When the NFL free agency period begins in five days on March 13, the Washington Redskins are primed to be one of the most active teams. The Redskins have a number of their own notable unrestricted free agents that they will attempt to re-sign as well as a number of unrestricted free agents from around the league that they will attempt to poach.
Last off season, the Redskins spent much of their focus and money on defense, which paid off as they ended the 2011 regular season with the 13th ranked defense. This off season, the Redskins need to spend their focus and money on an offense that struggled to score all last season. Only six teams in the NFL scored less points than the Redskins.
Thanks to the judicious spending of Bruce Allen for the past two seasons, the 'Skins enter the 2012 free agency period with ample cap room. After a 5-11 season, the Redskins will need that $47.56 million to address their lackluster offense, notably the quarterback and wide receiver position. The Redskins also need to upgrade their mediocre offensive line and look to add depth to their secondary.
The Redskins under Bruce Allen have shed the spend-as-you-go ethos that Vinny Cerrato and Dan Snyder embodied for so many years. No more offseasons that mirror a fantasy football draft. Fans need not expect the Redskins to chase after the marquee and house hold names available this free agency such as Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks, Ben Grubbs, Dwayne Bowe, Wes Welker, DeSean Jackson or Carlos Rogers (inside joke). The Redskins have directed their free agent signings to quality players that fit the team system and are valuable additions. The days of overpaying (remember Mr. Haynesworth?) for free agents have gone quietly into that good night, and that's a good thing.
UPDATE NOTE: Since this article was published, NFL teams dealt their franchise tags and a number of notable players were re-signed. Accordingly, the landscape of the FA market was altered. Dwayne Bowe, Tyvon Branch, Michael Griffin, DeSean Jackson, and Dashon Goldson were a number of the bigger named player franchised. Stevie Johnson was re-signed by the Bills and his 5 year/$36.25 million contract may set the barometer for top tier wide receiver contracts.
Players whom teams opted not to franchise tag also gives way to such players testing the market and finding greener pastures elsewhere. Vincent Jackson, Marques Colston, Carl Nicks, and Mario Williams are among the bigger names players in this group.
2011 SEASON: 1,758 YDS, 9 TDS, 9 INT
The embattled Kyle Orton is by no means a long term solution for the Redskins' quarterback woes. However, he is an upgrade over Rex Grossman (also a free agent) and John Beck. There is a dearth of free agent quarterbacks this offseason. Orton would not be expensive and is less of a gamble than Matt Flynn. The Redskins know what they're getting with Orton.
Orton is a resilient gun-slinger who plays consistent and has the ability to win games. If the Redskins don't draft a quarterback early in the draft or do draft a quarterback late in the draft who is in need of development, Orton is a viable option for the next two to three seasons. Orton would help the Redskins be competitive again in the NFC East and reaching the playoffs would certainly be tangible.
2011 SEASON: 16 Starts, Pro Bowl selection
Chris Myers is the most obvious fit for the Redskins. He was drafted by the Broncos in 2005 while Shanahan was the head coach. He has played for the Texans the past four seasons after spending his first three with the Broncos. He knows the zone blocking scheme probably better than any other center in the NFL. He is a significant upgrade over starting center Will Montgomery and would drastically improve the efficiency of the offensive line.
The Texans have a number of players heading into free agency, and simply may not have the resources to re-sign Myers to a contract that he's worth. The Texans first priorities are addressing new contracts for their two stars, running back Arian Foster (restricted free agent) and linebacker/defensive end Mario Williams. Myers is considered one of the best centers in the league so he will command a contract that is fitting for such. However, he is worth the money. Myers will instantly upgrade the Redskins' offensive line and will be able to help groom Erik Cook.
2011 SEASON: 15 Starts
Evan Mathis is not one of the big name free agent guards such as Carl Nicks and Ben Grubbs. However, he is one of the premier guards in the league and won't command $8 to 9 million per season like Nicks and Grubbs either. Mathis was named the best guard in the NFL by Pro Focus Football after the 2011 season. He signed only a one-year contract with the Eagles so he will be a seeking a long-term contract, likely five to six seasons, to end his career.
