Now that the dust has settled on what I think we can all call a special season, it's time to look forward into what should be a positive future for the Washington Redskins.
Although we are well on our way to being a legitimate play-off contender, there are still some major holes on our roster which we were winning in spite of. You are probably already sick of hearing about one of the poorest Safety pairings in the NFL and the inconsistent Cornerback play in front of them. As we well know, our front offices priority heading into this off-season should be rebuilding our Secondary for the short and long-term.
Another major hole, is that outside of Trent Williams we have nothing close to a proven or reliable option at either Tackle spot. I do have high hopes for Tom Compton and believe he should be in the mix to be the starter at RT heading into 2013, however until he's played a down of meaningful football it's impossible to gauge how well he would play. We still need to build depth and competition.
The Secondary and OT might not be the only positions in need of of immediate attention. In my opinion London Fletcher retiring could have a huge impact on our team. Sure, he got off to a slow start in 2012 but he still managed to play at a high level and made a number of big plays during our 7 game winning streak. He is a player whose value transcends their on field play, he really is a mentor to a talented group of young Linebackers and a true leader. The other reason his retirement would create a hole on our roster is that we don't really have a viable starting option behind him. Keenan Robinson did look solid in his limited playing time, but in my opinion he hasn't shown enough to be given the start next to Perry Riley.
Tight End is another area where there are some legitimate question marks. Fred Davis while talented has had a history of failed drug tests and would face a years suspension if he failed another. To muddy the waters even more he is also recovering from a torn Achilles which cut his season short. I would like to see him back in Burgundy and Gold, but only if we could sign him on a team friendly deal and even if he was retained there are no guarantees he would be the same player as before. Logan Paulsen seems like a great guy and is a reliable contributor to our offense, but unless Niles Paul has a hand transplant we are short on pass catching options at the position.
Although I hope/believe Fletcher and Davis will be back for next year, imagine if you will that things don't go our way and we face the worst case scenario of not securing either player. Which would leave us in need of re-enforcements at FS, SS, RT, CB, ILB, TE
I've broken down our options into the following categories with the approximate value of the signing.
- Draft Pick: Unless you are Vinny Cerrato, you should know what this is.
- High End Signing: ~$6+ Million Per Year
- Mid End Signing: ~$3-$6 Million Per Year
- Budget Signing: ~$1-$3 Million Per Year
- Risk-Reward Signing: A guy with high upside but a perceived problem which could involve health, inconsistency or character issues.
- Dark Horse: A little bit of outside the box thinking.
Draft Pick: Duke Williams, Nevada is a guy who I love in this years draft class. I think he has the rare blend of skills and athleticism to be a true center field player which is something that our defense has sorely missed since the tragic and untimely passing of Sean Taylor. He is raw and could use a bit of seasoning, but has the athleticism and man coverage skills to contribute in nickel and packages.
High End Signing: Jairus Byrd, Buffalo Bills one of the premier Free Safeties in the NFL and a fantastic ball-hawk. Unfortunately however I feel that he will be out of our reach due to our less then ideal salary cap situation. (Especially now that the Bills are expected to Franchise him)
Mid End Signing: Glover Quin, Houston Texans benefited greatly from a conversion from CB to FS and had a very solid 2012, not flashy but a solid dependable guy who is said to be the Texans priority in Free Agency.
Risk-Reward Signing: Kenny Phillips, New York Giants a quality, young starter when healthy who has had struggles with injuries. Committing a large sum of money into him would be a risky maneuver for any team, due to this he may have to sign a 'prove it' type contract. If we did sign him there would be the added bonus of taking away a good player from a division rival.
Dark Horse: Deangelo Hall would make a decent free safety. I think he has a good blend of solid instincts, athleticism, zone skills and is an underrated tackler. That is providing he takes a pay cut to around the $2-3 million per year mark.
Draft Pick: D.J Swearinger, South Carolina has a lot of members of Hogs Haven singing his praises, including myself. His stock is climbing steadily and he could go as high as the Second Round. He can start on day one and add a physical presence to our secondary.
High End Signing: William Moore, Atlanta Falcons simply put is a beast who is also a decent cover player. He is one of the better Strong Safeties in the league and will be rewarded as so this off-season.
Mid End Signing: Chris Clemons, Miami Dolphins has developed into a solid starting safety and would certainly be an upgrade over anything that we fielded in 2012, although he wouldn't be a cheap signing he would still bring good value to the team.
Budget Signing: Jamarca Sanford, Minnesota Vikings a solid and physical player who can line up in the box and help out in run support, he isn't exactly a liability in coverage but he isn't an impact player in that aspect, but overall would be a good low key signing.
Risk-Reward Signing: Jim Leonhard, Denver Broncos was a part time player last year, but has proven during his time at the Jets that he is a decent starter at Safety. Although not as good a player as Kenny Phillips they are both in a similar situation regarding their durability having a negative effect on securing a long term contract.
Dark Horse: Brandon Meriweather if he isn't healthy we are left with a catastrophic void at Safety, but if he is good to go I think he could be a solid starter. We can and should upgrade him in the future, but with our limited resources you could do worse as a one year stop gap. A lot, lot worse.
