With $18 million in salary-cap reductions ($36 million over two years) hanging over the Washington Redskins this offseason, the team's fans should be realistic in which free agents the Redskins will target and attempt to lure to D.C.
Washington general manager Bruce Allen and head coach Mike Shanahan will attempt to fill the holes with middle-of-the-pack free agents, as it did last offseason when it signed Pierre Garcon, Brandon Meriweather and Josh Morgan.
While fans will salivate at the thought of seeing any of the big name free agents such as Dwayne Bowe, Mike Wallace, Greg Jennings, Jairus Byrd or even Brent Grimes in the burgundy and gold next season, it is extremely doubtful the Redskins unload big bucks on any one player...and for good reason.
The Redskins have less cap space than most teams and have a few pressing needs they must address if they plan to repeat as NFC East champs. The secondary tops the list, as it struggled most of last season. The pass rush was mediocre after injuries to Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker. The tight end position is a question mark with both Fred Davis and Logan Paulsen becoming free agents and the offensive line needs to add depth.
These five free agents are players whom the Redskins can realistically sign given their budget and all represent upgrades over the current players at their positions.
The Redskins' pass rush stalled this past season after Brian Orakpo went down with injury. Washington needs to add another pass-rusher to the defense. An aggressive 3-4 scheme thrives on getting to the quarterback.
Paul Kruger is an outside linebacker who would greatly help the Redskins. In the six games he started this past season, Kruger recorded 9.5 sacks. In last week's playoff game against the Colts, he added another 2.5.
By comparison, Washington's Ryan Kerrigan, a full-time starter, recorded two fewer sacks. With Orakpo, Kerrigan and Kruger, the Redskins defense would present a formidable pass rush.
Quentin Jammer has consistently been one of the better cornerbacks since he entered the league in 2002. He is a solid tackler, good in coverage and has missed only four games in his entire career. The
Redskins secondary struggled for much of 2012, and Jammer would help shore up one side.
Signing Jammer to a two- or three-year contract would give the Redskins an immediate starter to replace DeAngelo Hall or Josh Wilson (or both) and also tutor youngsters Richard Crawford, Chase Minnifield and any rookie the Redskins (hopefully) draft. He has played extensively in the 3-4 defense and offers valuable veteran experience from which younger Redskins could benefit.
He'll be 33 years old at season's start, so he's certainly not the future. But he's definitely a great stopgap and an improvement over any cornerback currently on the roster.
Injuries have plagued Louis Delmas the past two seasons but he finished the second half of 2012 healthy. He'll only be 26 during the 2013 season, which makes him worthy of a gamble.
He has the talent to be a very good safety and has played at a high level when healthy. He's a much cheaper option than Jairus Byrd and an upgrade over both Madieu Williams and Reed Doughty.
Fred Davis has missed nine games in the past two seasons. Along with suspensions, he has not fulfilled his potential as a Redskin and the front office may be wary of signing him to a long-term contract.
Logan Paulsen, also a free agent, is not the sure-handed pass-catching tight end so popular now in the NFL. Niles Paul and Chris Cooley didn't add much of anything to the offense in their limited time either.
If Davis is not re-signed, Dustin Keller is a viable option. He was limited because of injuries this past season, but in 2011 he recorded 65 receptions, 815 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
Keller displayed the ability to be a big part of an offense. Due to injuries this past season, he'll command a much cheaper price tag than Jared Cook. Injuries should not be a real concern, since he played in all sixteen games the four seasons prior.
Drafted by then-Denver head coach Mike Shanahan, Ryan Harris has played his five seasons exclusively in the zone-blocking scheme. He'll only be 28 when the season starts and would compete with Tyler Polumbus (also a free agent) for the starting right tackle job.
Jammal Brown and Jordan Black are likely released in the offseason. Even if only to add depth, signing Harris would be a good move. In addition to being adept at zone-blocking, he has started 36 games over his five-year career.