The Washington Redskins had yet another year to forget. This is a very critical offseason Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen. They need to make a splash both in free agency and in the draft. The Redskins have already started this with the trade for the second overall pick with the St Louis Rams.
Washington has plenty of needs though are not as far away from being a playoff team as many believe. Washington was in many games last season and a break here or there proved the difference in many contests.
On offense, wide receiver and offensive line depth are the major concerns for Washington and both can be addressed in free agency. Age and injuries hampered both these positions last season and were detrimental to the Redskins' season.
The defense improved immensely last season but couldn't help the Redskins win more on the field. On defense it is more about re-signing key starters or finding their replacements during free agency.
The Dirt: Depending on how things look there really is not much quality on the open market at the quarterback position. As of right now Matt Flynn is the far away front runner as top quarterback that will move but that depends on what the Indianapolis Colts decide to do. Other than Flynn this class is full of players that have talent and/or are inconsistent.
Top Choice: Matt Flynn will definitely get his share of looks from teams in need of a quarterback. He owns single-game records in Green Bay as the backup for the Packers. While that may have a lot to do with the system, Flynn is a smart player and prepares well each week. He's learned well under the tutelage of McCarthy and Rodgers and is ready to step in as a starting quarterback somewhere in the NFL.
Back-up Plan: Kyle Orton is a decent quarterback that does not have the wow factor but has the ability to win games. Orton is inconsistent but would be an upgrade over Grossman and Beck. Is a starting-type quarterback if given the right opportunity and is not having to look over his shoulder for his replacement.
Realization: If the Redskins do not get Matt Flynn they will not/should not pursue any of the other free agent quarterbacks and will pick one in the draft. However if they do not get either Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III then the potential for Orton or another stop-gap type quarterback could fill in till the draftee is ready to take over.
The Dirt: There are quite a few top running backs set to become free agents but most will probably not move from their current teams without a major fight. There are a quite a few veteran running backs that could be good in Washington but this is not a needed position for the Redskins.
Top Choice: Re-signing Tim Hightower to a low-risk/high-reward type deal should be a must. Hightower is a local and grew up with the Washington Redskins. Hightower is a good back that compliments Helu and Royster. After Hightower was injured last season, the running game fell off significantly until Helu and Royster finally stepped up near the end of the season.
Back-up Plan: The Redskins could potentially add any veteran running back to the mix. With the backfield being quite young, signing an experienced veteran would not be out of the question. Players like Thomas Jones, Chester Taylor or Mewelde Moore could provide the veteran presence for the younger backs and push them for playing time.
Realization: The Redskins are pretty much set here at the running back position. Quality depth is about the only concern past Roy Helu and Evan Royster. More than likely Hightower will re-sign with Washington and make a good backfield mate for Helu and Royster.
The Dirt: The wide receiver position has some top quality players that could move for the right price. Also there are quite a few productive veterans that could potentially be beneficial to any team. Vincent Jackson, Wes Welker, Marques Colston and Dwayne Bowe are all available. While some of these guys are more than likely re-signing with their current teams, they could end up elsewhere.
Fred Davis showed to be the next up-and-coming tight end. While another drug suspension would be costly for the both Davis and the Redskins they really cannot afford to let him walk. There are very few top flight tight ends in this free agent class.
Top Choice: The Redskins have quite a few young receivers that need to step up or else. Santana Moss is aging and is more of a possession receiver than a deep threat. They have a couple speedy receivers but no one that I would say is a top-flight deep threat.
I could see the Redskins possibly signing a big-name receiver to help out whomever the quarterback is going to be next season. Vincent Jackson or Marques Colston are the best bets to join the Redskins if they do not re-sign with the Chargers or Saints respectively.
Jackson is a top-notch receiver and most have said he was out of San Diego over the past couple years. Injuries are a concern and character issues in the past also are a red flag for Jackson but his talent makes up for it.
Colston has been a very productive target for Drew Brees in New Orleans. Colston has also had injury issues in the past but looks to be one of many odd men out of the free agents in New Orleans. It would be beneficial for the Redskins to add a big target such as Marques Colston.
Back-up Plan: Robert Meachem is also a free agent in New Orleans and with Drew Brees franchised, Carl Nicks and Marquis Colston all free agents the Saints may not be able to re-sign all of them. Meachem could be a nice pickup in Washington as a true deep threat and good in the red zone where the Redskins have struggled in the past.
Realization: I see the Redskins possibly picking up one of the big name wide receivers this offseason. Either one of the two wide receivers from New Orleans would be a good fit in Washington and would give the Redskins a true wide receiving tandem in Santana Moss and either Meachem or Colston. If Leonard Hankerson or any of the other young receivers can step up the Redskins will have a good chance at improving in the red zone.
Putting the franchise tag on Fred Davis was a gamble in my opinion. He's had three different run-ins for drug suspensions and the next one is a yearlong ban. His skills warrant the tag but off-field behavior says differently.
Redskins offensive line
The Dirt: The offensive line market has some talent along the interior this off-season. Saints OG Carl Nicks tops the list of free agents. The interior line has the most depth and are easier to sign to smaller contracts then say an offensive tackle. With a lot of better talent in this year's draft, the free agent market for offensive line might not heat up till after the April draft.
Top Choice: For most of the offseason I thought the interior offensive line was a major issue for the Redskins. While Washington could certainly upgrade the positions, they seem happy with those players. However, offensive tackle might be a necessary target in free agency. Trent Williams has talent, but has the same off-field issues as Fred Davis. Jamal Brown did not have an good year and could easily be replaced.
Back-up Plan: The Redskins seem to on the path to having the same starting offensive line that they had to start last season. Once the injury bug hit the line, though, things went downhill quickly for Washington. Depth for the Redskins across all positions should be addressed either in free agency or via the draft (with whatever picks they have left).
