Fred Davis failed to answer his critics last year, so a new deal is far from guaranteed.
Once again, it’s all about the $18 million. Any discussion about the Washington Redskins and free agency cannot take place without a mention of the cap penalty that is still hanging over the team.
Once ridiculed as offseason champions, the Redskins will be looking for value this year. Also, there are some key players who are set to become free agents this offseason, so decisions will need to be made about their future above all else.
But there are also some positions on the roster that are in need of an upgrade, so Mike Shanahan and his coaching staff will be scouring free agency and the draft for talent that can help plug those holes.
This article will take a look at both aspects mentioned above, working through the rumors and reports to offer a potential scenario for how the 2013 offseason will pan out for the Redskins.
Davis has so much potential, but always seems to fall just short of it.
A player with drug violations who sat out a great deal of his contract year through injury in 2012, the most practical solution seems to be to cut Fred Davis loose.
However, when it comes to replacing him, the Redskins don’t have a lot of options, although Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul are serviceable players. Paulsen, in particular, showed considerable improvement last year, but he is also a free agent. Also, we can assume that Chris Cooley won’t return in 2013.
Still, none of those players have the game-changing ability of Davis, and the feeling persists that it’s not time to give up on him. At 27, he’s still got a lot of football in him.
The Redskins have more pressing needs than tight end, so it’s safe to assume that the higher draft picks and free agency signings will go elsewhere. Shanahan may trade down and pick up a tight end prospect in the late rounds, but it’s unlikely that this will be where the focus lies.
Due to these factors, it makes sense to offer Davis a reduced contract that reflects both his potential and the fact that he’s yet to reach it. He may choose to test the waters of free agency, but he remains a player that you’d rather have on your team than the opposition.
LeRibeus saw limited action in 2012, but impressed during his time on the field.
Despite his injuries in 2011 and in camp before the 2012 season, Kory Lichtensteiger started every game for the Redskins last year and was a big factor in the much-improved offensive line performance.
However, when rookie Josh LeRibeus was put into the Week 16 game against Dallas, he looked like he’d been there all season long. Mo Hurt was working at right tackle in case Tyler Polumbus failed to return from a concussion, so LeRibeus had a window to shine.
He looked good within the system, and surprisingly up to speed within the NFL, considering that he’d been inactive for most of the season. He was still something of a stretch as a third-round pick, but the potential that he possesses was apparent.
Whether he’s ready to replace Lichtensteiger in 2013 is another matter, however.
I hope I’m here still; I honestly do hope that. I don’t want to leave this system. I don’t want to leave these coaches and I don’t want to leave my teammates. I think the best-case scenario for me is if I get a new deal here. But at the same time, you’ve got to explore all the options. So I’ll just see what happens and see who wants to talk to me.
Last month, he was slightly more pragmatic, again when speaking to the Post:
I’m going to be going into my sixth year. I’m not a young guy any more. So you want to get something that can set you up pretty good for later in life to take care of your family. But at the same time, you want to be happy where you’re working. I feel I’m definitely going to be the most happy working here, playing for Mike [Shanahan] and being a Redskin.
It’s likely to be a decision made by the salary cap. If the front office feels that Lichtensteiger isn’t part of their plans for the future, he’ll be a cap casualty. However, there’s a lot to be said for continuity along the offensive line, so it won’t be an easy decision.
Lichtensteiger wants a long-term deal, but the Redskins aren’t really in a position to offer him one. They have Hurt and LeRibeus available and other free agency problems to solve along the line.
Don’t be surprised to see Lichtensteiger walk this year.
Tyler Polumbus is a free agent this year, but won't be too expensive to retain.
Polumbus is the other unrestricted free agent along the line this year, and it’s difficult to see a situation where he doesn’t return. Even if Shanahan uses his second or third-round pick on a right tackle, it’s unlikely that that player will be the Week 1 starter.
Polumbus knows the system, and despite struggling in pass-protection, he showed he could be an asset in the running game.
Alfred Morris got good yards behind Polumbus on the right side, and that sort of success is worth keeping around. Polumbus won’t command a huge salary, either, so he’s a good-value player with success in the current system.
Again, continuity is important.
