5 Free Agents the Redskins Must Target

Brian Paxton@@thebrianpaxtonContributor IIIJanuary 3, 2013

5 Free Agents the Redskins Must Target

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    The Redskins face an unprecedented phenomenon this offseason that will make everyone forget the Vinny Cerrato days of playing fantasy football with Dan Snyder's money.

    The phenomenon is called the "RGIII effect," and it's a direct result of what you're seeing out of Washington today. There has been a change of culture in D.C. because Griffin has finally made Redskins football relevant in the national scheme. That means a lot of things, but mainly that for the first time, players actually want to come to the nation's capital.

    Free agents want two things: money and championships. For years, the former hasn't been a problem for players coming to the 'Skins, but that option often results in poor effort and disinterest. Now, Mike Shanahan is free to seek players looking to build a championship team based around the new face of the NFL.

    While it will be easier to pull free agents towards D.C., Shanahan will still have to deal with the $18 million cap penalty that will severely limit what they do after the playoffs. Big-name players looking for a big payoff probably won't end up in Washington, but there are a lot of solid pieces around that could fit under the cap this year.

    The Redskins' biggest areas of need are at the free safety position and right tackle, but they also have needs at corner, tight end and inside linebacker with London Fletcher winding down his career. A lot of those spots will be filled through the draft, but they can help themselves out by finding good players in free agency.

    Here are five guys the Redskins should look at during the offseason.

FS Jairus Byrd, Buffalo Bills

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    Jairus Byrd would be the prize of the offseason for the Redskins if he falls into their lap. At just 26, he still has his best days of football ahead of him and would fill Washington's greatest need for years.

    Byrd lit up the league during his rookie campaign, recording nine interceptions in just 11 starts, but has regressed to the mean statistics-wise in the past few years. While he's not putting up Hall of Fame numbers anymore, he's been as solid as anyone else in the league at the free safety position.

    The Bills will want to hold on to their talented young safety, but he could be pried away if the price is right. Head coach Chan Gailey had a good relationship with Byrd, but since he was fired, there's one less reason for Byrd to stay in Buffalo.

    As his rookie contract runs out, he'll likely want a long-term deal comparable to some of the top safeties in the league. I don't think he'll get that deal in Buffalo, but I could see it locking him up with the franchise tag if a deal isn't worked out.

    Again, Byrd is the best available free agent for the Redskins to target this offseason. If they can get him away from Buffalo, the defense will finally have someone on the back end with closing speed who can make the big play.

S Louis Delmas, Detroit Lions

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    If the Redskins can't pick up Jairus Byrd, Louis Delmas would be a nice consolation prize. The hard-hitting safety from Detroit is not as much of a ball hawk, but still would be a nice upgrade over Madieu Williams.

    Delmas is more of a hybrid strong safety-free safety than Byrd, but that might allow Jim Haslett to do more with Delmas, including more disguised safety blitzes. While he may not be the top-level safety that you look for just yet, he's still developing his game and is still a very good starter in the league.

    Delmas is the same age as Byrd (both will be 26 by next season), and so, will be looking for a long-term deal as well. He'll likely come cheaper than Byrd, but Detroit will make a play to keep him around, which may drive the price up. However, with Lions general manager Martin Mayhew calling out the entire defense for not playing up to par, Delmas might have some reason to leave the Motor City.

RT Andre Smith, Cincinnati Bengals

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    As I keep looking at the list of free-agent right tackles I keep coming back to one name: Andre Smith.

    There are some better prospects on the board—Sebastian Vollmer from New England comes to mind—but it just seems as though everything is set up for Smith to succeed in Washington.

    After being drafted sixth overall by the Bengals in 2009, Smith has been a bit of a disappointment mainly because of his high expectations coming out of Alabama. Since then, he's developed into a solid right tackle, but hasn't quite reached his potential.

    At 6'4", 335 pounds, he has pretty good size for an offensive tackle, but where he is really impressive is his footwork and agility. Basically, he's a power guy who fits perfectly into a zone-blocking scheme.

