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Could Johnathan Hankins provide the D-Line help that the Redskins have been looking for?

One team’s trash is another team’s treasure...

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New York Giants v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts have released their biggest free-agent signing from 2017 one year into his deal.

The decision to cut Hankins comes when the Colts are moving to a new 4-3 defensive system under coordinator Matt Eberflus. This, according to a league source, was the driving force behind the decision to part with Hankins.

Hankins was a productive and disruptive player on the Colts’ defense in 2017, quickly becoming one of its best performers. He certainly demonstrated no lack of talent and lived up to the contract he was awarded.

Hankins, 25, immediately becomes a free agent, and a coveted one, at that.

The 6-2, 325-pound interior defender is a natural two-gap tackle, and had a great season centering the Indianapolis Colts’ 3-4 in what was the first season of a $27 million, three-year deal.

The “one person’s trash” principle is in full effect here. Hankins earned an 85.0 grade from Pro Football Focus, and was ranked their 20th-best interior defender. Having just turned 26, the Dearborn Heights product and Ohio State Buckeye is still on the upswing.

The former Giant and Colts interior defensive lineman would represent an “impact” signing for the Redskins, who could find the missing piece of the puzzle in Hankins, drafted in the second round by the Giants in 2013.

For anyone concerned about the impact on the Redskins’ compensatory draft situation, there’s no need to worry. Since Hankins was cut by the Colts, he does not count in the comp pick formula.

The ‘second wave’ of free agency often finds unexpected gems like this — players cast aside because of scheme or coaching changes. The team finds a player in the first days of free agency who fit the new philosophy better, and around the fourth or fifth day, part ways with a productive and talented veteran who is immediately snapped up by a patient team with cap space who need the skills on offer.

The Redskins’ patience could be rewarded if they act swiftly. Get Redskin One in the air, and land it on Hankins’ front lawn while he is still shocked and reeling from the move. Wine him, dine him, and sign him... do what Dan & Bruce do best.

Then get out of the way and let Tomsula and Manusky get to work integrating this guy into what the Redskins do. Coming out of college in 2013, he was described this way:

Hankins, who carried the nickname “Big John” or “Big Hank” around Ohio State’s campus, is a load to handle on the defensive line with flashes of impressive fluidity and coordination skills for a big man. He played all over the defense line in college, lining up both outside at DE and inside at DT. Hankins rarely left the field and his coaches talk positively about his football character.

Hankins has a rare combination of size, strength and foot quickness for a defensive lineman to be a force against both the run and the pass. Hankins can tear through blocks like paper –- a potential top-12 pick with the versatility to line up as a traditional 3-technique DT in a four-man front or an effective two-gapping 0-technique NT for a 3-4 defense.

Last year, when he entered free agency the first time, there were glowing reports about him:

Considering Hankins’ age, talent and productivity, there isn’t much not to like about the defensive tackle. Coming out of college, and early in his professional career, Hankins was believed to be a run stuffer in the middle of the field. While he is that, he has surprised many with his ability to rush the passer and disrupt the backfield as well. In his second season (2014) he recorded 7 sacks and this past season he had 3 sacks, eight tackles for a loss and 10 quarterback hits.

As a 16 game starter in 2016, Hankins helped the Giants finish with the fourth-best run defense—only giving up 88.6 yards per game and the second-fewest points. He has also been praised as a good teammate and hard worker.

Hankins had a 3-year, $27m contract signed just last off-season, meaning that he was making $9m per year average, but he collected $10m in 2017, so he’s not likely to be impatient. He didn’t sign a contract until the late stages of free agency last year (a week into free agency last season, he was still available) so he and his agent know the value of waiting for the right offer. Hankins was slated to make $8.4m this season, but it wasn’t guaranteed, and the Colts incurred no dead cap hit when they cut him, so Hankins will likely be looking for more security this time around.

The “right offer” would put Hankins into burgundy & gold.

The front office should make this happen.