Washington Redskins Free Agency: Tracking Signings, Targets and Rumors
Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen have to make the right moves to turn the team around, following 2011's 5-11 disappointment. Addressing the quarterback position remains the priority, while tough decisions will be required regarding the futures of tight end Fred Davis and safety LaRon Landry.
This offseason tracker should make it easy to keep up with all of the free-agency moves involving the Redskins.
Things will begin with a review of the Redskins' salary cap status, followed by an examination of the biggest holes on the team.
There will also be a closer look at the team's current free agents, including their potential contract values and futures with the team.
As the Redskins may be active in free agency, the tracker will also offer a projection of their potential salary-cap status after any re-signings, as well as the free-agent acquisitions the Redskins could target and their estimated value.
To conclude, there will be a look at the most pressing areas the Redskins should address via the 2012 NFL draft and those college prospects who are the best fits for Washington's schemes.
Tracking Free Agent Signings, Re-Signings and Roster Moves
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(Update): Mar. 20, 2012: The Washington Post has confirmed that left guard Kory Lichtensteiger has signed his tender agreement.
The restricted free agent is a key part of Washington's zone blocking schemes. However, the 26-year-old has struggled with injury and missed 11 games last season.
His return is another sign that the Redskins are content with their often criticised offensive line.
(Update): Mar. 18, 2012: Espn.go.com reports that the Redskins have come to an agreement on a new one-year deal with quarterback Rex Grossman.
Despite Grossman's flaws this is a smart move by Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen. Grossman is well versed in the Shanahan offense.
The veteran passer can backup Robert Griffin III and share his wealth of scheme expertise with the rookie.
(Update): Mar. 15, 2012: Nbcsports.com has reported that the Redskins have signed former Chicago Bears and New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather. The deal is said to be $6 million for two years.
Meriweather is a hard hitting safety who has struggled with discipline and consistency. However, he is a good zone defender, useful on the blitz and offers 3-4 experience from his time in New England.
(Update): Mar. 13, 2012: Espn.com has reported that the Redskins have reached an agreement to sign wide receiver Pierre Garcon. The former Indianapolis Colt enjoyed a breakout season in 2011 and adds a legitimate deep threat to Washington's offense.
NFL.com states that the Redskins have retained defensive end Adam Carriker on a four-year contract. This is a great move by the front office. Carriker has successfully transitioned to the 3-4 and has become a highly effective 2-gap, 5-technique lineman.
The Washington Post has officially confirmed that the Redskins have signed wide receiver Josh Morgan from the San Francisco 49ers on a five-year deal. The 26-year-old Morgan is excellent over the middle and is the kind of dependable target a rookie quarterback like Robert Griffin III would find invaluable.
Washington.cbs.local.com has reported that the Redskins are close to agreeing a deal with former Denver Broncos wideout Eddie Royal. By acquiring their third wide receiver since free agency opened, Washington will demonstrate a serious commitment to equipping a rookie passer with enough weapons to succeed.
(Update): Mar. 12, 2012: NFL.com has reported that the Redskins have released free safety O.J. Atogwe and fullback Mike Sellers. The moves will save the Redskins almost $5 million worth of cap space.
It is a shame to lose Atogwe who struggled in his lone season in D.C. Sellers is a hard working veteran, but youngster Darrel Young showed real promise at fullback towards the end of 2011, making the 36-year-old expendable.
(Update): Mar. 2, 2012: NFL.com has reported that the Redskins have placed the franchise tag on tight end Fred Davis. The move represents good news as it means the team has retained one of its most prolific offensive weapons. Davis is one of the best young players at his position in the league.
The report claims Davis could make as much as $5.4 million in 2012 under the tag. Tying him down for a year allows the Redskins to see if Davis can put the disciplinary issues that led to a four-game suspension for drug abuse in 2011, firmly behind him. If he does then the Redskins will be in a position to consider a long-term deal.
(Update): Feb. 25, 2012: The Washington Post also reporting that Redskins have re-signed backup defensive end Darrion Scott. The salary and length of the contract have not been reported at this time.
Feb. 25, 2012: The Washington Post has reported that the Redskins have re-signed center Will Montgomery for a further four years. While terms of the contract have not yet been disclosed, such a lengthy new deal confirms that the Redskins think very highly of Montgomery as the team's starting center.