Mathis rarely played much of his early career (22 starts prior to 2011 season), so he's not your typical 30-year-old guard and he is also in peak physical condition. The Eagles will look to re-sign Mathis but may not be willing to pay as much as other interested teams. Mathis is better than any guard currently on the Redskins roster, and adding such a talent to the offensive line would pay huge dividends.
2011 SEASON: 2 Starts
Anthony Collins is a raw player but with plenty of upside. He has only made 18 starts in his four year career, but exhibited strong play in his rare starts. He has the ability to be a starter in the NFL. Collins is a very good pass blocker but still needs work on his run blocking. In 2011, Collins allowed only one pressure on 89 pass blocking plays.
In Cincinnati, Collins is firmly planted behind starters Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith. With the Redskins, he would compete with underachieving Jammal Brown for the starting right tackle position. Collins would also provide insurance for Trent Williams in the chance of another suspension. The Redskins have struggled with pass protection, and a player with Collins' ability would be beneficial to upgrading the offensive line. He is young and talented and since his resume is so limited, he would be a bargain addition.
2011 SEASON: 80 Rec., 1,143 Yards, 8
Marques Colston is a big time receiver. Despite missing two games and only starting seven last season because of minor injuries, he still managed a 1,000 yard season. What's also impressive is that he managed such a good season with all the fire power that the Saints offer. Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles each recorded over 80 receptions as well. In Colston's six NFL seasons, he has only missed the 1,000 receiving yards mark once.
Colston has the size (6'4", 225) to be the possession receiver that the Redskins desperately need. Adding a player with Colston's talents and experience will be a guaranteed benefit to whomever is under center next season for the Redskins.
Colston is reportedly seeking around 7 million per year, which seems fair given Stevie Johnson's five-year, $36.25 million contract extension contract with Buffalo. The Saints have a number of key free agents that they hope to re-sign including Carl Nicks and Tracy Porter. They also must re-sign Drew Brees to the contract he wants and deserves. With the "Bounty Gate" sure to result in fines and loss of draft picks, the Saints simply cannot afford to re-sign all their free agents and in an explosive offense as theirs they can do without Colston.
2011 SEASON: 40 Rec., 620 Yards, 6 TDs
Robert Meachem has all the makings of a top tier wide receiver. He has great speed, hands, agility and is a consistent downfield threat. He can stretch the field and has the size (6'2, 210) to make the big catch. Meachem is in the prime of his career and posted strong numbers despite playing in spread-it-around offense. Meachem gives the Redskins a deep threat they have lacked badly in prior seasons. The Redskins need to add a primary receiver to their team, and Meachem fits that bill.
Meachem is likely a cap casualty of the Saints who have to figure out someway possible to re-sign their top players; franchise quarterback Drew Brees, leading receiver Marques Colston, starting corner back Tracy Porter, and Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks. It will require financial creativity for the Saints to re-sign all of these players and the other lesser name players to fill out the roster. Meachem will not command as much of a salary as the marquee names in the free agent class such as Vincent Jackson, Wes Welker or his teammate Colston. The Redskins can likely sign Meachem to a moderately priced contract, which is a bargain for a wide receiver in his prime with Pro Bowl potential and No. 1 receiver ability.
2011 SEASON: 45 TCKL, 4 INT
UPDATE NOTE: The Chiefs used their franchise tag on WR Dwayne Bowe. Carr will find an amorous free agent market for corner backs especially after Brent Grimes was franchise tagged. Also, don't rule out the Chiefs trying to sign Peyton Manning.
