Barring an 11th-hour development, the Washington Redskins will have to bite the bullet and operate with an $18 million salary cap sanction in place for the second consecutive offseason. As a result, the 'Skins will likely be quiet on the free-agent market when it opens at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday.
Still, they'll likely try to make some smart moves in order to help plug holes. Here's a free agency preview for the 'Skins.
The Redskins are about $3 million over the cap, which for them is $18 million less than where it should be. That means they have some work to do over the next five days just to get back to par.
Santana Moss, DeAngelo Hall, Trent Williams, Pierre Garçon, Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen, Chris Chester and Will Montgomery are all restructure candidates. Moss and Hall could even be released.
Rich Tandler of Real Redskins sees a way for the 'Skins to save nearly $20 million by re-doing those deals, but we all know that the money saved there doesn't go away. Even in that best-case scenario for 2013, they'd still only have just enough money to take care of their own free agents and draft picks.
The point is that they can't be major players on the open market, regardless of how crafty they get between now and Tuesday afternoon.
The Redskins have 14 unrestricted free agents, four of whom started in 2012 and three of whom played key roles. They also have six restricted free agents, including key contributors Darrel Young, Rob Jackson and Logan Paulsen.
Tight end Fred Davis played under the franchise tag last season and is coming off a torn Achilles. His backups, Paulsen and Chris Cooley, are both free agents, too (although Paulsen is an RFA). That means the 'Skins will have to spend some money at that position regardless.
Same probably applies to the offensive line, with left guard Kory Lichtensteiger and both right tackles Jammal Brown and Tyler Polumbus slated to hit the open market. Swing tackle Jordan Black is also unsigned.
There's no one on the roster to replace Cedric Griffin as the nickel corner, which makes it very difficult to even think about releasing Hall to save cash. Richard Crawford and Chase Minnifield are dark-horse candidates to emerge, but neither has proven anything in the pros.
I think what's most concerning is that their two weakest positions (the secondary and the offensive line) are the ones which have the most unsigned players.
And remember: It'll be even harder for the Redskins to fill these potential holes in the draft because they don't have a selection this year until 51st overall.
What They Need
Safety: The safeties were terrible last season, particularly in coverage. It didn't help that they didn't really have Brandon Meriweather or Tanard Jackson, but it doesn't appear as though either is the answer anyway. Madieu Williams won't likely be back and they'd prefer not to start DeJon Gomes or Reed Doughty.
Cornerback: Josh Wilson and Hall were extremely inconsistent and Griffin is a free agent. Beyond that, they've got nobody with experience.
Right tackle: Brown was one of the worst starting tackles in the NFL in 2010 and 2011. Last year, he was hurt. And his replacement, Polumbus, was just as bad.
Guard: This only really applies if they lose Lichtensteiger on the open market.
Tight end: This only really applies if they lose Davis on the open market.
What They Can Afford
Clemons and Quin could be a little pricey, while Lynch might be flying under the radar. He's young and strong in coverage. Delmas has a lot of talent but has trouble staying healthy, which could lower the price.
Toler and Lewis are also strong cover corners with age on their side, but they'll be moderately hot commodities. Jenkins could come cheap after being replaced in Dallas. Munnerlyn might be worth a flier.
Right tackles: Ryan Harris (Texans), Will Svitek (Falcons)
I don't think they're going to want to spend all of their money on a top-tier guy like Eric Winston, Gosder Cherilus, Sebastian Vollmer, Phil Loadholt or Andre Smith, and I wouldn't be surprised if they gave Polumbus, Brown or even Maurice Hurt another chance. But in that second tier of free-agent tackles, I really like Harris and Svitek.
There's some quality options beyond Andy Levitre and Brandon Moore. Thomas and Slauson could be potential upgrades over Lichtensteiger.
I think they'll probably bring Paulsen back and start him if they can't re-sign Davis, but Bennett and Walker would be good replacement candidates. Most importantly, both can block like champs.
What They Can Wait For
The secondary has to be addressed now, especially the safety position. But they'd also be smart to focus on the defensive backfield in the draft. So long as they re-sign Lichtensteiger, the offensive line can wait for the draft, or even 2014.
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