10 Best Free Agent Pickups in Washington Redskins History

Shae CroninCorrespondent IJanuary 31, 2012

10 Best Free Agent Pickups in Washington Redskins History

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    Since the modern free agent era began in 1993, the Washington Redskins have been known for some pretty hateful signings.

    But even amongst the Dana Stubblefield, Adam Archuleta and Albert Haynesworth rubbish lies a handful of decent free agent pickups that actually helped the Redskins—in at least the short term.

    Free agents are risky investments. Perhaps not to the risk of rookies, but the pain is tougher to swallow if a free agent doesn't pan out in comparison to a 21-year-old not being able to make the leap.

    Making a list of the Redskins' worst free agent signings over the past 15 years or so is easy. Not only were there a lot of them, but there was a lot of wasted cash as well.

    This is a group that's worth a slow clap.

10. Henry Ellard

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    Wide receiver Henry Ellard signed with the Redskins after a long stay with the Los Angeles Rams.

    Ellard played a little more than four seasons in Washington from 1994-1998 and finished his career with some pretty decent numbers for a receiver in his mid-30s.

    In his first year in Washington, Ellard racked up 1,397 receiving yards at the age of 33 (his second-highest total as a pro).

    As a member of the burgundy and gold, Ellard started in 58 games, hauled in 216 catches for 3930 yards and 17 touchdowns, while boasting a 18.2 yards-per-catch average.

9. Terry Allen

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    Although I can't figure out why, I always catch myself referring to Terry Allen as "Good Ol' Terry Allen." And because I can't seem to a find reason for doing so, I'll go ahead and attest it to this picture of Allen straight demolishing Dexter Coakley's grill.

    Terry Allen's four-year stay in Washington was pretty short-lived, but he did have two spectacular seasons, both of which were the best seasons of his 10-year NFL career.

    In 1995—his first season in Washington—Allen started all 16 games, rushed for just over 1,300 yards and ate up 10 touchdowns on the ground. It was a pleasant feeling for Redskins fans to have a newly-signed running back pull out a career-year in his first season with the team.

    Allen didn't waste any time outdoing himself when, in 1996, he rushed for a career-best 1,353 yards and 21 touchdowns and earned himself his only Pro Bowl appearance.

    Following his two breakout seasons, Allen struggled to even sniff 1,000 yards in his next two seasons as a result of pestering injuries and the emergence of Stephen Davis.

    Allen finished his Redskins career with 4,086 rushing yards and 37 touchdowns, along with 100 catches for 726 yards.

8. Brad Johnson

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    As a constant complainer of the quarterback situation in Washington over the last 20 years, I'm borderline delighted to put a quarterback on this list. 

    When Brad Johnson was signed as a free agent in 1999 after spending five seasons in Minnesota, he served as an immediate improvement to the Redskins' comical quarterback position. 

    In Johnson's first season with the Redskins, he earned a trip to the Pro Bowl (his first) after throwing for over 4,000 yards with 24 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. The Redskins went 10-6 that season and Johnson even led the team to a Wild-Card Playoff win over Detroit

    Although Johnson spent just two seasons as the Redskins' starter, he put together a 17-10 record and threw for over 6,500 yards. He wasn't flashy, but he managed the game well. And when it came down to tough scenarios, Johnson delivered—completing four fourth-quarter comebacks and eight game-winning drives. 

    All Hail...Brad Johnson?

7. Marcus Washington

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    The Redskins signed linebacker Marcus Washington in 2004 after watching him string together a few good seasons as a youngster with the Colts

    Washington had arguably his best season as a pro in his first year with the Redskins, as he earned Pro Bowl honors for recording 87 tackles and 4.5 sacks. 

    As Washington grew older, his production decreased and his durability began to diminish. In his five seasons with the Redskins, Washington recorded 19.5 sacks, 20 pass deflections and 277 tackles. 

6. Bruce Smith

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    It's hard to imagine that Redskins' owner Dan Snyder signed a 37-year-old Bruce Smith in 2000 for anything more than a marketing ploy. But what Snyder and Redskins fans received in return was a whole lot more. 

