Last March, the Redskins were quiet during the initial burst of free agency, instead opting to sit back and watch the market, while adding a few ancillary pieces to the team. The first signing in the open period was Kendall Reyes, a defensive tackle from the Chargers, who played his best football during his rookie season in 2012. A former pupil of Joe Barry (who probably had some say in his signing), Reyes was a huge free agent bust, lasting until October 5th, when he was released by the team due to poor play. He was only signed to a one-year contract, so no harm no foul...right?
On March 15th, Scot McCloughan signed Denver special teams ace David Bruton Jr. to come in and compete for one of our safety positions. He was placed on injured reserve the same day Kendall Reyes was cut, and he was ultimately released on December 2nd. Before his injury, his play was borderline horrific. He was signed by McCloughan to a three year contract with a bit of dead money in 2017.
Three days later, McCloughan made a splash by signing special teamed Terence Garvin to a one-year, $750k deal. Surprisingly, Garvin remained with the team for the length of the season, and contributed on special teams, while seeing limited action as a linebacker.
The Redskins biggest free agent addition, Vernon Davis, was signed on March 31st. The 32 year old tight end, originally drafted by McCloughan and company in San Francisco in 2006, had a re-birth in Jay Gruden's offense. He saw action in all 16 games, recording 44 receptions for 583 yards and 2 touchdowns. Although he was signed for just one year, his play warranted consideration for more time in D.C.
The three other free agent signings were Ziggy Hood(DT), Greg Toler(CB) and Cody Booth(OG).
McCloughan also chose to re-sign some of our own:
Kirk Cousins(Franchise Tag)
Kedric Golston - Ended the season on IR
Duke Ihenacho - Play was up-and-down all season
Logan Paulsen - cut
Junior Galette - Injured before the start of the season
Josh LeRibeus - cut
On April 22nd, luck unexpectedly turned our way. All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman's franchise tag was surprisingly rescinded by the Panthers, making him a free agent. The Redskins acted quickly, and flew Norman and his family into Redskins Park. He did not leave before signing a hefty free agent deal with the team.
This was the quake felt around the league.
But while the Redskins were dabbling with some low-tier free agents in March, other teams in the division were making waves.
The Giants made the loudest noise, especially on defense, signing cornerback Janoris Jenkins, defensive end Vernon Olivier, defensive tackle Damon Harrison and linebacker Keenan Robinson. Jenkins, Olivier and Harrison all garnered All-Pro honors this season, while helping lead the team to a 11-5 record and a playoff birth. The Giants defense fished 10th overall in the league in yards allowed, and tied for 3rd in rushing yards allowed.
The Eagles went on a house-cleaning spree, ousting former Chip Kelly signings left and right. The team traded DeMarco Murray, Byron Maxwell, Mark Sanchez, and eventually, quarterback Sam Bradford. They cut Riley Cooper, DeMeco Ryans and Brandon Bair, and didn't re-sign defensive end Cedric Thornton. They signed free agent safety Rodney McLeod, guard Brandon Brooks, linebacker Nigel Bradham, cornerbacks Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks, and quarterback Chase Daniels. They finished with back-to-back losing seasons(both 7-9) since 1998-99.
The Cowboys, much like the Redskins, chose to sit back and watch the market play out, before making any significant moves. They only signed three bigger free agents outside of the organization in March, inking running back Alfred Morris, defensive tackle Cedric Thornton, and defensive end Benson Mayowa to contracts. Where they made their impact was in the draft, where rookies Ezekiel Elliott, Maliek Collins, Charles Tapper and Dak Prescott were all significant contributors, with Elliott and Prescott earning All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors respectively. The Cowboys went from 4-12 in 2015 to 13-3 in 2016.
Much like the Giants in 2015, the Redskins defense this past season was a mess. The team had an offense that was ready to compete for another division title, but a defense that couldn't stop a high school team. Entering the 2017 offseason, the defense needs to be heavily addressed, and free agency will likely have to play a big part of the re-build.
The Redskins are projected to have around 62 million in cap space come March. Now, some of that will undoubtedly go towards Kirk Cousins, so off the top, let's subtract at least 20 million. That leaves roughy 42 million to use on some unrestricted free agents, and re-signing our own players. I'd like to see Baker re-signed, so I'll assume that's another 5 million gone. We are now down to 37 million. Now, cuts and restructures can also take place freeing up even more cap space, but if we enter free agency with anywhere near 35 million to spend after taking care of Cousins and Baker, I'll feel pretty good.
NFL.com recently put out their list of the top 25 2017 Unrestricted Free Agents. You can view the list Here. Here are some players from this list the Redskins should be sniffing around if they make it to free agency:
Eric Barry(28) FS
Kawann Short(27) DT
Alshon Jeffery(26) WR
Melvin Ingram(27) DE/OLB
Brandon Williams(27) DT
Kevin Zeitler(26) OG
Dont'a Hightower(26) LB
Dontari Poe(26) DT
Terrelle Pryor(27) WR
Tony Jefferson(24) S
Others who just missed the top 25:
Kenny Britt(28) WR
Johnathan Hankins(24) DT
Larry Warford(25) OG
It will be important to see who the Redskins new offensive and defensive coordinators will be, and see what ties, if any, they have to players on this list. The new defensive scheme that our new DC will choose to run will be another determining factor in deciding who we bring in.
Who on this list would you like to see the Redskins target? Who could we have a legitimate shot at landing? Who else would you add to your wish list?