Gone are the days of free-agency frenzies in D.C., which is a well-received truth for Redskins fans. Part of that, for obvious reasons, has to do with the cap penalties handed down by the commissioner’s office for overloading contracts during uncapped years, but a bigger part of that has to do with the philosophy shared by Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen. They’ve never gone after the marquee names, but haven’t been afraid to spend money, evidenced by the Pierre Garcon, Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen signings.
This year, circumstances are a little different. There’s not a ton of cap room to work with, but luckily, that’s not necessarily needed, though it would be nice. There’s still room to sign positions of need, and with deep drafts in 2011 and 2012, there are plenty of young guns champing at the bit that will get playing time.
Big-name guys could improve the team, but are they vital for the next step to be taken? Would a $20-30 million receiver like Greg Jennings or a great edge rusher like Anthony Spencer really take a division champion and make them Super Bowl contenders at steep prices? Or, would that money pumped into one or two headlines be better suited for several footnotes that could have just as big of an impact? Let’s take a look at a few of those players who could do just that:
Leodis McKelvin, CB: This year's draft is ripe with attainable mid-round talent when it comes to the secondary, but should the Redskins choose to supplement that with free agent signings, Leodis McKelvin is a name that will warrant interest.
It will be really interesting to see what kind of value McKelvin commands on the open market. He’s shown a penchant for making plays over the years, but started just four games for the Bills before a groin injury ended his season in December. McKelvin did have a large role on special teams as the main punt-return man in Buffalo, but he has expressed interest in wanting a bigger role on defense with his future team. That opportunity would be there should the Redskins part ways with DeAngelo Hall.
Sean Smith, CB: Smith is a big, physical corner at 6-foot-3-inches and 215 pounds, and upside is more than visible. After the Dolphins parted ways with Vontae Davis just before the regular season, they could make Smith a priority in wake of that. Should Smith elude the Dolphins' grasp and hit free agency, he may be a bit too expensive for the Redskins to pursue. But if money is going to be spent this offseason, the secondary is where it ought to go.
Captain Munnerlyn, CB: Munnerlyn is an intriguing free agent if Carolina lets him go. He has plenty of experience in the slot as well as returning kicks, and that versatility is always welcome on a roster that needs to be creatively built in order to remain competitive since cap space is more limited than usual. Having one guy fill two roles, and for cheap, could be just what the Redskins are looking for especially if Munnerlyn asks for less money than a similar player like McKelvin.
Patrick Chung, S: All right, stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The New England Patriots have a safety on its roster who is hard-hitting, a bit of a freelancer and appears to have fallen out of favor with the coaching staff. Remind you of anybody?
Bradie James, MLB: The Redskins are going to need to add depth to the linebacker position. Perry Riley has emerged as a reliable starter and Keenan Robinson shows plenty of promise for the future, but what of London Fletcher? Will he even be back in 2013?
The Redskins addressed this last season by adding Bryan Kehl and Jonathan Goff to the 90-man roster last season, and needless to say, there’s still going to be plenty of space to be filled in that department when summertime roles around.
Bradie James could provide good, veteran depth. He was thrust into a starting position with the Texans after Brian Cushing’s season ended, and the 10-year veteran showed he still had something left in the tank. James has experience in the 3-4 and could be a nice mentor for Riley and Robinson. And it’s always good to know he’s capable of being the next man up in case of emergency.
Barrett Ruud, MLB: Putting it nicely, Ruud has been horrible over the past three seasons, and that predates his recent injury issues. It’s also worth noting that Rudd is a guy who once had a nose for the football and experience being the leader of his defensive unit. Guys like that aren’t usually had for as cheap as what he’ll be this offseason, so he’s worth a look if nothing else. However, I’d be hesitant to pen him in as anything more than a camp body as of now.
Erin Henderson, WLB: Henderson couldn’t repeat his terrific 2011 campaign, and a mid-season concussion may have had something to do with that. The Vikings signed him to a one-year deal this past offseason, and if you recall, it took them a long time to offer that deal. This was puzzling, given how well Henderson performed, and you have to figure that if they were pretty reluctant to bring him back in 2012, why would matters be any better in 2013?
His health will be something of a concern, but it could put a dent in his price tag, which is something that is certainly welcome from Shanahan and Allen’s perspective. The Redskins made a similar decision to sign Jonathan Goff last season, and Henderson fits that low-risk-high-reward profile if the Vikings don’t bring him back.
Branden Albert, OT: In the end, I think the Chiefs retain Branden Albert and ultimately let him play tackle instead of selecting a top-tier talent like Luke Joeckel in the draft. But should they not, Albert is one of the better pass protectors in the NFL and would be an outstanding fit opposite Trent Williams and within the rest of the zone-blocking scheme. The issue here is how much money Albert would command in free agency, and it’s probably more than the Redskins will be able to afford.
Ryan Harris, OT: A back injury halted a promising start to Ryan Harris’ career, and he has since bounced around from Denver, to Philadelphia, back to Denver and finally with the Houston Texans. Injuries to Derek Newton and Rashad Butler allowed Harris to re-prove himself, and while he didn’t wow anybody, he certainly proved himself capable of success in the zone-blocking scheme. It’s possible that Houston retains the former Mike Shanahan draft pick since he held down the fort in what could have been a disastrous season at right tackle for the Texans. But if they don’t, a healthy version of Harris would be a welcome upgrade over Tyler Polumbus. “Healthy” is certainly the key word there, since the Redskins won’t want a repeat of Jammal Brown.
Justin Forsett, RB: Forsett is a veteran back with plenty of experience in the zone blocking scheme. He would be a great guy to have if Roy Helu, Jr.’s injury problems persist.
Peyton Hillis, RB: After a remarkable 2010 campaign with the Cleveland Browns, Peyton Hillis has dropped off the face of the Earth, averaging 3.6 yards per carry over the past two seasons with limited snaps. But who knows what will happen? Hillis hasn’t logged a ton of mileage, and won’t warrant anything besides a cheap contract in the open market at this point. Maybe Mike Shanahan still sees something in the back he drafted in 2008.
LaRon Landry, SS: Yeah, kidding. Besides, the Redskins won’t be able to afford him. He will be seeking a long-term deal and lots of money after inking a $3.5 million incentive-based contract with the Jets for the 2012 season.
Albert Haynesworth, Bench: If there’s a case to be made for him to rejoin the team, allow me to defer to Skylar White for the appropriate response to said proposition: