With their loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs, the Washington Redskins can now comfortably look toward the future. Before they can worry about who will fall to them in the draft, the team must decide what to do with its own players.
After rattling off seven victories and earning a playoff berth, the Redskins have to look at their roster much differently than they might have prior to their bye week.
Winning can offer an insight into on player's value, while exposing the lack of value in another. Mike Shanahan is the architect of this team and must decide who deserves to return and who deserves to walk this offseason.
Here's what they should do with their free agents for 2013.
A converted linebacker, Darrel Young has quietly become a good fullback for the Redskins. Not only did he pave the way for a number of Alfred Morris's runs on his way to a 1,613-yard season, Young showed himself to be capable of picking up short-yardage first downs and sneaking out of the backfield as a receiver.
Of his 22 touches on offense, Young scored twice and converted 13 first downs, which is great for a fullbackl.
Mike Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme may get the most credit for the production of his running backs, but Young is an invaluable player that the Redskins have to re-sign. You never consider the impact a good fullback can make until he is gone, and it would be best for Washington if it doesn't test that theory.
He's young, he's talented, and above all else, he is a homegrown player. Great teams don't often reach the top without developing their own players.
When Fred Davis went down midway through the season, and even after Chris Cooley returned, it was Logan Paulsen picking up the slack as a bruising blocking tight end with underrated skills as a receiver.
Paulsen scored just one touchdown, but 17 of his 25 catches were for first downs, and he played a key role in one of the best offensive line performances in recent memory for the Redskins.
Though he didn't get many chances, or see many looks in the red zone, Paulsen's 6'5" 261-pound frame can absorb contact and make catches in traffic anywhere on the field. He's still refining his route running, but he could become a consistent threat in the red zone.
Even if he isn't the most impressive receiver, his value as a blocking tight end is more than enough reason to bring him back.
Good punters are apparently very hard to find. Sav Rocca will be 40 midway through next season, and is expected to have surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee this offseason.
That being said, Rocca has been a good punter for the Redskins, and unless a better option rolls around, they should retain him at all costs.
Maybe it is his Australian rules football past, or the way he is willing and able to make actual tackles on returns, but Rocca is just a great guy to have on the field. His numbers don't jump off the page, but he is the perfect player for winning the game of field position.
There is no question that the Redskins will have to upgrade the right tackle position at some point this offseason. However, they lack the depth to part ways with both Jammal Brown and Tyler Polumbus.
Polumbus may not have been the ideal bookend for the 'Skins, but he showed enough to prove his worth as a second tackle.
It remains to be seen what the Redskins have in store for late-round pick Tom Compton, but it is safe to say that he isn't starting material either. For now, it is better to have an experienced hand in the wings and either draft a more suitable player or find one in free agency than leave the position entirely vacant.
After an ACL tear landed him on IR last season, Kory Lichtensteiger rebounded with a great season as part of an offensive line responsible for the top-ranked rushing attack in the NFL. Though a good deal of credit goes to Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris and the offensive scheme, the zone-blocking scheme comes down to athletic and mobile linemen.
Lichtensteiger showed no ill effects from his ACL tear, and for the season he had, he is more than worth re-signing to a long-term deal.
The only reason Lichtensteiger might not get a long-term deal is Josh LeRibeus, who the Redskins spent a third-round pick on. LeRibeus is bigger than Lichtensteiger, and looked good in spot duty when Lichtensteiger aggravated an ankle injury.
You name a position, there's a fair chance Lorenzo Alexander has played it. Exaggeration aside, Alexander has spent time as a tight end, fullback, guard, defensive end, defensive tackle, and now outside linebacker and special teams ace.
Though he made the Pro Bowl as a special-teamer, Alexander tallied a career-high 34 solo tackles and 2.5 sacks.
He is a leader, a great presence on and off the field, and you don't let a player nicknamed 'One-Man Gang' just walk away in free agency.
He's a long snapper, and a good one at that. He broke his arm in the season-opener, and continued to play. Ethan Albright made a name for himself as a long snapper, becoming affectionately known as 'The Red Snapper.'
Though it is a utility position, and not a particularly sexy one, Sundberg's role goes a long way towards making the rest of the special teams work smoothly.
Cedric Griffin earned himself a four-game suspension for PEDs (Adderall), but when he was on the field, he provided solid depth and showed his value as a nickel corner. The Redskins have confidence in Richard Crawford, but there isn't a ton of depth at corner heading into the offseason.
Griffin is a veteran, and though is suspension isn't exactly a positive, he wasn't juicing and the use of Adderall has only become an issue this season it seems.
It took some time before Rob Jackson settled into his role as starting outside linebacker, but once he did, it seemed like he was making big plays week in and week out down the stretch.
Brian Orakpo may be the unquestioned starter as he returns from a torn pectoral muscle, but having depth with Jackson would be a huge boost to the linebacking corps.