The 6'3" 310 pounder has developed well in two seasons. While this author has often doubted Montgomery's ability to reach an elite level as a starter, it seems Mike Shanahan is content to let Montgomery flourish further in the Redskins' zone-based blocking schemes.
Feb. 6, 2012: The Washington Redskins took several key players off the injured reserve list. The group was headlined by running back Tim Hightower, free agent offensive lineman Kory Lichtensteiger and promising 2011 rookies wide receiver Leonard Hankerson and defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins.
The success of last season's rookie running back duo Roy Helu and Evan Royster raises doubts about Hightower's future with the team.
Lichtensteiger is a pending free agent who has been blighted by injuries. The Redskins have many question marks along the offensive line and Lichtensteiger's left-guard spot is a position they may look to upgrade.
Redskins fans will be hoping that Hankerson and Jenkins are healthy and available for the 2012 NFL season. Both have shown tremendous potential. Hankerson caught eight passes for 106 yards in a Week 10 loss against the Miami Dolphins. He could become the playmaker at wide receiver the offense badly needs.
Jenkins missed the entire campaign, but was highly touted by Redskins coaches during the 2011 preseason and will be looking to make up for lost time and prove his talent in 2012.
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After years of reckless spending, it may come as a surprise to many that the Redskins actually have ample cap room for 2012's free agency period. ESPN.com reported on Feb. 13 that the Redskins have $47.56 million worth of cap space.
Spotrac shows the Redskins owing a total contract value of $84,557,360 against the 2012 salary cap. So assuming the cap is adjusted to $125 million this year, that puts the Redskins cap space figure at $40,442,640.
Erring on the side of caution and taking the Spotrac figure as correct, it is still impressive that a team so often associated with lavish spending has managed to work themselves over $40 million of cap space. It's almost enough to convince this author that Shanahan does have a plan.
Even better news is that the Redskins don't really have many pressing needs, in terms of their own free agents. Re-signing London Fletcher is a top priority but as this will be his last pro contract, the value may not be that high.
Then it is all about deciding what to do with Davis and Landry. The Redskins have the option of applying the franchise tag to either player.
Problematic Cap Hits
It is a more than slightly irritating fact that left tackle Trent Williams and inconsistent cornerback DeAngelo Hall carry the biggest cap value. Spotrac lists Williams as carrying a base salary of $11 million for next season. Hall is set to make $6 million.
It doesn't seem right that two players who have struggled with discipline issues and poor form should be getting paid this much. This is especially true when a productive player like Brian Orakpo earns $765,000.
The Redskins have a weakness at corner, and Shanahan and Allen will have to decide whether Hall's play merits him being brought back at such a steep price.
Orakpo's figures financially and on the field, equate to good value. The same is true of 2011 top draft choice Ryan Kerrigan who is due $771,377 in 2012. Kerrigan and Orakpo are the bookend pass-rushers in the team's 3-4 defensive scheme. The duo has the potential to wreak havoc next season.
Barry Cofield may be pulling in a hefty $3,750,000 in base salary for 2012. But if he becomes an elite nose tackle in his second year as the linchpin of a 3-4 front, many may consider him worth the investment.
Other Major Cap Questions
Chris Cooley carries $3,800,000 against the cap and is also due a $2,333,333 bonus. The veteran tight end has struggled with injuries and has been overtaken by Fred Davis as a feature of the pass offense. NFL.com has identified the 29-year-old as a prime candidate to be a high-profile cap casualty.
Floundering right tackle Jammal Brown also merits similar consideration. Brown has failed to make an impact in two seasons manning the right side of the offensive line.
The 30-year-old is set to earn $4,550,000 in base and bonus payments. Brown's play has certainly not warranted that kind of continued investment.
Free safety O.J. Atogwe will need to prove he can stay healthy and produce the turnovers the defense needs, in order to justify his $3,400,000 base salary.
Last Year's Holes
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The glaring absence of a competent quarterback not only crippled the team's playoff hopes. It also drew attention away from some other key weaknesses on the Redskins roster in 2011.
The offensive line was again weak, especially in pass protection. This, combined with the lack of an elite playmaker at wide receiver, directly contributed to an offense that couldn't generate big plays and consistently move the ball.
Despite a 13th overall league ranking, the defense often flattered to deceive. Jim Haslett's unit surrendered too many big plays and often struggled to hold up physically at the point of attack.
