Washington Redskins: Position-by-Position 2013 NFL Free Agency Breakdown
Mike Shanahan enters this offseason with a different sort of challenge than he has faced since arriving in Washington three seasons ago. Instead of lacking sufficient talent to build a proper roster, Shanahan now lacks the cap space to bring in what few key pieces the Redskins truly require.
As a result of front-loading contracts during the uncapped year, Washington incurred $36 million in penalties, half of which goes against this year's number.
Even with less money, Washington can still restructure a few contracts and finally entice a free agent or two with credible promises of playoff contention. Rather than throw money at players, the Redskins can throw success at them, and play to their desire to succeed at the highest level.
Here is a position-by-position breakdown of what the Redskins are liable to do this offseason.
Robert Griffin III tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee, which required surgery and will likely keep him from being ready for the start of next season. Even so, the Redskins have Kirk Cousins to lead the offense, and that is hardly a concern.
What the Redskins lack is a third quarterback, with Rex Grossman's contract up and having no real value beyond familiarity with Kyle Shanahan.
A mobile quarterback like Josh Johnson might find a home in Washington considering their offense utilizes the read-option and pistol offense. He'd be a cheap option, and would at the very least be a suitable practice representation of RGIII.
Alfred Morris rushed for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns as a rookie, running through holes cleared by the Redskins offensive line and tamped down by fullback Darrel Young. Morris will most assuredly be the unquestioned starter at running back next season, with a healthy Roy Helu and Evan Royster providing relief when necessary.
Mike Shanahan has a penchant for running backs in the draft, but hasn't shown the same passion for free agent backs.
There is very little chance the Redskins sign or draft a running back, even with Helu's ongoing struggle with turf toe and Royster's sporadic production through their first two seasons. Young is underrated as a lead back, and will not be replaced or put in competition with a free agent or rookie.
With a healthy Pierre Garcon, level-headed Josh Morgan and Leonard Hankerson and an improving Aldrick Robinson, the Redskins have a solid receiving corps to stretch the field through the air. They could, however, use a younger option in the slot with Santana Moss not likely to recreate his eight-touchdown season.
Dwayne Bowe may be the top overall prize, and Wes Welker highlights the slot receivers, but the Redskins need a cap-friendly option.
Danny Amendola, due to injury, may only be valuable to the St. Louis Rams and whatever other team might take a chance on him. He torched the Redskins for 160 yards and a touchdown early in the year and displayed all the speed and shiftiness you'd expect from a slot receiver.
A capable slot receiver would give the Redskins one more threat for RGIII to utilize, but it would be easier to groom a rookie than spend for a brittle veteran for the job.
What the Redskins decide to do with Fred Davis will dictate their need at tight end this offseason. They can low-ball Davis considering he has failed to finish either of the last two seasons due to injury and suspension, or they can slap the franchise tag on him a second time so they don't have to commit to him.
Chris Cooley is either out of the picture, or will be brought back in a limited capacity, with Logan Paulsen proving a solid option, being among the best blockers of the three.
If the Redskins part ways with Davis, it is likely that they pursue one of the free-agent options like Dustin Keller or Jared Cook.
Cook is the younger option, and suffered from playing for a poorly quarterbacked Titans team. Keller struggled through injuries last season, but has more seasons with solid production. In terms of receiving, however, Cook is a bigger target and could thrive in the Redskins offense.
The Redskins are in desperate need of a right tackle to fill the seemingly perpetual void. Jammal Brown was never healthy, Jordan Black earned a PED suspension and Tyler Polumbus was rarely better than admirable in pass protection.
Tom Compton was drafted in the sixth round last season, but pending his development, the Redskins need a player they know can boost the overall level of play.
Sebastian Vollmer and Phil Loadholt stand out as potential options, though they aren't without their flaws.
Vollmer, a towering 6'8" tackle, has had trouble staying healthy missing 13 games in four season. Loadholt, a mountainous 6'8" 343 pound tackle himself, is a great run-blocker and solid in pass protection. But he has been penalized quite a bit, earning 11 flags last season.
Loadholt would bring some credibility to the right side of the line, giving the Redskins freedom to run to either side, which is terrifying considering how productive Morris was with a so-so right side of the line.