There are replacement options available in free agency, though. For instance, a player like Gosder Cherilus would constitute an upgrade on Polumbus, but at a steeper price. If Shanahan decides to pursue this route rather than the draft, Cherilus is a player who could step in and do a good job.
He has had poor seasons in the past, but in 2012, Cherilus emerged as a real talent in pass-protection. This would be of real comfort to a team entering the season not knowing who its starting quarterback is. If it turns out to be Cousins, an upgrade at right tackle becomes a real priority.
It’s easy to argue that Cherilus upped his 2012 performance because it was a contract year, but he definitely looked to have turned a corner last season.
The sort of deal that he’s after may be too steep for the Redskins, but if there is any money to be spent in free agency, right tackle might be a good way to go.
London Fletcher has been incredible for the Redskins, but the end of his career is near.
It’s a question that was asked last year, but remains relevant as we look to the 2013 season: How long has London Fletcher got left?
At 38, he is approaching the end of his career, but in 2012, he showed that he could still play at the highest level. Over the final five games of the season, he had three interceptions and two sacks, and he also finished the year with 139 tackles.
However, he also missed a lot of tackles, too. Sports Illustrated cited ProFootballFocus.com and argued that the 21 tackles Fletcher missed last season is a definite sign of decline, which could extend into next year.
His replacement has not yet been found, however, although Keenan Robinson certainly has the potential to earn that title.
The Redskins also have Lorenzo Alexander as an option, and his play on defense last year was impressive, along with his Pro Bowl performance on special teams. Alexander is another free agent that the front office will want to lock up. His versatility and dedication are beyond doubt, and he is finally getting the recognition that he deserves.
The Fletcher issue can only be solved by the man himself, though. And if he decides to return for another year, the Redskins would be glad to have him.
It still wouldn’t hurt to take another linebacker in the draft, though.
Could Chris Clemons be the answer for the Redskins at free safety?
The secondary looked to be the weak point of the team heading into last season, and that proved to be the case. A lot of it can be attributed to injuries and suspensions, but it’s easy to see that this is an area in need of an overhaul.
The draft is deep at safety and cornerback, but can Shanahan take a player in the second round who he trusts enough to drop in as a starter in Week 1?
If not, then it’s back to free agency.
Assuming that DeAngelo Hall returns on a restructured deal, he and Josh Wilson will resume their roles as the starting cornerbacks. Also, with Richard Crawford showing promise and Chase Minnifield returning, there is actually a decent amount of talent at the position.
Any corner that is taken in the draft will have the chance to learn behind the starters and make their mark as the nickel corner. This leaves safety as the most glaring need, and there are some options available in free agency.
Yes, Jairus Byrd would be great, but he’s too expensive for a team as cap-aware as the ‘Skins. Chris Clemons of the Dolphins could be within the team's price range, though, and he is the sort of player who fits the Shanahan mold.
Clemons is a smart free safety who started all 16 games last year, making 69 tackles, two interceptions and also recovering two fumbles.
ProFootballFocus.com highlighted him as the solution to the Redskins’ free safety issue, pointing out that he didn’t give up a touchdown pass in his primary coverage, and the highest number of yards that he gave up n a single game last season was 63.
This sort of reliability would ease the pressure on the cornerbacks and leave the team less open to giving up the big play. Of course, the Dolphins have the cap space to make him a decent offer, so a team like Washington would probably need to spend some money to get him.
Clemons is only 27, so he’s still on the upswing of his career, and signing him would continue to champion the free agency strategy that Shanahan employed last year with Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan.
The less glamorous option is Corey Lynch, who could also be of value to the organization. He’s coming off a one-year contract with San Diego, so he is well within the Redskins’ price range.
He’s a strong safety, but Redskins blog HTTR24-7.com ran an excellent piece that demonstrated his abilities in deep coverage, pointing out that he gave up no big plays when used as the single deep safety.
Madieu Williams played too close to the line of scrimmage in 2012. He would bite on pump fakes and take too many gambles, leaving his corners exposed throughout the season. The team needs something better than that.
The two players listed offer an opportunity to shore up a much-needed position, regardless of Jordan Bernstine’s return or the moves made in this year’s draft.