The offense won't make any progress without a steady and efficient quarterback. Most rumours have the Redskins looking to solve their quarterback problem in one of two ways.
Either they trade up for Robert Griffin III in the 2012 NFL draft or they take a huge chance on the health status of prolific veteran Peyton Manning. Either way, the Redskins new signal caller will need to be surrounded with a more stout offensive line and dynamic targets in the passing game.
Right guard Chris Chester is the only member of the Redskins beleaguered front five from 2011 who is seemingly assured of his place. Left tackle Trent Williams has struggled to produce the form to justify being selected fourth overall in the 2010 draft.
Right tackle Jammal Brown has also been a major disappointment. This creates huge problems on the perimeter of Washington's line, especially in an NFC East division loaded with edge rushers like DeMarcus Ware, Trent Cole and Jason Pierre-Paul.
Inside, the Redskins could use a more physically dominating presence at left guard and center. Will Montgomery is solid but nothing more and guard Kory Lichtensteiger hasn't been able to stay healthy.
Kyle Shanahan's offense needs a legitimate downfield threat to stretch the field and prevent defenses from stacking up against the run and pinching down on the underneath routes.
Veterans Jabar Gaffney and Santana Moss were capable intermediate targets in 2011, but neither offers the big-play capability the Redskins need.
Third-round rookie Leonard Hankerson was lost for the season just when it appeared he might be ready to answer this need. Washington's offense must get younger and more explosive at wideout.
Tight end Fred Davis can make a lot happen underneath, but the team has to have a genuine playmaker outside.
The front seven assembled by Shanahan and Allen is something Redskins fans can be proud of. Depth is a concern, though. Another talented big body for the front three rotation, along with more quality cover at linebacker, would certainly be welcome.
The main weakness of the defense, lies in the secondary. The problems are most prevalent at cornerback.
DeAngelo Hall was simply victimised in one-on-one coverage far too often in 2011. The blitzing risks the Redskins take up front didn't always help, but Hall can and must do better.
It may be time for the Redskins to cut ties with the trash-talking cover man and get a more solid and skilled presence to be the focal point of their pass defense.
Nickelback is also a position that needs to be addressed. Veteran Phillip Buchannon and youngster Kevin Barnes have both underwhelmed in the role when give opportunities. Considering how often the Redskins like to blitz in nickel situations, a competent third cover corner is a must.
Depending on the decision taken regarding Landry, the Redskins could have a gaping hole at safety.
Landry has been blighted by injury problems and can appear lost in coverage. But he has the aggression and instincts to be effective as a box safety and is a key part of Haslett's schemes.
Still, the Redskins may not have a better chance to identify and sign a more dependable and disciplined alternative for such a key position on their defense.
Listing the Redskins' 2012 Free Agents
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Spotrac lists the following Redskins players as unrestricted free agents. These players are free to negotiate with any other NFL team:
TE Fred Davis
ILB London Fletcher
DL Adam Carriker
RB Tim Hightower
DL Kedric Golston
S LaRon Landry
WR Donte Stallworth
OT Sean Locklear
QB Rex Grossman
ILB Rocky McIntosh
ILB Keyaron Fox
CB Phillip Buchanon
DL Doug Worthington
P Sav Rocca
The following players are restricted free agents (RFA's). The Redskins have the option of offering these players a one-year tender. Any other teams interested in these players would need to match the value of the tender with draft picks:
G/C Kory Lichtensteiger
CB Byron Westbrook
K Graham Gano
WR Aldrick Robinson
OT Willie Smith
RB Evan Royster
A $2.562 million tender requires first- and third-round draft picks in compensation.
A $2.017 million tender equates to first-round compensation, a $1.417 million tender qualifies for second-round consideration and the lowest base tender of $927,000 requires matching the RFA's original draft pick (i.e. if the player was selected in the third round, the interested team must give up a third-round pick in exchange).
Any team matching or holding on to the qualifying offer, must pay the same amount as the player's tender in base salary for that season.
Determining Contract Value and Worth of Every Redskins Free Agent
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The Redskins have a core of solid performers and a few talented playmakers ticketed for free agency.
Davis is one of the best young players at his position in the league and veteran tackling machine Fletcher is the unquestioned leader of the defense.