Washington's defensive line will get Adam Carriker back from injury, and have a nice collection of depth and skill to work with. Barry Cofield has become a rock at nose tackle, while Stephen Bowen remained a quiet leader at defensive end.
With Carriker back and Jarvis Jenkins round back into form after missing all of his rookie season, the Redskins have very little need along their defensive line.
The 'Skins are likely to retain Chris Baker to back up Cofield, and provide some much-needed beef for goal-line and short-yardage situations, so it is doubtful that the team signs or drafts any players along their defensive line.
The primary concern for the Redskins at linebacker is depth and the potential retirement of veteran London Fletcher. If it doesn't happen this offseason, it will most assuredly happen next year and it would be best for Washington to have Fletcher as a mentor for their young linebacker while they can.
Outside linebacker is hardly a concern, with Brian Orakpo expected back from injury, Ryan Kerrigan making a Pro Bowl appearance and Rob Jackson performing well in Orakpo's stead. Depth is the only real need, but there could be room for a rotation-style approach to the pass rush.
Paul Kruger of the Baltimore Ravens is due to be a free agent and could be a tremendous asset.
Much like Kerrigan, Kruger is a high-motor player, and he notched nine sacks for the Ravens. The New York Giants have made a rotation out of their defensive line to great success, and Washington could do the same with their outside linebackers.
A four-man rotation of Kerrigan, Orakpo, Kruger and Jackson would be scary to consider for opposing offenses. Kruger won't come cheap, but the Redskins can't put a price on pocket pressure with their secondary in utter disarray last season.
DeAngelo Hall is in need of a major contract restructuring, and Josh Wilson is in need of a kick in the pants for his inconsistent play in his two seasons with Washington. With Hall taking some snaps at free safety and even doing some nickel coverage to nullify slot receivers, the Redskins could be in the market for a corner to provide depth or improve their nickel defense.
Quentin Jammer is a corner who is looking for his last long-term contract and would be a solid corner who could be a starter in a pinch or work in nickel coverage, giving the Redskins a good rotation to adjust to matchups.
Jammer isn't likely to come cheap, but with Cedric Griffin's contract expired and Richard Crawford not showing enough to earn a nickel spot, he would be an immediate boost for the ailing secondary.
Madieu Williams was never supposed to be the starting free safety, and Brandon Meriweather was on the field healthy for all of one-half of one game before tearing his ACL. Reed Doughty performed admirably and flashed great stuff in his 13-tackle two-sack performance against Seattle in the playoffs, but he is not the future of the position.
It is unlikely that the Redskins draft to fill both safety spots, or fill both via free agency, but the question becomes which position is addressed during which period.
Jairus Byrd is the best free-agent option at free safety, and at 26 years of age, still has his prime to enter. The problem is, the Redskins are short on cap space, and Byrd could command a hefty contract based on ability and potential. Buffalo has the most interest in retaining his services, and could use the franchise tag to keep him off of the open market.
Given the price of good free safeties these days, the Redskins are more apt to draft their future center fielder.
In terms of strong safeties, Washington has a lot of options to mull over, and the biggest concern regarding most of the top prospects is health.
Kenny Phillips, of the division rival New York Giants, is the most intriguing option. He hits like a ton of bricks and, can do everything from play in the box to keep receivers and quarterbacks at bay over the middle.
Phillips' biggest issue is that he has missed 24 games in his five-year career. Brandon Meriweather is under contract with the Redskins for another three years, and is a health concern all to himself.
For the first time in what seems like forever, the Redskins have no need for a kicker. Kai Forbath hit 17 of his 18 field goals in his 11 games with the team, including all 12 of his attempts from 40-plus yards.
Sav Rocca, on the other hand, is getting on in years and played through a torn meniscus in his kicking leg, which will require surgery this offseason. While he had his best season in terms of average yards per punt this year, injury and age may have taken the best of Rocca's years.
Rocca isn't officially out of Washington yet, but it is likely the Redskins seek a healthy replacement in free agency.
Shane Lechler may be 36, but he has been among the best punters in the NFL, and would be a welcome addition to the Redskins special teams.