Reality: The Redskins address their offensive line depth by bringing in players for low-cost contracts. Quality backup players will be targeted, especially ones that fit Mike Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme.
The Dirt: The defensive line free agency market is rather lacking other than Mario Williams. There are quite a few aging veterans and players that had a couple good years but regressed in a contract season. Redskins do not need much in this area other than depth.
First Choice: Re-signing Adam Carricker should be a must for the Redskins. While he wants to show his versatility if not re-signed by the Redskins, Carricker fits better in a 3-4 defense like Washington's. Carricker had a good season but possibly looses Jarvis Jenkins who returns from injury.
The nose tackle position is lacking with talent and not a major concern for Washington as Barry Cofield did a good job this season. While the Redskins could certainly upgrade, Cofield knows the NFC east well.
Back-up Plan: If Carricker signs elsewhere the position falls to Jenkins, who is coming off a lost season to an ACL injury. Cory Redding from Baltimore has emerged as a leader and would be an upgrade to either defensive end position. It give more reps to the other defensive ends and allow Jenkins to slowly get back into the mix.
Realization: Redskins look more for depth and don't make a splash along the defensive line. All roads seem point towards Carricker not being re-signed, which would be a blow. What remaining draft picks the Redskins have will address any issues here but more than likely will be low-level signings.
The Dirt: There are few talented linebackers out there in free agency. Curtis Lofton and Stephen Tulloch top the class this year. Also longtime Redskin London Fletcher is a free agent and could go somewhere else if Washington does not re-sign him. The Redskins will look at any available inside linebackers this offseason as the aforementioned Fletcher and Rocky McIntosh are both free agents.
First Choice: Re-signing London Fletcher will be a priority for Washington. Even with turning 37 before next season starts, Fletcher has proven to still be one of the better inside linebackers in the league. With any of the remaining draft picks the Redskins should look for the successor to him during this draft.
Back-up Choice: If they cannot get a deal done with Fletcher, there are two possibilities for the Redskins in free agency in Stephen Tulloch or Jameel McClain. Stephen Tulloch would provide a more veteran presence on without Fletcher. Tulloch also is a good inside linebacker and could step in right away as a replacement for Fletcher. More than likely Detroit will make a major effort to re-sign Tulloch but Washington could be a player.
Jameel McClain had a good season replacing Ray Lewis this season when Lewis was injured. While he wants to stay with Baltimore, Washington could force Baltimore out of the race if they want to see how McClain develops as a starter with the Redskins.
Realization: The Redskins will more than likely re-sign London Fletcher and look for his successor in the later rounds of April's draft. They could sign some quality back interior linebackers as well for depth.
The Dirt: With a strong class of free agent cornerbacks headlined by Carlos Rogers and Cortland Finnegan, there will be a lot of movement. The Redskins have two potential free agents in Philip Buchanan and Byron Westbrook.
Top Choice: DeAngelo Hall is no longer a top cornerback in the NFL. Josh Wilson proved to be a quality number two corner, but in a league where the passing game is used more than ever, having more elite corners is almost a must nowadays. With no cap issues, the Redskins could spend it on any of the top corners in free agency.
Carlos Rogers has no potential in coming back to Washington, so I would expect the Redskins to possibly make a play on Cortland Finnegan. While being considered a dirty player, Finnegan has proven to be a top cornerback in the NFL. While being undersized he is good in coverage and in run support.
Back-up Choice: Washington could go after a number-two type corner again this offseason to play the nickel position and put pressure on Hall. Coming off an injury, New York Giant Terrell Thomas is a quality number two corner that is stellar in rush support. A physical corner would be a good matchup with the Redskins if he can prove last season's injury is healed. Thomas will be odd man out with three other corners being free agents in New York.
Realization: With the cap space and the fact that the NFL is a more pass-happy league then it ever has been in the past, Washington needs to invest in another good corner. Brandyn Thompson has potential and the coaching staff love him so he could expect to see more time. Byron Westbrook will more than likely be tendered and be back with the Redskins. I would not be surprised if the Redskins make a play for another cornerback in free agency.
The Dirt: The safety position is not deep and even with that, the best safety in free agency is Laron Landry who is coming off an Achilles injury this past season. There are a few quality pieces but really nothing that stands out in this free agency class.
Top Choice: While Laron Landry has looked like a superstar at times for Washington, his injury concerns are making the Redskins possibly looking at other options this off-season. This is a very lackluster class and if the Redskins can sign Landry to a one-year deal it would be worth the chance.
Back-up Plan: In free agency there really isn't much of a choice. Atari Bigby could be a good veteran to bring in to give DeJon Gomes more time to develop as a strong safety. Reed Doughty is still with Washington as well.
Realization: If anything, the Redskins will look for a quality veteran backup and either let Reed Doughty or DeJon Gomes fight for the starting strong safety job. They could use a backup free safety as well to provide depth behind O.J. Atogwe.
The Dirt: With a majority of the franchise tags going to potential free agent kickers and punters, the depth on special teams has fallen off. Neil Rackers, Jay Feely and Nick Folk top the placekickers and the ageless wonders of Matt Turk and Mat McBriar are the best punters available.
Top Choice: The Washington coaching staff believes in Graham Gano as the placekicker of the future in Washington. I for one do not trust him as far as I could kick a football and that isn't far at all. Gano has been one of the worst kickers, percentage-wise, for the past two seasons and that cannot completely be blamed on blocked field goals.
Neil Rackers, Jay Feely or Nick Folk would be better options than Gano.
Back-up Plan: Whomever is available, the Graham Gano experience should come to an end.
Realization: Sadly with Gano getting tendered as a restricted free agent, the Redskins will probably not pursue any of the free agent placekickers.