Position: Defensive End
Height: 6'5" Weight: 310 lbs
College: Alabama A&M
Drafted: Seventh round, 231st overall by the Miami Dolphins (2011)
A journeyman for the first few years of his pro career, Frank Kearse seemed to have finally found a home in the nation's capital. Then the Redskins signed a handful of defensive linemen in free agency, and suddenly his roster spot was up for grabs again. If he can't catch on with Washington, his play in 2014 should at least earn him a job with another team.
#1. Kearse came to the Redskins in May 2014 having spent time with the Dolphins, Carolina Panthers, Tennessee Titans and Dallas Cowboys. He had a strong preseason and earned a spot on the 53-man roster, then after sitting out the first game of the season, he played in the final 15 and racked up 15 total tackles and three sacks.
#2. Though not a complete longshot to make the team last year, Kearse was hardly a lock, either. He claimed one of the final roster spots and was one of just five healthy inactives for the Redskins' Week 1 loss to the Houston Texans. Myriad injuries and generally lackluster play by the defensive line allowed Kearse an opportunity, and he seized it, playing in a career-best 15 games — more than double his previous high.
#3. His three sacks were tied for third-most on the team in 2014. Three sacks for a player many didn't even expect to make the team is nothing to scoff at, but the fact that he was among the team leaders is more of a knock against the rest of the defense than it is praise for Kearse. Ryan Kerrigan had a terrific season with 13.5 sacks and Jason Hatcher managed 5.5 in 13 games, but Kearse and safety Brandon Meriweather were the only other Redskins to reach the three-sack mark. Considering the Burgundy and Gold managed an incredible 10 sacks in Week 2 alone, it was an otherwise less-than-stellar season by the team's pass rushers.
#4. The Redskins overhauled their d-line this offseason and the former Alabama A&M star will once again have to fight for his roster spot, but he has already proved his worth once. The additions of Terrance Knighton, Stephen Paea, Ricky Jean Francois and Jerrell Powe could spell trouble for Kearse, who is one of 11 defensive linemen currently on the roster. Washington entered the 2014 season with seven d-linemen; of those, only Kearse, Hatcher, Chris Baker and Kedric Golston remain. Two things working in Kearse's favor are his size and versatility. Though he will primarily play on the edge, Kearse can be pushed inside if needed and his 6'5", 310-pound frame will help clog running lanes.
It is a bit concerning that a man of his size has just one pass breakup in 31 career games. Paea, listed as four inches shorter than Kearse, was credited for three breakups each of the past two seasons, and Golston, at 6'4", had three in his rookie season alone. On the other hand, Hatcher, at 6'6", didn't record his first pass breakup until the 61st game of his career, then proceeded to rack up seven more over the past four seasons.
Also, look at how much he moved around pre-snap last year. This gives him the ability to rush the quarterback from a variety of positions, and it forces opposing offensive lines to adjust on the spot.
#5. As noted by John Keim of ESPN.com, Kearse had aspirations to be like one of the most famous athletes of his namesake when he grew up:
"I wanted to be the next Frank Thomas. I swear I thought I was going to be him, being on first base eating sunflower seeds. Then a baseball hit me in the face and I had a black eye for a month, so I needed to find a sport with a facemask. I was about nine. I took a year out from baseball and tried out for football when I was 11 and I freaking quit. I was like, 'what are they running around for?' I had to get in shape. The next year I came out and I was in way better shape. In football you have to be in shape, and when I first started out I was nowhere near football shape."
Bottom Line: Despite a career year, Kearse could once again be fighting for a roster spot thanks to the Redskins retooling their defensive line. He very well might make the final roster, but if he gets waived, there's a pretty good chance another team will snatch the fifth-year player up. At just 26, he still offers plenty of upside and would make a solid backup if nothing else.