Players like Carriker and Montgomery are high-effort athletes who perform important functions in the Redskins schemes.
The Redskins are also in the fortunate position that they can afford to wave goodbye to under performing or often-injured veterans like Buchanon, Hightower and Lichtensteiger.
Fred Davis: $5-6 million (estimated)
This value is arrived at based on the assumption that the Redskins will put the franchise tag on Davis. ESPN.com reported that if the team does franchise Davis, they will owe the productive tight end around $5.4 million in 2012.
Davis is a potent weapon in the Redskins offensive scheme. If he can put the disciplinary issues which led to a four-game suspension for failing drug tests behind him, he should be able to build on last season's impressive numbers.
London Fletcher: $3.5 million (estimated)
But Fletcher's numbers on the field command respect and a figure in the $3.5 million region would reflect that.
Adam Carriker: $1.5 million (estimated)
Adam Carriker made $1,420,000 in 2011. After his best pro season, the 27-year-old is unlikely to settle for anything less. His smooth transition to the 3-4 merits an improvement in terms.
Only the fact that he plays an unheralded position and the presence of Jarvis Jenkins threatening his place, makes the rise in pay slight.
Will Montgomery: $640,000 (estimated)
Will Montgomery is a steady player who has filled in well as the anchor for the Redskins front five. But his lack of elite skill and the need to retain the likes of Fletcher and Carriker means that if he is brought back, Montgomery is likely to receive the same financial terms as he got in 2011.
Feb. 25, 2012: The Washington Post has reported that the Redskins have re-signed center Will Montgomery for a further four years.
Tim Hightower: $750,000 (estimated)
It's difficult to imagine veteran runner Tim Hightower receiving the same money he did last year. The ex-Arizona Cardinal was on $1,200,000 in 2011. But his season-ending injury presented opportunities for rookies Roy Helu and Evan Royster.
Both youngsters posted impressive numbers and will lead the ground game next season. If Hightower is brought back to complement the youthful duo with his experience and pass-catching ability, it will be on reduced terms.
Look for Shanahan to draft another late-round runner instead of retaining Hightower.
Rocky McIntosh: $640,000 (estimated)
In the unlikely event that the Redskins choose to retain Rocky McIntosh, it won't be for anything more than a small base value. McIntosh has endured a tough transition to the 3-4. He still seems physically ill-equipped to handle the responsibilities of taking on interior offensive linemen and attacking downhill.
Rex Grossman: $700,000 (estimated)
Rex Grossman's future in D.C. presents an interesting dilemma for the Redskins. The mistake-prone passer certainly failed to convince as the starter in 2011. But the team could definitely use some veteran insurance for whoever is under center next season.
What is clear is that if Grossman returns for a third season in Washington, there will be no question about his role as a backup. That will mean a reduction in salary.
Kedric Golston: $600,000 (estimated)
Kedric Golston is another player who faces an uphill battle to return to the Redskins for next season. If Jarvis Jenkins is healthy, he will immediately become a key member of the three-man line rotation. Golston still seems better suited to a 4-3 scheme.
Sean Locklear: $500,000 (estimated)
It's difficult to imagine Sean Locklear being back with the Redskins next season. He was acquired to fill gaps along the line. But Locklear couldn't beat out rookie free agent Willie Smith when Trent Williams was suspended. The 30-year-old struggled mightily on the few occasions he did see the field.
Donte' Stallworth: $640,000 (estimated)
Donte Stallworth didn't provide the Washington offense with true big-play potential. He was overshadowed by fellow veteran pass catcher Jabar Gaffney.
The 31-year-old flanker doesn't seem to have a definite place in the Redskins offense and should only be presented with a 'take it or leave it' reduced deal.
Sav Rocca: $685,000 (estimated)
Sav Rocca did a respectable job in his first season handling the punting chores for the Redskins. Favourable field position is a good way of supporting the burgeoning defense. Rocca is as capable as most other punters in the league and should be back at his 2011 salary.
Doug Worthington: $96,900 (estimated)
The only way Doug Worthington will be back next season is if injuries strike again to ravage defensive-line depth. The former Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad member would only receive a minimum deal.
Keyaron Fox: $700,000 (estimated)
Keyaron Fox is a decent special-teams contributor but offered little as a reserve for the linebacking corps. If Fox is brought back, he will be consigned to special-teams duty on a reduced deal.
