The Definitive Blueprint for the Washington Redskins' Perfect Offseason
As heartbreaking as a 3-13 season can be for a storied franchise like the Washington Redskins, there is reason for optimism moving forward. They have cap room, they'll have a new coaching staff and an offseason to rebuild the roster.
It isn't going to be easy, and it won't happen overnight, but the Redskins have an excellent offseason ahead of them.
Granted, the success or failure of the offseason relies heavily on the coaches they put in place as well as the new direction, but there is no reason to believe they can't put together a surprising, productive offseason.
Here is a blueprint for Washington's 2014 offseason, which gives the team the best chance to right the ship for the future.
Hire the Right Coach for the Team
Three names should be strongly considered for the head coaching vacancy the Redskins have. Cincinnati Bengals' offensive and defensive coordinators, Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer, and Seattle's offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.
Gruden has a wealth of experience extending to a prolific AFL career as a player and coach, NFL experience under his brother Jon Gruden at Tampa Bay and currently developing the Bengals offense with Andy Dalton with great results.
Zimmer is a bit of a dark horse because most people probably wouldn't know that his Bengals defenses have finished no worse than 15th overall with four top-10 finishes during his tenure.
If the Redskins want a jump-start on defense, Zimmer is an excellent choice.
Bevell has a track record on offense, particularly with quarterbacks. He coached Brett Favre in Green Bay and again in Minnesota, but he has earned respect for his extensive scouting of current Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
Under Bevell, Wilson has a 24-8 record as a starter and a career quarterback rating of 100.6. Seattle has had a top-five rushing attack in two of Bevell's three seasons as offensive coordinator.
Ditch 3-4 Defense, Return to 4-3 Alignment
Considering the Redskins built their 3-4 defense from 4-3 personnel, it wouldn't be too drastic of a measure to return to the 4-3 scheme. It is infinitely easier to find personnel for the scheme and allows for more versatility up front with a rotating defensive line.
The only player who would see a substantial change is Ryan Kerrigan, who would return to defensive end from outside linebacker.
Jarvis Jenkins, Barry Cofield and Kedric Golston would become part of a rotation at defensive tackle, and the Redskins could draft target a defensive end in the draft or pursue someone like Carolina's Greg Hardy, though the price would be lofty.
No higher than Brian Orakpo's is expected to be when he tests the free-agent market in 2014.
Trade Quarterback Kirk Cousins
This may be one of the more controversial moves the Redskins will have to deal with in the coming offseason, but it must be done. Kirk Cousins, whether anyone believes it or not, was drafted for this exact purpose.
He was an insurance pick in the event Robert Griffin III was injured, but long term, he was meant to be traded.
Trading Cousins won't yield the Redskins the first-round pick they desperately need, but it could net them a second-rounder. Any value they can get out of Cousins that is higher than his draft position is a win.
Beyond trade value, moving Cousins would be a show of faith in RGIII as the franchise quarterback, a fact that was questioned during the latter part of the season.
Shed Unnecessary and Unproductive Players
A pessimist may simply list the entire Redskins roster as expendable; however, that doesn't serve much of a purpose in the long run. Dead weight needs to be dealt with immediately, and the Redskins have plenty of it to go around.
Defensive end Stephen Bowen all but disappeared over the past two years after putting up six sacks in his first season with the Redskins. He played through a torn bicep last season and finished 2013 on IR after microfracture surgery to repair a torn PCL.
Bottom line, he hasn't been productive and faces a lengthy recovery following his surgery, which does not bode well during a regime change.
Receiver Josh Morgan and safety Brandon Meriweather should be jettisoned immediately. Morgan spent most of the season on the sideline and finished with all of 20 catches.
Meriweather was a liability on defense, incurring penalties, headhunting and failing in pass coverage far too often to deserve a return.
Re-Sign Key Free Agents
The biggest free-agent question the Redskins are facing is whether to re-sign Orakpo or let him go in free agency. He led the team in sacks this season with 10 but still has yet to surpass his rookie total of 11 sacks.
