It's no secret that the Washington Redskins biggest need is their offensive line, as with the exception of left tackle Trent Williams, the Redskins don't have a single other consensus starting lineman on their roster. Last season the Redskins line finished among the leagues worst in every statistical category. For the Redskins offense to have any success they will need to make multiple additions to their offensive line. With a strong draft that filled other needs and a good chunk of money to spend, the Redskins should be aggressive in their pursuit of linemen this offseason.
The first guy I'd sign would be G/T Marshal Yanda (formerly of the Ravens), to fill the Redskins need at RG. Yanda might be a surprise choice to be at the top of mine (and hopefully the Redskins) wish list, but he is an excellent fit. Sure their are bigger guard names out there, but Yanda is younger than most and also the perfect fit for our zone blocking scheme. Yanda is more athletic than just about every other quality offensive lineman on the free agent market (and on our roster), which should help him transition to a ZBS scheme. As for the remaining questions, of his availability, price tag, and why I think RG is the fit, that will take a bit longer to answer...
Will he be available:
The Ravens love Yanda's work ethic and versatility, and have made strong statements about bringing him back, but it could be tough for them. If free agency goes back to the pre-2010 formula of 4 years of service time to unrestricted free agency, Baltimore could have their fair share of suitors for Yanda.
While it is evident that they hope to keep him, the Ravens still have other major holes in free agency as they still look to resign one of their corner backs, Dwan Landry (their starting SS), and a starting fullback/power back. The Ravens also have G Chris Chester and T Jared Gaither on the market and could easily decide to go in a different direction. Baltimore also faces a tough year next season as Ben Grubbs, Ray Rice, Haloti Ngata (he signed his Fran. tender but they still need to work on a long term deal), Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, Jarrett Johnson, Jameel McClain and Matt Birk are all set to hit UFA. While one or two of those guys could be replaced internally, the majority will need to be resigned or a top priority given to finding a replacement. Also, Ray Lewis could void his remaining contract (or even retire), leaving another potential hole in their roster.
The Ravens also went out and traded up to acquire 3rd rounder OT Jah Reid. Reid looks to be a capable RT and could allow Baltimore to resign Chris Chester for less and go with a cheaper line. Given all of that potential roster turnover, I don't know if the Ravens will be willing to pay top dollar to Yanda longterm. While I know they want him, if the Redskins start a bidding war i think he is theirs.
What is his price tag:
Yanda has quietly been one of the best blockers in the league since he was drafted in the 3rd round in 2007. He started 12 games as a rookie, and while he struggled at times his overall level of play was pretty solid, and showed a lot of promise. His 2nd season Yanda began to show that promise as through the first 5 games of the year he was opening running lanes left and right for the Ravens. Unfortunately a major knee injury cut short his year after 5 games (at the time he graded as one of the best OG's in the league). There initially was a lot of concern about his knee as 2009 rolled around, but Yanda stayed off the PUP list and played in every game that season, and started 9 of them (initially he was used as a 6th linemen in jumbo packages). Despite only 9 starts (and two playoff starts) Yanda returned to form and was quietly one of the most productive guards in the league. Last year with LT Jared Gaither's injury, and RT Michael Oher moving over, the Ravens used Yanda at RT (he did start one game at RG late in the year). Yanda handled the transition extremely well, and was one of the team's most productive linemen. He played all but one offensive snap all season (including the playoffs) showing once again that he was healthy and ready to contribute.
Due somewhat to all the big names surrounding him on the Ravens line and I think the injury he suffered that wiped out basically a season, Yanda doesn't get the Pro Bowl credit he deserves. He's been successful at both guard and tackle and will just be 27 as the season starts next year. While the knee injury is always a concern, it showed no sign of slowing him down the 2nd half of 2009 forward, which is a very good sign.
I think he doesn't have the profile of most elite guards (though he has the talent). He should come in somewhere in the $6-7 million range for between 5-7 years. My guess that is enough to keep the Ravens away and most other suitors. I think that will be about the same range as what guys like Harvey Dahl and Davin Joesph get and obviously this is a higher value since he fits better.
Why RG over RT:
There is no question that Yanda could come in and be a HUGE upgrade over Jamaal Brown and Stephon Heyer on the right side of our line. Yanda was one of the most productive tackles last season, and he probably could do it again, the problem is he is better suited, and reportedly prefers playing guard (note: for the Skins that is quite alright).
Honestly though in addition to his preference he makes more sense at guard than tackle for the Skins anyways. He was a good tackle last season, but in 09 and briefly in 08 he was a borderline Pro Bowler at guard for the Ravens. He fits this system perfectly at guard (something that not many of the other guard FA's can say), and there should be addition RT options for the Skins. He can always fill in for RT if we have an injury, but his primary focus should be getting our ground game going.
Yanda is a great fit for the Skins and someone I believe they should open their checkbook for. It might be a little tough to pry him away from Baltimore, but the Redskins are in a great position to do so. In Yanda the Redskins get a fantastic worker and a guy who can take over a leadership role for this team. He's been apart of playoff teams, and is well thought of around the league. He's exactly the type of big name free agent the Redskins need to go after, and he will be a big part of turning their ground game around. His presence could allow Will Montgomery to kick inside to center to replace Casey Rabach.
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.