Phillip Buchanon: $810,000 (estimated)
Buchanon hasn't satisfactorily proven he is the way forward at nickelback. But he is a veteran corner and Jim Haslett may trust his experience in the Redskins' cover schemes. Buchanon wold be unlikely to top his 2011 salary and would probably have to settle for less.
LaRon Landry: $1.2 million (estimated)
LaRon Landry represents the most intriguing free-agency scenario for the Redskins. His ongoing injury concerns and refusal to have surgery make him a huge risk on a long-term deal. But Landry is a key component in the style of defense Washington attempts to play.
The Redskins could very well play it safe and opt to bring him back on a one-year deal in the hope that he can finally prove his fitness.
Kory Lichtensteiger: $927,000 (estimated)
Lichtensteiger's injury problems make him a risk on anything but the lowest possible tender offer. He is capable when healthy and has good knowledge of Shanahan's zone blocking schemes.
But Lichtensteiger is unlikely to be in high demand, so it wouldn't make sense for the Redskins to offer more.
Willie Smith: $927,000 (estimated)
Willie Smith proved to be a capable reserve towards the end of the 2011 season. He has the athleticism to be active in space and has the potential to develop well in Shanahan's schemes. Smith certainly justifies a small investment to ensure he remains in Washington.
Evan Royster: $1.2 million (second-round tender, estimated)
2011 sixth round draft choice Evan Royster finished the season strongly and proved to be an effective change of pace runner in Washington's offense.
The team should tender him at a second-round value and ensure he and Helu can split the carries again next season.
Aldrick Robinson: $927,000 (estimated)
It's seems unlikely that young wideout Aldrick Robinson will contribute next season. The Redskins might choose to bring him back for training camp but would only tender him at the lowest possible amount.
Byron Westbrook: $927,000 (estimated)
The same rules that apply to Robinson are also applicable to Byron Westbrook. He has not managed to break into the nickel and dime packages on a regular basis, and his future appears to lie elsewhere.
Graham Gano: $927,000 (estimated)
Kicker Graham Gano continues to be plagued by wild inconsistency, and that continues to cost the Redskins points. In the unlikely event the team doesn't seek an alternative, Gano would be retained at the lowest value possible.
Projecting Which Free Agents the Redskins Will Re-Sign, Which Will Walk
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If Mike Shanahan truly believes that the Redskins are not far away from being genuinely competitive, then he should retain a good number of core free agents. Davis and Landry present the biggest dilemmas, and the financial realities of Fletcher's contract could also be tricky.
Landry and Davis are the prime candidates for the franchise tag. After that decision is made and Fletcher agrees to terms, everything else should fall into place. Here is a look at the Redskins projected re-signings:
Fred Davis: Re-signed
The Redskins offense needs the big plays that Davis offers. Designing routes to free the fleet-footed 258-pounder is easily the best part of Kyle Shanahan's play calling.
Davis has the skill set to exploit the underneath zones in a variety of ways. His combination of size and speed makes him equally effective on in routes and crossing patterns. He is key to the way the Redskins can attack a defense.
The team might be concerned about his disciplinary issues and latest suspension. Using the franchise tag would be a good way of ensuring Davis remains a Redskin and gives him the chance to prove he can stay out of trouble and reach an elite level of play.
Estimated Contract: 1 year, $5.4 million (franchise tag)
London Fletcher: Re-signed
Fletcher is the cornerstone of the Redskins defense. The cerebral linebacker is still an active sideline-to-sideline playmaker, despite his age. Fletcher has made it clear that he wants to remain a Redskin and he is vital to the team's chances of success.
Estimated Contract: 2 years, $6.5 million
Will Montgomery: Re-signed
Montgomery is a versatile lineman with decent athleticism. He can play either guard or center and has a good understanding of zone-blocking concepts. While he is not true starter material, Montgomery should be retained if the Redskins can settle on a minimal deal.
Estimated Contract: 2 years, $1.28 million
Feb. 25, 2012: The Washington Post has reported that the Redskins have re-signed center Will Montgomery for a further four years.
Rex Grossman: Re-signed
As nervous as it would probably make the average Washington fan feel to have Grossman one injury away from again assuming control of the offense, the Redskins would be wise to keep the veteran.
Grossman has a good understanding of Kyle Shanahan's offense and would be a useful source of information for a new quarterback, particularly a rookie passer.