Jackson set career-highs in almost every statistical category, including four interceptions, 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and a touchdown. Four of his sacks and two of his interceptions came during the Redskins' seven-game winning streak.
Kedric Golston saw his value plummet with the emergence of Jarvis Jenkins in relief of the injured Adam Carriker. As far as depth is concerned, as long as Jenkins is healthy, he can rotate in at either defensive end spot as necessary.
Golston simply isn't capable of being the type of end the Redskins 3-4 defense requires, and with Jenkins and Carriker expected to see most of the snaps next season, and Stephen Bowen proving himself an iron man, he isn't doing much in terms of depth either.
Chris Baker was solid in limited time relieving Barry Cofield, but he doesn't add a great deal to the Redskins defense. Even Chris Neild, who was expected to compete with Baker before being placed on IR, doesn't figure to be a big part of the defense.
Baker was great as part of Washington's goal-line defense, but he is expendable and the Redskins should seek to upgrade their depth behind Cofield should the unthinkable happen.
Chris Wilson is an undersized outside linebacker who cannot be the physical player the 3-4 defense requires. He offers a great change of pace to the power rushers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are, but since neither of them are expected to take many plays off, and Rob Jackson stepped up, Wilson has no real role in Washington.
Free agency may just as easily bring in a more capable linebacker for depth than Wilson could be, in which case the Redskins don't need to worry about retaining his services.
With Kirk Cousins firmly in control of the backup quarterback position, there is really no reason to keep Rex Grossman. In his third year with the team, Grossman was inactive for almost the entire season.
Now that the offense looks almost completely different with either RGIII or Cousins under center, Grossman's experience under Kyle Shanahan is all but useless.
Some fans may find comfort knowing who sits behind their rookies, but there's no reason to retain him if he doesn't bring anything to the team. Experience is nice, but no one wants either Cousins or Griffin picking up any of Grossman's bad habit of throwing to teams he isn't on.
Tanard Jackson was part of Raheem Morris's carry-on luggage from Tampa Bay and showed himself to be little more than the character concern that soured his stay with the Buccaneers.
Jackson was supposed to fill the ever-present void at free safety playing alongside Brandon Meriweather, but an injury kept him out of the lineup and another suspension kept him off the field entirely.
Without knowing what he could have brought to the table, it may be difficult to just let Jackson go. However, can the Redskins afford to waste time on a player who isn't eligible to return until September when they could easily draft a younger player without the liability?
In one play against the Baltimore Ravens, Richard Crawford did what Brandon Banks had failed to do on any of his 22 punt returns this season. Crawford took a punt 64 yards, helping to set up the game-winning field goal in overtime.
Banks was supposed to make the roster as a receiver in addition to his return duties, but he mustered just 54 yards on 15 touches, and he never made an impact in the return game.
Banks fielded 26 punts for 178 yards in 12 games, while Crawford returned just eight punts for 156 yards for a 19.5-yard average compared to Banks' 6.8-yard average. Banks lacks the size to factor into the offense in a convincing manner, and the Redskins were content to use him as a gimmick rather than sprinting him down field every once in a while.
There is no reason to retain Banks since his roles are so easily filled by more capable players.
It was nice to see Chris Cooley back on the field in burgundy and gold, but whether it was his own condition or the role he was given by the coaches, he didn't make much of an impact and saw a lot of potential playing time go to Niles Paul.
He had one catch on the season and didn't figure into the offense much, even as one of the more accomplished blockers at tight end.
Having been released before the start of the season, it is unlikely that Cooley will be back for another year of sparing field time. Captain Chaos will always be a favorite for Redskins fans, but his time appears to be over.
Depth is important, but not important enough to keep Jordan Black. His four-game suspension for alleged PED use doesn't help his case, even if he claims he got back up to playing weight by drinking protein shakes and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Madieu Williams was expected to be a depth and veteran signing at safety for the Redskins. When Tanard Jackson was suspended, he was thrust into the starting position, and proved himself incapable of providing a veteran presence at free safety.
He is too slow and failed to show any sort of ability to read a play, which left corners DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson without the safety help they expected.
By virtue of playing in all 16 games, and being a solid tackler, as well as not having a suspension against him, Williams may be re-signed, but not as a starter.
Before a freak Achilles tear ended his season, Fred Davis was quietly leading the Redskins in receiving with 24 receptions for 325 yards. At his best, Davis can be a playmaker on the field, and at his worst, Davis can be a liability off the field.
A four-game drug suspension last season cut his career year short, and his season as Washington's franchise player was wasted by injury.
Since the Redskins lack any other player worth a franchise tag, and Davis deserves a chance to redeem himself for his suspension. It is rare for a player to receive the franchise tag twice, but for the Redskins, it would be easier than kicking themselves later for letting an asset walk in free agency.
At just 26 years of age, Davis has his best years ahead of him, and adding him to an overacheiving arsenal of receivers would be a tremendous boost for RGIII in his second season.