As talented as Orakpo is, he has not distinguished himself as being worth a five-year, $45 million price tag he may command in free agency. The defense would be better with him, but it isn't a guarantee the 'Skins will re-sign him, let alone if he would consider returning to the dysfunctional franchise.
DeAngelo Hall, Perry Riley, Aldrick Robinson, Rob Jackson, Reed Doughty and E.J. Biggers are among the few who should be re-signed.
Hall is still the team's top corner, and because Josh Wilson has been terrible since his arrival in Washington, the Redskins will need someone to play opposite David Amerson.
Riley and Robinson are still young and aren't likely to cost a lot to retain, though Riley has shown more on the field as opposed to Robinson, who seems to be limited to playing deep threat on offense.
Biggers, though not particularly impressive, is versatile and may be little more than a depth re-signing. Doughty brings experience and dependability, which will be important in whatever transition the defense undergoes in 2014.
Sign Center Alex Mack, Free Safety Malcolm Jenkins
The best way to fix the offensive line is to put an outstanding center in place. Alex Mack is one of the best in the NFL, and he would be the linchpin of an offensive line in need of serious rebuilding.
It doesn't solve all of the problems on the line, but it is a fantastic start.
Next on the list is free safety Malcolm Jenkins, currently with the New Orleans Saints. Even though the Redskins drafted Bacarri Rambo to be their free safety, he didn't show much in his rookie season. He may end up competing with Phillip Thomas, who will be returning from Lisfranc surgery, for the strong safety spot.
Jenkins isn't a flashy free agent like Jairus Byrd, but he is talented and young. Best of all, the Redskins aren't likely to have to jump into a bidding war to overpay for his services.
He is better in coverage than any safety the Redskins currently have on the roster, and he offers an option in nickel coverage if necessary.
Cautiously Pursue Receivers Jeremy Maclin and Eric Decker
For some reason, there is still a debate regarding Pierre Garcon's ability to be a top receiver for the Redskins. He only led the league in receptions this season, but perhaps he could use some talent around him to truly flourish.
Philadelphia's Jeremy Maclin didn't play a single down in 2013 after suffering a torn ACL in training camp. However, he is just 25 and has yet to realize his potential as an excellent receiver in the NFL.
The appeal in pursuing Maclin is that potential as well as the possible discount he may come at following a season lost to injury. Washington can sign him to a short "show me" deal filled with performance bonuses as opposed to guaranteed money.
Maclin is the finesse option to Garcon's distinctly physical style of play, which would be an excellent combination.
Then there's Eric Decker, who doesn't come with nearly as big of a warning label as Maclin, but should. Decker had the luxury of playing with Peyton Manning as well as Wes Welker and Demaryius Thomas.
He has 24 touchdowns to go with 172 catches and 2,352 yards over the past two seasons in a pass-heavy offense.
Decker is talented and would be a great complement to Garcon, but he should not be pursued if he's expecting top dollar.
Target Tackle David Yankey and Nose Tackle Daniel McCullers in Draft
Perhaps the best move the Redskins could make in the coaching transition is the move back to the 4-3 defense. The 3-4 experiment was poorly executed, poorly coached and did not suit the personnel on the roster.
With that in mind, they still need help up front because the defensive line got no push at any point during the 2013 season.
Daniel McCullers out of Tennessee would be a great addition to a defense in need of some beef up front.
If they retain the 3-4 scheme, McCullers and his 6'8", 351-pound frame would be an excellent nose tackle demanding double-teams to be contained. If they revert to the 4-3, he could move outside and play defensive end much like Calais Campbell with the Arizona Cardinals.
It goes without saying that the Redskins need help at right tackle. Tyler Polumbus has been the starter for far too long, showing how terrible he truly is in pass protection.
Stanford's David Yankey would go a long way toward fixing the Polumbus problem and finally give the Redskins bookend tackles.
Yankey isn't amazing, but he is technically sound in everything he does, which is better than anything the Redskins currently have at right tackle.