Estimated Contract: 1 year, $700,000
Sav Rocca: Re-signed
Another one-year deal should be in the offing for steady punter Sav Rocca. The Redskins are unlikely to find a significant upgrade on the free-agent market, unless they could somehow convince Steve Weatherford to leave the New York Giants.
Estimated Contract: 1 year, $685,000
Adam Carriker: Re-signed
Carriker has managed a successful conversion to playing as a 2-gap end in a 3-4 front. The former St. Louis Rams defensive tackle has become one of the Redskins' most reliable performers.
Carriker's size and strength make him a stout force against the run, and he has steadily refined his technique to emerge as a surprisingly capable pass-rusher.
Estimated Contract: 4 years, $6 million
Evan Royster: Re-signed
Royster did enough in his rookie season to show that he can become an effective weapon for the Redskins ground game.
He runs with a more direct and punishing style than Roy Helu, but still possesses the vision and decision making to make the quick cuts demanded in Shanahan's zone-blocking schemes.
Estimated Contract: 2 years, $2.4 million
Willie Smith: Re-signed
Smith is a nice fit for Washington's zone system. The nimble-footed left tackle gave a decent accounting of himself against some tough opponents, including DeMarcus Ware and Jared Allen, last season.
Estimated Contract: 2 years, $1.9 million
LaRon Landry: Re-signed
There are a lot of questions marks surrounding Landry. While the all-action safety makes plenty of highlight-worthy plays, he is also guilty of as many costly lapses in coverage. But in Haslett's Pittsburgh Steelers-like zone blitz 3-4, Landry is required to be a playmaker as a box safety.
Even his fiercest critics, this author included, can't deny that he can be highly effective in this very specific role. The Redskins will feel the same way and take the gamble by offering Landry a one-year deal to show he can put his injuries behind him.
Estimated Contract: 1 year, $1.2 million
Kory Lichtensteiger: Released
Lichtensteiger offers the same attributes as Montgomery, but the former Denver Bronco just can't stay off the treatment table. The Redskins will likely opt to trust their money to the more durable Montgomery and part ways with Lichtensteiger.
Rocky McIntosh: Released
McIntosh is simply a better fit for a 4-3 defense. His quickness and athleticism are wasted in the middle of a 3-4 front. McIntosh is not the most physically intimidating linebacker, making him poorly suited to the more gruelling aspects of playing 3-4 inside linebacker.
Kedric Golston: Released
Golston is not stout or active enough to hold up at the point of attack in a three-man line. The return from injury of the highly touted Jarvis Jenkins will push Golston even further down the pecking order.
Donte' Stallworth: Released
Like Golston, Stallworth's position will come under threat from a returning youngster who missed time through injury in 2011. With Leonard Hankerson back in the fold, rejoining the likes of Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney, there will be no room left for Stallworth.
Graham Gano: Released
Gano continues to frustrate as one of the least reliable kickers in the league. Washington needs a kicker who can be relied upon in clutch situations, especially given the continued uncertainty at quarterback.
Keyaron Fox: Released
Although he has some scheme experience from his time spent with the Steelers, Fox has not done enough to warrant a return to D.C. next season. He is a useful special-teams contributor, but the Redskins will feel they can get a similar player via the draft.
Sean Locklear: Released
Locklear's position as a backup tackle should be taken by Smith and maybe even Jammal Brown, if the Redskins can find an upgrade at starting right tackle. Locklear didn't do enough in limited duty to show he can be an effective replacement when called upon.
Doug Worthington: Released
Worthington has not established himself as a viable option in the Redskins defensive-line rotation. He failed to register a statistic in 2011.
Phillip Buchanon: Released
Buchanon is not the kind of playmaking ball hawk the Washington defense needs at nickelback. He doesn't make enough big plays to occupy such a key role. The Redskins need a good blitzing corner who is also proficient in press coverage for this position.
Tim Hightower: Released
Hightower appears to have suffered the unfortunate fate of losing his job though injury. Helu and Royster are the Redskins rushing attack, and it's difficult to see exactly how Hightower fits into the run offense.
He is a capable receiver and a good blocker but he may be unwilling to accept a reduced role. Look for the Redskins to move him on and identify another late-round prospect in the draft.