    Right now, the biggest hole on offense happens to be the right tackle position. I don't buy Maurice Hurt, Tyler Polumbus or Tom Compton as a starter in the near future. Smith just makes sense.

    The problem with Smith is that he's often been overweight in Cincy. There may be some concern about his work ethic, but that may be a product of a weak locker room. When you see guys like Trent Williams turn it around and reach their potential, it makes you think that guys like Smith could do the same in a similar environment.

    Because of his problems and the way things have worked out in Cincinnati, Smith could be had for relatively cheap, and probably without much of a fight from the Bengals. With the Redskins' cap problems and a limited number of picks, Smith might be the most realistic option to improve the offensive line.

    If Smith comes in and turns it around, the 'Skins will have their bookend tackles for the next decade. That's huge. Even with his problems, I think it's a fair gamble.

DT Israel Idonije, Chicago Bears

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    The injury to Adam Carriker exposed the lack of true pass-rushing depth on the Redskins this year from the defensive end position. Stephen Bowen and Jarvis Jenkins have showed flashes, but behind them, there isn't much, and they haven't exactly lit the world on fire.

    The 3-4 defense relies on getting a good push from the front line, and that hasn't really happened this year. Israel Idonije has been a pass-rushing specialist in Chicago for some time now. While he's getting up there in years at 32, he would still be a good rotational player who could help generate more of a rush up front.

    Idonije has played mostly defensive tackle and end in four-man fronts for the Bears, but I think he could easily make the transition to a 3-4 end in passing situations. Besides that, he would be a great addition to the locker room and could help young guys like Jenkins get settled in the league. He fits the leadership role that Mike Shanahan loves to see in veteran free agents (like Stephen Bowen and Barry Cofield).

    Chicago gave him a one-year, $2.5 million deal last year, but with a bunch of young guys on the line waiting to play, I don't see them re-signing him for anything more than the league minimum. The Redskins could probably get him on a two-year, $4 million deal that wouldn't really take up that much cap room this year.

    Do the Redskins really need Idonije? No. But he would be yet another high-character guy on the defense to help get the pass rush going. At what he would cost, I think that's a fair deal.

TE Dustin Keller, New York Jets

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    I still think Fred Davis has the tools to be a great player, but there have been so many question marks with injury and suspension surrounding him that I'm not sure he'll get the payday he wants from Washington.

    If Davis leaves, that would leave a huge hole at the tight end spot. While Logan Paulsen has performed admirably in his stead, he's a second-stringer at best.

    Fortunately for the Redskins, the New York Jets are in absolute turmoil right now, and players are definitely feeling the urge to jump ship. The situation is perfect for Dustin Keller to find his way to the District and fill that role.

    With Mark Sanchez throwing to him, Keller hasn't recorded any eye-popping stats. But he has been a consistent receiving threat and a solid blocker in New York since he was drafted in the first round of the 2008 draft.

    Keller is faster than Davis, and in my opinion, is a better route runner and blocker (although Keller's blocking is nothing to write home about, but still solid). For Washington, he would immediately provide yet another option in the passing game for Robert Griffin III and a solid third-down target.

    If the Redskins choose to re-sign Davis, they could still go after Keller and run more two tight end sets like the Patriots, but also employ the zone-read aspect of their offense to really wreak havoc on defenses. However, I think the money it would take to pay both might be better suited somewhere else like the secondary.


    And that's it! Five guys who the Redskins could target in free agency this year. While I don't believe this year's group of FA's is as attractive as year's past, there's some quality talent to be had.

    You'll notice I didn't go for any of the big-name receivers. That's because guys like Dwayne Bowe, Wes Welker and Greg Jennings will be looking for big money that the Redskins can't really afford right now. I like the group of receivers Washington has now, but they can always be upgraded.

    I also was not a fan of any of the middle linebackers available right now. There are some solid players, but I don't see anyone who would be worth the price right now. Although I could be wrong.

    Who do you think the Redskins should go after in free agency?