Draft Pick: Jordan Poyer, Oregon State is just a great football player, he may not have elite measurables, but he just understands the game of football and can do a bit of everything. Think of a guy like Casey Hayward (although I'm not suggesting he will be quite as good)
Mid End Signing: Chris Houston, Detroit Lions doesn't get much love in rankings or the court of public opinion, but has quietly developed into a quality corner who can match up with a number 1 receiver. He isn't a shut down player and will get beaten, but I don't feel he gets enough credit for his play and would be a good player to poach away from the Lions.
Budget Signing: Leodis McKelvin, Buffalo Bills a first round bust who the Bills are not likely to re-sign. He hasn't lived up to being the 11th overall pick, but he has developed into a solid Nickel corner and a quality return guy. At worst he would be a boost to our Special Teams
Risk-Reward Signing: Greg Toler, Arizona Cardinals has shown flashes of being a very good corner and would probably be the best on our roster if he was signed. The issue with him is that he has had issues with injury and is unproven as a 16 game starter, he is definitely worth a look though (which is apparently the case, as the Redskins met with his agent.)
Draft Pick: David Quessenberry, San Jose State has done a great job of building his stock at the Senior Bowl and Combine. He would be a great fit in our zone scheme at Guard or Tackle. I had originally pegged Terron Armstead here, but after flashing Tight End athleticism I doubt he will make it to our first pick.
High End Signing: Sebastian Vollmer, New England Patriots is going to get paid this off-season and rightly so. He is one of the best Right Tackles in the NFL and at 28 he is still young enough to invest in long term.
Mid End Signing: Sam Baker, Atlanta Falcons rated as a bust after suffering through injuries and mediocre play for his first few years in the NFL. He finally lived up to his draft projection last year and although he wasn't elite, he was a good, solid player. His unimpressive resume should help keep his contract relatively affordable, although we would have to offer him something solid to pull him away from the Falcons.
Budget Signing: Ryan Harris, Houston Texans a former Mike Shanahan draft pick from his Denver Bronco days. Harris was developing into a quality Right Tackle until injuries derailed his career and he bounced around the league until eventually settling with the Texans. He played well in his limited action (2 starts) and looked healthy after a year away from football. He could plug in and play from day 1 and with his injury history, should be cheap enough to sign that he wouldn't have a significant impact if things didn't work out.
Risk-Reward Signing: Jeff Otah, Free Agent blighted by injury throughout his fledgling career he eventually fell out of the league in 2012. He began working with LeCharles Bentley in order to rehab his body and restore what was once a promising NFL career. I don't know what sort of condition or health he is in, but he is definitely an option worth exploring and would be an upgrade to anything we fielded at the position (if healthy)
Dark Horse: Tyler Polumbus sorry for pissing in your kool aid guys, but does anyone else get the sickening feeling that Polumbus could be our starting Right Tackle heading into next year?
Draft Pick: Vince Williams, Florida State is a throwback Inside Linebacker who should be available in the mid-late rounds. While he wont be a day one starter, or the next Patrick Willis he can be an effective two down run stuffer and could split time with Keenan Robinson whose forte is pass coverage.
Mid End Signing: Brad Jones, Green Bay Packers could be a forgotten man with A.J Hawk, D.J Smith and Desmond Bishop ahead of him on the depth chart. Slightly undersized, but very athletic for a linebacker. He is active against the run and the pass, but isn't a flashy player. At 27 he could be a solution for the next five years.
Budget Signing: Erin Henderson, Minnesota Vikings struggled to find a suitor upon becoming a Free Agent last year before ultimately re-signing on a 1 year $2 million contract. He is a physical player who has the size and run defense ability to fit into our 3-4 scheme. He does have some issues in Pass Defense, which would give us the opportunity to get Keenan Robinson on the field for passing downs.
Dark Horse: Lorenzo Alexander a fan favorite, who has goes under the alias of 'The One Man Gang' due to his willingness to play multiple positions and do whatever Coaches ask of him. He was Fletch's primary backup last year and played around 300 snaps on defense, while also providing pro-bowl level play on Special Teams. I know he isn't a glamorous pick, but with our limited resources why not reward someone who has come through for our team, time and time again with a shot at being a starter?
Draft Pick: Mychal Rivera, Tennessee I like this kid a lot in the mid-late rounds, he is one of those players who is good but not great at a lot of things. He can be used as a H-Back and Joker TE and be a nice compliment to Logan Paulsen who is more of a conventional TE.
Mid End Signing: James Casey, Houston Texans a very athletic and versatile player who played pretty much every Offensive position except Offensive Line at Rice. He has great natural receiving ability and would be a great option at TE, although he has played mainly at Fullback in the NFL.
Budget Signing: Benjamin Watson, Cleveland Browns more of a conventional Tight End then the other options mentioned. He doesn't excel in any one area, but is very solid across the board. Entering his 10th season at the ripe age of 32, he wouldn't be much more then a veteran stop gap.
Dark Horse: Delanie Walker, San Francisco 49ers is another extremely versatile and athletic player who would fit very well with our offense. His signing would also be a boon to our Special Teams. He does have questionable hands which limits his potential as a receiver but overall he is a solid addition.
So there you have it, a list of some of the options that are available for upgrading our team for next year. It would be very difficult for us to add an upper tier player through Free Agency and I feel like it would take some astute maneuvering just to bring in a couple of Mid-Low tier guys. Steve Shoup did a great job of breaking down the teams cap situation and how we can squeeze some extra dollars by cutting and restructuring players, which you can view by clicking any of these letters.
With all of this in mind, what is your plan to improve the Redskins?