Byron Westbrook: Released
Westbrook hasn't made an impact on the Redskins defense and shown sufficient skills to contribute enough in multiple defensive back packages. It is unlikely the Redskins opt to retain him.
Aldrick Robinson: Released
Youngster Aldrick Robinson will struggle to establish himself in a crowded position group. He has some return skills but is not explosive enough to convince the Redskins to keep him.
Available Cap Space After Re-Signings
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Available Cap Space (Projected): $24,690,640
Sticking with a cap projection of $125 million and the original estimate that the Redskins will have over $40 million to spend, the contract re-signings take the cap figure down to just over $24.5 million.
This has been worked out solely off the base values of these contract projections, due to the difficulty of predicting the effects of any potential incentives in new deals.
Granted, the contract projections are sketchy, but the Redskins should be able to arrive at a figure close to this once they have reorganised the roster.
It is a testament to the work that Shanahan and Bruce Allen have done that the Redskins could be in such a fiscally healthy position. This author has been as critical of Shanahan as anybody, but the coach deserves tremendous credit for helping create a favourable cap situation.
With this kind of money at their disposal, the Redskins can afford to target an elite offensive lineman and a marquee wide receiver and still have enough left to pay a top-tier draft prospect.
The money still has to be spent right, but at least the Redskins are in a position to upgrade the team in the hope of becoming legitimate contenders again in the NFC.
Biggest Needs After Re-Signings
After compiling only 11 wins in two seasons, the Redskins must upgrade the roster. They have the financial power to attract marquee talent in both free agency and the 2012 NFL draft.
The Redskins should look to address left guard, center and right tackle as best they can this offseason. Despite their more athletic blocking schemes, the Redskins would still benefit from adding a powerful interior lineman.
The Redskins have to become tougher and more skilled in pass protection, particularly against the dangerous pressure defenses they face in the NFC East.
Big-play potential and a genuine vertical threat are the attributes the Redskins must have at wide receiver next season. A new quarterback will need to be able to rely on a more dynamic outlet than the wideouts currently on the roster.
Corner and nickelback are the prime areas of concern. Washington's defense needs cornerbacks who are more assured in single and press coverage.
Jim Haslett likes to dial up a lot of blitzes and the players in the coverage scheme have to be skilled enough to still protect the defense, despite reduced numbers.
A blitzing nickelback who can be a dangerous weapon in some of the fire zone packages would increase the turnover potential of the entire defense.
Identifying Potential Free Agents the Redskins Could Sign
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Signing Baltimore Ravens standout Ben Grubbs would still represent a free-agency coup and give the Redskins a more natural fit for their zone-based system.
The free agent tackle crop is thin but the Redskins could consider a move for Kansas City Chiefs starter Barry Richardson, as a possible solution to the problems at right tackle.
The Redskins should seriously consider a move for Buffalo Bills free agent Stevie Johnson. He is a talented young wideout with legitimate playmaking skills. Johnson is unlikely to cost as much as more high-profile free-agent pass catchers like Vincent Jackson, Dwayne Bowe and DeSean Jackson.
If the Redskins did want to spend big on a stud receiver, then Pittsburgh speedster Mike Wallace would be the ideal target. NFL.com recently reported that Wallace has suggested that he is open to a move.
But the Steelers would likely require hefty remuneration for the services of the fleet-footed restricted free agent.
Aggressive Kansas City Chiefs cover ace Brandon Carr would be the perfect addition to the Redskins secondary. The Chiefs' recent capture of former Oakland Raider Stanford Routt, could pave the way for Carr's departure.
The fourth-year cover man is comfortable in man coverage and also possesses a keen understanding of zone reads and concepts. Carr is an aggressive ball hawk whose stock is on the rise.
Former New York Giants starter Terrell Thomas is an intriguing option for the nickelback role. He would be a great signing, provided he is able to rebound from a severe ACL injury.
An alternative might be Pittsburgh Steelers reserve William Gay, who is an excellent blitzer and has ample experience in the type of scheme the Redskins are trying to run.
Projecting Contract Values for Redskins' Free-Agent Targets
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LG Ben Grubbs: Four years, $22 million
Grubbs is a perfect fit for the Redskins zone-blocking schemes. He possesses excellent footwork and refined technique.
Grubbs moves quickly along the line of scrimmage and is particularly effective in space. He would upgrade the entire Redskins front five. $5.5 million a year may seem like a lot to pay, but Grubbs is a more scheme-suitable, cheaper option to Nicks.
