The Washington Redskins free agency period started out with a whisper, but ended with a bang. Looking back at the entire body of work, most would agree that free agency was a huge success for a team that was just one year removed from a division championship. Most of our pressing needs were addressed, and this included both retaining our own key free agents, and signing some new players to don the Burgundy and Gold. This collaboration of new and existing talent should help the Redskins be, at the very least, competitive in what many view as a wide-open NFC East.
2014 free agency can not go without some scrutiny though, as two MAJOR needs were not addressed: Right Tackle and Center.
Center had very limited, high-quality options in free agency, and although the Redskins did sign Mike McGlynn, he's not considered a high-level starter, or a long-term solution. Maybe Adam Gettis can step up and steal the position this training camp, or maybe the Redskins look to the middle rounds of the 2014 NFL draft to find their future snapper.
Right tackle is a whole different problem for the Redskins. For starters, incumbent Tyler Polumbus was ineffective in 2013. He is an average run blocker, but falls well below average in pass protection. Some have even given him the nickname "Turnstile". Free agency offered a few younger options, but they all came off the market rather quickly. Most were either overpaid or were signed to play left tackle, a position the Redskins are clearly set at.
This is leaves us with two options: Go with a player already on the roster, or look to draft a starter this May.
If option two seems enticing to you, there may be a few players we can look at in the draft, but to me, there is one semi-realistic option that stands out above all the rest - Cyrus Kouandjio.
Kouandjio is a mammoth of a man, standing at 6'7" and weighing 322 pounds(which he carries very well). He recently conducted his second Pro Day at Alabama, where he improved his 40 time and vertical, and looked much more relaxed and fluid during on-field drills in front of scouts that included members of the Redskins.
What makes Kouandjio so special is his long arms, light feet and strong hands. He is a mountain of un-molded clay, just waiting for a offensive line guru to mold him into their ideal offensive linemen. Yeah, he's the guy you would create on Madden 25!
Cyrus is a mauler in every sense of the word. Once he latches on to an opponent, they are not going anywhere. He uses those 10 1/4" hands to steer defenders away from the football, and his thick lower body allows him to anchor and drive defenders out of the picture. His foot quickness has been criticized by some, but when I watch film, I see a prospect who plays on the balls of his feet, keeps his weight over his hips, and stays low in his stance. Contrary to some scouting reports, I don't feel Kouandjio is a waist-bender at all. I do think he tends to lean a bit in anticipation of a defender's move, which can set him up for a counter move, but I see this as more of a mental, than physical limitation. With good coaching, and improved awareness, this is a very fixable problem.
The only issue I saw on a rather consistent basis was that his hands sometimes don't fire in conjunction with his steps. He tends to set, then reach, which can cause him to get a bit off-balance. If he learns to kick slide, or bucket step, and fires his hands at his defenders largest target zone, he'll become more effective in pass protection. Again, this is a technique that can be coached up in the National Football League, so it's not something I am overly concerned with. What I do see is a set of very heavy hands, that when used properly, can stone even the most tenacious defender.
I don't know if Kouandjio will be available when the Redskins are on the clock at pick 34, but if he is, he would be a wise choice given the value vs. need at the position. Cyrus is just 20 years of age, so he will have years of great football ahead of him, and if he can grasp the mental aspects of the pro game, and put these together with his impressive physical tools, the sky is the limit.
The thought of having him and Trent Williams as bookends for the foreseeable future excites me almost as much as a Griffin-to-Jackson 70 yard bomb. He is currently my top prospect of interest at pick 34.
Right now, what this team needs most, is a competent right tackle, and that player could be Cyrus Kouandjio.