9 Free Agents Redskins Must Target
With Washington searching for a new head coach, the Redskins are still up in the air in terms of philosophy, scheme and roster focus. But after finishing last season with their worst record in nearly 20 years, the Redskins need to hit the free-agency market aggressively and effectively regardless of coaching staff.
Here's a look at some of the possible (and hopeful) blips on the Redskins' offseason radar.
The Redskins won't have to go far to sign a good starting cornerback. DeAngelo Hall has spent the last six years with his childhood team.
Despite turning 30 last November, Hall is coming off arguably his best season as a pro and he was one of the few players on defense last season who could proudly show his face in public. He consistently took on the opposition's best receiving target, played with his regular fiery attitude and handled 3-13 like a pro when he had every right to blow up.
During Mike Shanahan's reign in Washington, the head coach and Hall seemed to have a mutual respect for one another, often times backing each other off the field. And while a new staff may mean or lead to something completely different, the front office needs to remember Hall's play since the end of the 2012 season and pay the man fairly.
Continuing to keep things in house, inside linebacker Perry Riley is set to become a free agent and the Redskins—who are in need of help at nearly every position on defense—could very well get first dibs on the former 2010 fourth-round draft pick.
Riley isn't a star, but he's dependable, and his improvement in pass coverage this season was a reassuring development. So long as he doesn't get all crazy with contract demands (which he shouldn't), the Redskins should highly consider retaining Riley, as he can be a nice piece in whichever scheme the new regime decides to use.
Sure, a healthy Jordan Reed in his second season will drastically help Griffin. But the offense needs receivers. They need guys that can threaten a defense and break man coverage.
After going undrafted out of Toledo in 2008, spending two years in the Canadian Football League and then spending the last three with the Cincinnati Bengals, Andrew Hawkins will have a good opportunity to net some cash as free agent this season and the Redskins could use a guy with his skill set.
Despite his size at just 5'7", 175 pounds, Hawkins is extremely quick, with great acceleration and excellent agility. In addition to his versatility, Hawkins is an underrated route runner and a home run threat with the ball in his hands, making him an ideal chess piece in helping to generate mismatches.
Hawkins will turn 28 in March, but he has more tread than most receivers his age. If given an opportunity to shine, Hawkins can serve as a dependable slot receiver and a creative tool in the passing game.
After an injury-plagued 2013 season—and Chiefs head coach Andy Reid getting good production out of his replacement linemen—there's a chance Kansas City guard Jon Asamoah hits the free-agent market this spring.
At 6'4", 315 pounds, Asamoah brings good size, he'll be just 26 at the start of next season and he has graded out well over the past three seasons according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). That's the good part.
The bad part would be Asamoah's durability and whether or not it's a concern moving forward.
In addition to improving his receiving targets, the Redskins also need to work to protect Robert Griffin III in the pocket. While a full offseason could drastically help the young quarterback's pocket presence, throwing mechanics and footwork, the Redskins offensive line was constantly dominated last year and it's an obvious area of need.
With 32 starts, seven interceptions and two touchdowns in his past two seasons, it's safe to say 25-year-old cornerback Alterraun Verner is going to enjoy his next contract in the upcoming months.
There's an argument to be made about the Redskins secondary struggling mightily due to lack of a pass rush, and that would certainly be fair. But the secondary as a unit is thin, and aside from DeAngelo Hall, there's not a defensive back in Washington that can be trusted.
Assuming Verner will attract top-dollar on the open market, the Redskins could elect to spend money addressing the front seven before investing in the back half, planning to rely more on 2013 second-round pick David Amerson in his second season.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that the Redskins' wallet is fat this year and they'll have the money to spend on a top-corner if they so choose.
Verner would not only upgrade a unit, but also excite fans, while hopefully establishing a bedrock piece in what's sure to be an overhauled defense.
A Punter...Any Punter
I won't pretend to know enough about punters. Their game tape doesn't always make it through. But I also won't ignore the Redskins special teams unit last season and how utterly atrocious they were in every facet, including punter.
According to Football's Future, there's less than a handful of free-agent punters available. And to no one's surprise, Dave Zastudil, Pat McAfee, Donnie Jones and Chris Jones (RFA) all ranked better than Washington boot Sav Rocca last season, according to Pro Football Reference.
Fact is, regardless of how the team chooses to address the position, the Redskins need a punter. Whether he's a guy currently on an NFL roster, playing in a bowl game or sitting on his couch, the Redskins need to keep the position near the top of their priority list this offseason.
Taking advantage of a deep cornerback market this spring, the Redskins can keep a guy like Captain Munnerlyn on their radar, as the 5'8", 186-pound corner could serve dual roles as a slot cover in sub-packages and a return man—both of which are needs in Washington.
Strapped for cash last season, the Panthers were fortunate enough to retain the 25-year-old Munnerlyn on a one-year deal. But after logging three sacks, two interceptions, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and two touchdowns in the regular season, Munnerlyn will demand a multi-year deal for fair compensation this spring.
Forget his size. Munnerlyn is scrappy and tough—always willing to scoop in on a tackle and a willing blitzer off the edge. He'd be welcomed with open arms in Washington.
Seeing how the Redskins address the safety position this offseason should be interesting. The draft doesn't appear to be offering a prospect that really jumps out (although it's only early January) and the free-agent market is heavy at the top before a substantial drop-off.
Hanging out in the top-ranks of the free-agent market, however, is Cleveland's T.J. Ward. He just turned 27 years old and he graded out as a top-five safety according to Pro Football Focus.
Although there appears to be mutual interest between both Ward and the Browns front office, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Redskins will have the power to offer something juicy if they want Ward in Washington.
Other free-agent safeties to keep an eye on: Jairus Byrd (although his asking price will likely be very high), Donte Whitner (who will be 29 to start the season), Chris Clemons (whose stats don't exactly wow you) and Malcolm Jenkins (if you believe in resurgence).
The equation for the Redskins is simple. Robert Griffin III needs better wide receivers around him and Eric Decker is the best available receiver on the market this spring.
The big question, however, is whether or not the Redskins see Decker as a true No. 1 wide receiver.
The Broncos are set to have 17 unrestricted free agents after this season, making cap space hard to come by in Denver. It's possible they can retain Decker at a fair cost, but it's also possible Decker is swooned with a bigger check from another team with more money to throw around (hint, hint, the Redskins).
Personally, I believe the price tag on Decker will be too high for a guy that you can't definitively call a No. 1 wideout. Unless of course, the Redskins and the new coaching staff can. Then I'd look out for the 26-year-old Decker in burgundy and gold next season.
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