The Ravens will make a strong effort to retain Grubbs, but he is the kind of marquee lineman the Redskins need in order to compete better over the course of the season.
C Scott Wells: Four years, $13 million
Wells is exactly the kind of high-effort, tenacious competitor the Redskins need anchoring the middle of the offensive line. The 31-year-old is a skilled and savvy technician with the experience to direct and call the blocking schemes.
Issues about Wells being undersized don't apply in Shanahan's zone-based system, making the Redskins the perfect choice for the 6'2" 300-pounder.
Wells is reportedly at odds with the Packers over their valuation of him. $3.25 million per year is good value to make room for a Super Bowl-winning veteran who can hold the line together.
WR Stevie Johnson: Five years, $22 million
Stevie Johnson would give the Redskins a big and dynamic target in the passing game. The 6'2", 210-pound flanker has topped 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons.
Johnson has fallen foul of Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey due to his demonstrative antics whenever he scores. Johnson and the Bills are struggling to reach an agreement on a new deal.
The Redskins should make an offer for the 25-year-old. Johnson has suffered some costly drops, but he wants the ball when the game is on the line. He has the appetite for making big plays that Washington's pass offense desperately needs.
Spotrac states that Johnson made $1,200,000 in base salary in 2011. An increase to $4.5 million per year would be an offer ample enough to ward off other interested suitors and convince Johnson that his future lies in D.C.
CB Brandon Carr: Four years, $25 million
If he elects to test the free-agent market, Brandon Carr will be a coveted prospect. But the Redskins need for superior cover corners is so great that the front office could justify offering $6.25 million for four years, to tempt Carr to the NFC East.
Carr has the zone instincts and press skills to be a major asset in the Redskins, aggressive, gambling style of defense. Having Carr's coverage abilities in the defensive backfield, would provide extra security for Washington's multi-blitz packages.
Pairing Carr with Josh Wilson would give the Redskins defense two solid corners capable of generating some much needed additional turnovers.
DB William Gay: Two years, $1.4 million
William Gay has an excellent understanding of the zone blitz system the Redskins are trying to emulate. He would be a useful blitzer in certain fire zone schemes.
Paying the 27-year-old $700,000 for two years would give the Redskins a dependable third corner. Haslett could feel confident having the five-year veteran supplement the secondary in nickel and dime situations.
These signings would still leave the Redskins still comfortably under the cap and also give the team the type of players crucial to their rebuilding efforts: Solid and capable athletes with plenty of upside.
Analysing the Redskins' Draft Strategy, Positions of Need
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The Redskins draft strategy has to be tailored towards solving the quarterback issue. Quarterbacks have been conveniently omitted from the list of potential free-agent targets in this article.
This is based on this author's fervent hope that the Redskins choose to address their quarterback problems via the draft. Experienced solutions have flopped in the last two seasons, delaying the team's return to winning ways.
If the Redskins are a team with the right pieces in place, such as a strong defense and a credible running game, then they can afford to develop a rookie quarterback in a starting role. Aside from a quarterback, the Redskins need quality depth and lots of it.
A young understudy to London Fletcher, plus a safety prospect to back up injury-prone veterans Landry and O.J. Atogwe, would be great ways to use some draft selections. The offensive line could certainly use an infusion of young talent to boost depth and provide genuine competition to the starters.
The defense could always use another pass rusher, and another promising lineman would give the Redskins a scary rotation up front.
Provided they don't give too much away attempting to trade for Griffin, the Redskins should be in a strong position to solidify their roster in this year's draft.
Draft Names to Keep an Eye on
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Obviously, most of the anticipation before the Redskins pick will surround any potential trade with the St. Louis Rams to obtain the second overall selection.
But if the Redskins can't or won't give up enough to move up, then attention will quickly shift to Texas A&M passer Ryan Tannehill.
The former wide receiver is a late riser on draft boards and has the kind of athleticism and instincts Shanahan likes in a quarterback.
An intriguing late-round prospect could be Virginia's Bruce Irvin. He is an underrated edge rusher who would complement the efforts of Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan.
Florida State's Andrew Datko is the kind of active, finesse lineman who is a good fit for Washington's zone-blocking system and could develop well under Shanahan's tutelage.