1. As we sit on the precipice of free agency, toes dangling perilously over the edge, I am as convinced as I ever was that the Redskins can succeed in adding three new starting offensive lineman this offseason. My plan still calls for two free agents and one draft pick to build that trio. I will get to my free agent preferences, but before I do, let me say that I am not looking for any miracle turnarounds in that department. When you replace 60% of an offensive line, you have to expect that it will take at least some time for the new group to figure out how to play together. It is not that I am okay with throwing away the 2014 season, because I am not. Despite the fact that some outlets graded our offensive line somewhat highly, I continue to bang the drum for a team led by its offensive line. We are not there yet. I am not even suggesting that we will get there between now and September from a personnel standpoint, but we can make significant progress on that front. My hope is that upgrades in talent will keep the performance somewhat steady year-over-year, while simultaneously raising the ceiling on the potential for our line. While it is possible that the line could realize that potential before the season ends, I am prepared to be patient with the process. The key is to start the process.
2. Anthony Collins might not be the most talented offensive tackle available in free agency, but he is not far off. It might not be prudent to try and outbid teams for Branden Albert, Eugene Monroe or Jared Veldheer, since those teams are most likely going to pay them top left tackle money. Collins is also sure to receive some interest from teams at the left tackle spot--he filled in admirably at that spot for Cincinnati last season--but he is considered a tier below the top free agents, and that will be reflected in the offers he receives. Jay Gruden knows Collins well, and we all know that the Redskins have expressed interest in pursuing Collins. He is 28 years old with experience in the offense we will be running. This signing is the first step to improving our offensive line.
3. The Redskins can not afford to pay a guy left tackle money to play right tackle, but they can afford to pay Collins well enough to win his services in the upcoming free agent auction. His price tag could be half of what someone is likely set to pay Albert. If that is true, Collins would be an insane bargain. Not only would he give us the bookend tackle situation we have not had since Jon Jansen and Chris Samuels were in their respective primes, he would be a VERY legit left tackle reserve if anything should happen to Trent Williams. His comfort level with the way Gruden likes to coach offense (we hope) would ideally cause defenses to play a little more straight up against us. If an idiot like me knew we were running behind Trent in certain crucial scenarios, then surely defensive coordinators knew it as well. I will stop short of suggesting that Anthony Collins is "the answer" to our problems, but if and when we get this guy under contract, our offense immediately becomes more dangerous. Barring injury, him and Trent could anchor this line for at least five years before you would have to get serious about retooling it again.
4. That brings me to a guy that I would be willing to back up the truck to get: Alex Mack. To be clear, I do not think that the Redskins will go with me on this one. By tagging Mack the way the Browns did--with no provision for compensation if he signs with someone else--it would seem that Cleveland is happy to let the market set his price and then they will just match it. It allows them to not have to make an opening bid or even bid against other teams at all. If the Redskins were to make a serious offer to Mack, I would expect the Browns to match it, but they should make it anyway. He is a top five center at the top of his game. He is also 28 years old and if Washington was able to get him and Collins, you would be looking at an offensive line that could be dominant both up the middle and on the outside for five years or longer.
5. Signing both Anthony Collins and Alex Mack might not be the most probable outcome, but if we were able to accomplish it, we would be one step away from completing my plan. Clearly, with two tackles and a center firmly entrenched, we turn our attention to adding a guard. I understand that we have a couple of young players fighting to prove that they can contribute, and I am happy to have them continue to fight. Regardless of whether this plan comes together, we will need quality depth, and developing it from our own bench is my preference. At the top of the second round, there could likely be a player at the guard spot capable of coming in right away and playing. David Yankey, Gabe Jackson and even Brandon Thomas could potentially be guys that Jay Gruden could plug and play. I do believe a guard at this spot in the draft would constitute an upgrade in talent from what we have and would be a crucial investment in the long-term protection of Robert Griffin III. This opens up the fifth and final spot at the opposite guard position, and allows for a spirited competition to fill it in camp.
6. We have more holes to fill than just along the offensive line, and enough available cap space to attend to most of those other holes. At some point though, the free agent pool will thin and the majority of the money will be spent. With limited resources, teams will try to convince aging veterans to take less money than they have made in years to provide leadership and experience. Some of those aging veterans will decide to retire before playing for minimum wage, but others will join rosters they feel have the kind of upside they want to be associated with as they end their careers. This was what I had in mind when I threw out the idea of Champ Bailey possibly joining the team--even though we all know that is highly unlikely. My question to jumpstart the comments debate is: When the Redskins have spent the majority of their money and are hunting for a veteran bargain to help them bridge the gap for one or two seasons at a position of need, who do you want?