Washington Redskins Free Agency: 'Skins Must Make Big Splash and Land Carl Nicks

James DudkoFeatured ColumnistJanuary 28, 2012

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 27:  Carl Nicks #77 of the New Orleans Saints moves on the line during the game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 27, 2009 in Orchard Park, New York. The Saints won 27-7. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan should make a big splash in free agency and do all he can to land All-Pro left guard Carl Nicks. The New Orleans Saints mainstay can solidify a weak position and become a linchpin for the Redskins offensive line for years to come.

The Redskins need to upgrade their suspect offensive line and add a truly elite player to their front five. Nicks is widely considered one of the finest players at his position in the league. The fourth-year pro combines physical dominance and savvy technique to handle the NFL's best interior defensive linemen.

At 6'5" and 343 pounds, Nicks is able to manhandle opponents at the point of attack. But he also possesses excellent footwork and balance, allowing him to be surprisingly effective in space. This is an important requirement in the Redskins' zone-based blocking schemes.

But as much as Shanahan and his staff value quickness and technique along the offensive front, the Redskins still desperately need a powerful presence on the line. Too many times last season, Washington's front five were physically overwhelmed, particularly inside.

The lighter stature of some of the team's finesse-style blockers leaves the offensive line susceptible to strong and aggressive defensive tackles. While the running game is effective on stretch plays to the outside, the Redskins ground attack often stalls when attempting to find yards between the tackles.

The pressure inside has also meant that whoever has been under center for the Redskins has had to adjust to a constantly collapsing pocket and pass-rushers in their line of vision. Reducing the pressure in the face of the quarterback is a crucial step in the Redskins cutting down their number of turnovers.

JACKSON, MS - JULY 31:  New Orleans Saints defensive end Sedrick Ellis #98 practices against offensive tackle Carl Nicks #77 during the Saints' training camp at Millsaps College July 31, 2008 in Jackson, Mississippi.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The Saints are facing the prospect of trying to tie down three key free agents this offseason. Nicks is joined by quarterback Drew Brees and wide receiver Marques Colston as vital members of the NFC South holders in need of new deals.

Given the likely size of the contracts needed for Brees and his favourite target, the Saints could struggle to offer Nicks terms appropriate to his talent level and reputation. He could then pursue what would be a litany of lucrative offers on the open market.

But the Redskins arguably have the biggest need and should strongly consider putting together a big enough contract to tempt Nicks. The team has been criticised in the past for recklessly throwing money around during free agency.

But Nicks would represent a wise investment, worthy of such a move. At 26 he is a quality player with his prime years still ahead of him and is the ideal age for the younger team Shanahan and Bruce Allen are trying to build.

Prying Nicks away from New Orleans would be a bold move. But after winning only 11 games in two seasons, Shanahan needs to take decisive action as he enters his all-important third year in D.C.

Nicks would elevate the overall play of the entire Redskins offensive line and immediately become the cornerstone of the blocking schemes. If the Redskins choose to have a rookie lead the offense in 2012, Nicks is the kind of top-tier, established talent they will need to surround the youngster with.