One of the first things that teams will do when the lockout is lifted is sign their undrafted free agent classes, that typically would have been finalized within 24 hours after the draft. Despite having a big draft class the Redskins should take full advantage of this time and sign a number of players. Teams typically sign between 10-15 (why the Redskins only signed 5 last year is beyond me) UDFA's, and that is after the primary free agency period and the draft, and Washington should be no exception.
While I have been all for spending. what appears to be a very healthy amount of cap space, on starting caliber free agents, I'd rather see the majority of the backup roles go to young players. Last year we saw how relying on mediocre veterans don't help much in the W-L column, and this year those guys will eat up our salary cap. Instead the Redskins should have more open competitions for backup roles, and go with the guys who fit best in both the short term and longterm for the team.
I know a lot of people want to write off undrafted free agency this year since there is a truncated offseason, but I think that is a mistake, especially for a rebuilding team like the Redskins. For one thing, if some contenders (or teams in general) aren't aggressive in signing UDFA's due to the short amount of preparation, then that just increases the supply for teams that are active. Also, this was one of the deepest draft classes in recent years, meaning more late-round quality players fell than what you typically see. Finally, although there are few undrafted stars, there are quite a few undrafted guys in this league with significant roles.
In addition to having a deep pool of talent to start with, the Redskins have other advantages going for them should they be active in the market. For one thing the Redskins have money, and they can offer higher bonuses than some other cost conscious teams, to win over the players. These contracts will have little-no bearing on the salary cap (unless there are some drastic changes) so offering a guy an extra $5-10K is smart for the Redskins. The other thing the Redskins have going for them is opportunity. At basically every single position you can make a case for their being an opportunity for a backup job. Most of the current backups on this team are fellow rookies, street free agents, or last year's draft picks and UDFA's. Even among older backups, there are few guaranteed spots, as many of them are near the end of their career or contract and/or have been highly disappointing. Given the money, and opportunity factors the Redskins should hopefully get the cream of the undrafted crop. Not all of them will make it, but the Redskins at least offer a chance at a few jobs as well as a fair chance to showcase themselves.
Here are some of the top guys, I'd target for the Redskins:
QB: Pat Devlin: Devlin was expected to be drafted and is by far the most impressive signal caller on the UDFA market. He gets high marks for his size, athletic ability and accuracy, though primarily faced a lower level of competition in college. There are also questions about his arm strength, but overall he'd be a perfect fit for the Redskins number 3 QB role.
RB: Graig Cooper: I know the Redskins have added 4 RB's in the last two years, but Cooper is highly intriguing. He was considered a potential early round pick, before a serious knee injury. And instead of taking a red-shirt year, he came back early to help his team. While his speed is back just yet, he's got the quick cutting ability and vision you'd like to see in a ZBS back. He gets high marks for his work ethic as well. He might not make the squad, but I'd love to stash him on the Practice Squad while that knee gets back to 100%.
FB: Henry Hynoski: Yes I have a Pitt bias, but I really believe the kid can play at the next level. He was in a tough situation where he had to leave Pitt early since their new coach's system has a major deemphasis on the position. Even is the Redskins sign John Kuhn like I hope they could still use a backup FB. Hynoski is a raw talent who should fit into what the Redskins want to do. If they don't sign Kuhn then their need is even greater, either way he makes sense in Washington.
WR: Armon Binns: Given their focus in the draft the Redskins might not be able to land some of the top WR's that fell, but I wouldn't ignore the position. Binns has excellent size and has shown some big play ability in the past. His hands are a question mark, but overall looked liked a potential weapon. He'd be a solid camp option, and could be the type who develops in the practice squad.
OG/OT: Garrett Chisolm: Chisolm was mentioned by CBSSports as a fit for a Mike Shanahan type scheme as a developmental prospect, and everything about him backs that up. He is more athletic than strong, and does well on the move. Chisolm is a great story as he was a walk-on to South Carolina in the summer of 2009, and ended up as a 2nd team All-SEC player this past season. He's a smart hard-working kid, who could be a nice developmental player for Washington.
C: Kris O'Dowd: Injuries might have kept him from becoming an elite college center or being drafted, but they shouldn't be too much of a concern for a UDFA flyer. O'Dowd at his best showed that he can block NFL caliber players, and while getting beat some in one-on-ones during Senior Bowl week, he stymied a number of tackles (including Jarvis Jenkins) in full team drills. He's a smart player with a great off the field track record.
DL: Martin Parker: No I'm not just writing about Parker so Parks will not argue this post, or because I know he desperately wants to wear Parker's throwback Spiders jersey to Fed Ex this year. I think Parker is a legitimate prospect that should intrigue Washington. His profile is closer to a 3-technique tackle, but he's got good size that I think he could be an intriguing 5-technique guy. there are a few other 5-technique guys who could be interesting as well with Cedric Thornton neck and neck with Parker.
NT: Ian Williams: Williams is a great depth option for NT and could even give Neild a run for his money for a roster spot. He is great at eating blocks and still holding ground. He's always been very stout against the run and would be an intriguing option for the Redskins.
ILB: Mark Herzlich: I know that Herzlich is wanted by just about every fan of every team, given his amazing story, but this isn't cliche. I think Herzlich is a great fit for the Redskins as an ILB. He's without a doubt lost a step (though he could get it back) since his cancer treatment, but his lack of speed won't be nearly the impediment inside. He's a non-stop motor guy who has displayed excellent instincts in every facet of the game. With one ILB spot up for grabs and Fletcher getting up there in age, he's the perfect developmental guy.
CB: Josh Gatlin: Gatlin doesn't have much starting experience, but he brings exceptional size and speed to the table. He also looked pretty solid a the Texas vs the Nation game, and appears to have some solid upside.
S: DeAndre McDaniel: McDaniel was a bit of a surprise to fall so far as he was one of the most productive safeties in college, and had really good measurables. From an athletic standpoint, he could be among the best safeties in the league. Unfortunately his cover skills aren't up to par. He has a ton of career interceptions, and can break on a ball when it is near him, but he's not great in coverage. While he had a troubled past, he apparently turned himself around to become a good student and team captain. He could fit in as a backup SS, with some ability to help out at FS as well (and def. help out on special teams).
As for the guys I mentioned I think all are legitimate NFL prospects and I wouldn't be surprised to see as many as 4 make the team outright with the rest being ticketed to the practice squad. There's a lot of interesting talent here, that I think if it is developed properly, the Redskins could end up with some very good players. What do you guys think, which names on here do you see them signing, and who might have a shot to make the team?
Steve Shoup has been a Redskins fan his entire life and dreams of the day they get back to the glory days of his youth. In addition to his regular piece on Hogs Haven, you can find his daily writings at Fanspeak.com.