    Smith played four seasons with the Redskins as he chased Reggie White's career sack record. By the time Smith was released in 2004 in order to save the Redskins some cash, he had eclipsed the sack record and walked away from football at the age of 40. 

    During his time with the Redskins, Smith was a solid defensive end—playing mostly on passing downs. He finished his Redskins career with 29 sacks, eight forced fumbles, one safety and 137 tackles. 

    Many are critical of Smith's desire to play football past his days in Buffalo, claiming that he was doing nothing more than chasing a record. For those people, I'd argue: why not?

    Bruce Smith was one of the best defensive ends to ever play the game. Throughout his 19-year career, Smith demonstrated incredible football skills, the right attitude and a work ethic that was second to none.

    Regardless of how fans view Bruce Smith—or his time in Washington—he was one of the top free agents the Redskins ever signed. 

5. Marco Coleman

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    Marco Coleman's 14-year career was composed of brief stints with six different teams, but his best years came as a member of the Washington Redskins. 

    After playing seven seasons with Miami and San Diego, Coleman signed with the Redskins in 1999 as a 30-year-old defensive end. 

    During his three seasons in Washington, Coleman logged 23 sacks, seven forced fumbles and 128 tackles. 

    Coleman's best season in Washington came in 2000, when he racked up 41 tackles and 12 sacks, earning himself his first and only trip to the Pro Bowl. 

4. Phillip Daniels

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    Although he didn't amass quite the stat sheet of guys like Bruce Smith and Marco Coleman, Phillip Daniels was no slouch. He provided the Redskins with dependability at the defensive end position and his veteran leadership often went unnoticed. 

    Daniels spent four years with Seattle and four years with Chicago before joining the Redskins in 2004, at the age of 31. Over the last six years of his career in Washington, Daniels totaled 17.5 sacks, 24 pass deflections, five forced fumbles and 126 tackles. 

    I rank Daniels above guys like Smith and Coleman for reasons other than the box score. I'm not saying that both Smith and Coleman weren't genuine and positive forces in the locker room, but Daniels was more of a facet in Washington. 

3. Shawn Springs

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    Shawn Springs joined the Redskins just slightly past his prime as a 29-year-old cornerback that had spent his first seven seasons with the Seattle Seahawks. 

    Springs would go on to spend five years with the Redskins and be the team's top cover-corner. In his first season in Washington, Springs led the team in sacks (6) and interceptions (5). 

    Although Springs always seemed to be battling injuries, he finished his Redskins career with seven sacks, 12 interceptions, 53 pass deflections and 223 tackles. 

2. Ken Harvey

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    When it comes to ranking a player like Ken Harvey, I'm guilty of bias. 

    Not only is Ken Harvey one of my favorite players to ever step on a football field, but I also had the unique opportunity to interview him and really see just how great of a guy he is off the field. 

    From 1988-1993, Harvey tore it up with the Arizona Cardinals—logging 47.5 sacks and over 460 tackles. In 1994, the Redskins took notice and signed Harvey as a free agent. 

    For the next five seasons, Harvey would go on to threaten the opposition by being one of the most feared rush-linebackers in the NFL and earning himself four consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl between 1994 and 1997. 

    As a member of the Redskins, Harvey recorded 41.5 sacks, 13 forced fumbles and 326 tackles. Harvey is the only free agent of the modern era to be inducted into the Redskins' Ring of Fame. 

1. London Fletcher

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    Perhaps better known as the ageless wonder, linebacker London Fletcher has been one of the hardest working players in the NFL for the past 14 seasons. 

    Fletcher didn't join the Redskins until he was 32 years old, after spending four and five years with St. Louis and Buffalo, respectively. But with most people in belief that football players past the age of 30 have seen their best days come and go, Fletcher proved them wrong by not appearing to miss a beat as a member of the Washington Redskins. 

    In five seasons with Washington, Fletcher started all 80 games, recorded 6.5 sacks, snatched seven interceptions, deflected 41 passes, forced seven fumbles and made 474 tackles. 

    Fletcher is a free agent this season, but all signs point to the 37-year-old sticking with the Redskins. Like Phillip Daniels, Fletcher is a very positive force in the locker room and he has become one of the most beloved faces of modern Redskins football.