The biggest splash(s) the Redskins have made so far early in the 2014 offseason certainly didn't come from the open market. No, the Redskins chose to re-sign some of their own key players, instead of chasing numerous big names they were linked to this year in free agency.
The Redskins locked up veteran corner DeAngelo Hall to a deal a few weeks ago, rewarding the veteran for a great season on the field. He can now be paired with promising second year player David Amerson, to form a formidable, and ball-hawking tandem on the outside.
The Hall signing was key, but locking up Brian Orakpo was huge!. Besides being home-grown talent, Orakpo is one of the better young pass rushers in the NFL. A long-term deal is the main goal here, but the franchise tag will do for now.
Aside from Hall and Orakpo, Bruce Allen and company also chose to take care of one of the better young linebackers in the NFC, by re-signing Perry Riley to a cap friendly multi-year contract. He will take over for the retired London Fletcher as the leader of our defense.
Although the re-signing of Chris Baker did not generate as much buzz as the others on the list, his importance can't be understated. Baker was our second best defensive linemen throughout the second half of the 2013 season, and his versatility and athleticism offer Jim Haslett a lot of options along the defensive front.
Now, entering the start of free agency on Tuesday, the Redskins still had many glaring needs. At the top of that list was defensive line(DE in our 3-4), safety, nickle cornerback, linebacker, wide receiver, and offensive line.
The team started slowly on Tuesday, making a couple under-the-radar signings. Guard Shawn Lauvao should help shore up a major weak spot along the front five. His youth and size will be an upgrade to the current unit. Many claimed his play was not stellar last season, but I think the high-ankle sprain had a lot to do with this. Andre Roberts was a huge signing, adding another offensive weapon to operate primarily out of the slot for Robert Griffin. Adam Hayward was a big signing in terms of much needed specials teams help, and linebacker depth.
On Wednesday, the Redskins took it to another level by adding help to their much maligned defense. Jason Hatcher was signed away from division rival Dallas, and should be immediately inserted as a starting defensive end. His presence along the defensive front should be instrumental in helping the Redskins defense return to respectability.
Darryl Sharpton was signed as a potential starter next to Riley at linebacker. He's young, athletic, and can be a nice 3-down player, with upside for the next few years. He can also add special teams help.
The Redskins were in need of a nickle corner, and the signing of Tracy Porter offers them just that. Porter is young, fast, and has decent size. Injury was a concern, but if he can remain healthy, he'll provide quality coverage and athleticism to the secondary.
Finally, the Redskins added even more defensive line depth when they reached an agreement with the massive nephew of former Redskin Jumpy Geathers, signing the younger Clifton to a contract. He can come in and provide rotational depth along the front three.
These recent signings still leave a few holes, but they did a nice job of addressing major needs, by filling them with quality, affordable players. Safety is a major concern, but if Ryan Clark is added as a stop-gap, we can go into the season with some confidence on the back end, and look to address free safety in the draft either this year, or next.
Offensive line is still in flux, as a right tackle was not addressed, but count me as one who feels that the staff may be looking to third year player Tom Compton to step up this offseason. Compton has all the tools you would look for in an offensive tackle: good frame, long arms, quick feet, exceptional hand punch and a good work ethic. He won the starting swing-tackle job last season, displacing veteran Tony Pashos, who many thought would win the starting right tackle job. If Compton comes into camp prepared for the challenge, he may end up as our starter.
Center remains a big question mark, but the team does have some options. A draft pick in the mid-rounds, like USC's Marcus Martin could become a eventual starter. Chris Chester and Josh LeRibeus have both played center before, so maybe one of the two can slide over to the position. The Redskins could still choose to look at free agents like Ted Larsen, or Brian De La Puente.
Finally, wide receiver remains a big need. The team did bring back Santana Moss on a one year deal, but we need some size on the outside. As I previously mentioned, Andre Roberts will be the primary slot receiver, but with over 65 percent of team's formations using sub packages, meaning less two back formations, and more three-wide or two tight end sets, the Redskins still have a major need on the outside opposite Garcon. It makes sense to look to the draft in the first two rounds to find that play maker we have lacked for years.
As I look at the roster now, compared to the beginning of the week, I see vast improvement, especially on defense, where we needed the most help. Linebacker, defensive line, outside linebacker, and cornerback are now nearly set for the 2014 season. Offensive guard is set, and we could still see some more cuts at the position, as we have more guards on this roster than any other position.
If we do not sign another starting caliber free agent(which I'm sure we will) we would enter the draft with primary needs at wide receiver and safety, and secondary needs at right tackle and center.
Not a bad change from a week ago!