Brandon Carr joins a very strong class of free agent cornerbacks that includes Lardarius Webb, Cortland Finnegan, Carlos Rogers, Brent Grimes and Tracy Porter And among the class, he is arguably the second best behind Webb. Carr had a career-high four interceptions in 2011, and in 2010, he led the NFL in passes defended with 25. Carr has played in the 3-4 defense the past two seasons and is a great fit for the Redskins defense.
The Chiefs signed cornerback Stanford Routt this past week, which makes it unlikely that Carr will return to the team next season. Scott Pioli's assertion that the signing of Routt to a three-year deal worth nearly $20 million does not impact the signing of Carr is more bluff than truth. It would exceed difficult for the Chiefs to afford Carr, along with Routt's new contract and teammate cornerback Brandon Flowers' $50 million extension signed last season. The Chiefs also must attempt to re-sign wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, which will prove very costly.
With a number of other big name cornerbacks available, the market will likely be dominated by whomever signs a contract first. Carr will be an expensive acquisition, but given his young age and potential, he is worth the price tag. The Redskins would be securing the cornerback position for the next five to seven years. Pairing Carr with Josh Wilson would bestow the Redskins defense with a young cornerback tandem, and also make DeAngelo Hall an expendable player. If the Redskins keep Hall, they would feature arguably one of the best corner trios in the NFL.
2011 SEASON: 109 TCKL, 1 SCK, 1 INT
Tyvon Branch is one of the best strong safeties in the NFL, and he's only 25. He's averaged more than 100 tackles the past three seasons and is one of the most physical safeties in the game. The Oakland Raiders will be looking to lock Branch up for a very long time. Either he or Michael Bush will likely be their franchise tag. If Bush gets the franchise tag, then the Raiders will have to entertain a bidding war.
A case can be made for the Redskins pursuing Branch over re-signing LaRon Landry. Branch is couple of years younger than Landry and arguably just as good, and Branch does not have any of the health concerns that Landry has. Landry has only played in 17 games the past two seasons and by foregoing surgery on his Achilles' tendon, there is the possibility that he will miss some of next season, as well.
As much potential and flash as Landry has shown and as good as he can be, the fact is that his injury makes him a risk. By signing Branch to a long-term contract, the Redskins defense would feature one of the NFL's better safeties for the better part of the next decade.
2011 SEASON: 45 TCKL, 4 INT
Jason Allen is a solid starter in the NFL who has snagged 15 interceptions in his seven-year career. The Redskins have no depth at the corner position behind DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson. Allen is capable of being a starter and would boost the Redskins defense especially in nickel packages. He also provides insurance if the Redskins should part ways with Hall. Allen has played with the Texans the past two season, so he is familiar with the 3-4 defense already.
With a bevy of bigger name cornerbacks available in this free agency, Allen won't command a hefty contract. The Redskins should be able to sign him to a three- to four-year deal cheaper than the three year, $20 million deal Stanford Routt signed with the Chiefs earlier this week.
2011 SEASON: 75 TCKL, 1 INT, 1 SCK
Cortland Finnegan is one of the NFL's most physical corner backs and excels in pass coverage. In six season, he has totaled 14 interceptions and has averaged 78 tackles per season. He is a sure tackler and would excel in Haslett's 3-4 defense. He would likely push out DeAngelo Hall, which would free up more money to pursue other free agents. The Redskins suffered in coverage and Finnegan would instantly improve that area of defense.
Finnegan is resolved that he will not be playing with the Titans next seasons after six seasons with the team. The Titans used their franchise tag on Michael Griffin and have alerted Finnegan that they will not be offering him a new contract. Finnegan balked at a 4 year, 28 million extension last August, and is seeking top corner back money. The reality is that Finnegan will soon find out that not too many teams will be offering much more money to a player who has made only one Pro Bowl (2008). His camp is reportedly seeking $10 million per season, which is a price tag that is too high for a player that is not considered one of the top five corner backs in the NFL. He is one of the best corner backs in the league and has produced at a high level since his rookie season so he deserves a fair contract somewhere around the 8 million per season mark.