing less and less work as a free safety. Still he’d be a solid veteran to pair with Montae Nicholson or a draft pick. If the Redskins are willing to cancel out a compensatory pick Tre Boston has been a solid starter and his price might have dropped a bit.



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