6 Big Moves Washington Redskins Could Make in 2014 NFL Free Agency
They include snaring an interior pass-rusher, who has gotten better with age, from a fierce division rival. The Redskins could also stay in the NFC East and plunder another rival for a defensive lineman who would give them great scheme flexibility.
To address the woes along their offensive front, the Redskins should target two veteran guards who would add greater skill and strength along the interior.
Here is a look at the newfound spending power available after two years of salary-cap restriction and six players the Redskins should spend that money on.
Cap Figures Promise an Exciting Offseason
Drawing up a wish list at this stage is far from easy, with the search for a new head coach still ongoing. But any new boss will be boosted by healthy cap figures now that the NFL's two-year restriction penalty has come to an end.
Joel Corry of CBS Sports puts the Redskins' adjusted cap figure at $127,893,111. He estimates the team will have $28,055,889 worth of room under the cap.
Corry's numbers make for good reading, as does his prediction of an aggressive pursuit of talent in this year's market:
The Redskins will gain $14.5 million in cap room when the remaining years of four contracts (London Fletcher, Brandon Meriweather, Josh Morgan, Brian Orakpo) void a few days after the Super Bowl. The lack of 2013 and '14 first-round draft picks because of the Robert Griffin III trade increases the likelihood the Redskins will be aggressive in free agency.
Significant, but shrewd investment is certainly required to revamp a roster that was allowed to decay on former head coach Mike Shanahan's watch.
Linval Joseph, DT, New York Giants
The Washington defensive line lacks a true power player inside. Linval Joseph can fill that void and help with a possible scheme transition.
General manager Bruce Allen could be prepping a 4-3 switch if the list of coaches on his radar are any indicator. He has already interviewed Sean McDermott, according to Joseph Person of The Charlotte Observer.
Both play-callers favor a 4-3 front, and there have been calls for the Redskins to ditch the 3-4 installed by Shanahan in 2010. Fewell's interview is significant because he has coached Joseph through the first four years of his NFL career.
Under Fewell's watch, the 2010 second-round pick has become a mean run-stuffer. Joseph is a big-bodied tackle who can play over the center or shoot gaps.
The 6'4", 323-pounder would fit in a 3-4 and give the Redskins the more physical nose tackle their current scheme needs. Or he could help ease the transition to a four-man line as a player who can apply upfield pressure from the inside.
Joseph only counted for $1,012,000 against the 2013 cap, according to Spotrac.com, but his value will have increased after a fine season in which he registered 59 combined tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble.
But even with his reputation improving, the Redskins would not need to break the bank to land the talented and versatile 25-year-old.
Jason Hatcher, DT, Dallas Cowboys
Now that Mike Shanahan's uncomfortable insistence on "youth movements" and "character guys" is over, the Redskins can target veteran help in areas of need.
The first experienced performer they should look at is Jason Hatcher. The 31-year-old is one of the best inside pass-rushers in the NFL.
Hatcher has proved his worth at both 3-4 defensive end and 3-technique tackle in a 4-3. He played the latter position in 2013 to produce the best season of his career.
He registered 11 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles as the lone standout player on a dreadful Dallas Cowboys defense.
Now Hatcher seems ready to test the market. Last week, Tim McMahon of ESPN.com reported Hatcher's intentions to listen to offers: "'I'm going to get what I deserve and get what I'm worth,' the 31-year-old Hatcher said, making it crystal clear that the Cowboys will not get any hometown discounts. 'Age don't matter. Whatever. If you ain't talking what I want, I don't want to talk to 'em.'"
McMahon also noted how major cap problems, coupled with Hatcher's soaring reputation, make staying in Dallas highly unlikely:
Hatcher, who just finished a three-year, $6 million deal that executive vice president Stephen Jones has publicly admitted was a bargain for the Cowboys, has set himself up for the first -- and likely only -- big contract of his career.
The Cowboys are a projected $31 million over the salary cap entering the offseason, so they have major work to do just to be in position to make a competitive bid to keep Hatcher.
If the Redskins want to switch to a 4-3, they will need new pieces along their front seven. One of the most important will be an interior pass-rusher. Hatcher is the best on the market.
Willie Colon, G, New York Jets
Just like the D-line, the Washington offensive front needs more power inside. Step forward, veteran guard Willie Colon, a punishing drive-blocker who would be a steal in free agency.
The 30-year-old can dominate in the running game. He helped the New York Jets field the sixth-most prolific ground attack in the NFL in 2013.
Colon is a true power-based blocker. That means he focuses on beating the man in front of him, rather than shifting into space.
When he does move, Colon is very useful as a pulling guard, leading the way on sweeps. Signing this hulking lineman could signal a shift away from the exclusive, zone-based system favored under Shanahan.
That scheme demanded lighter, more mobile linemen. The drawback was an offensive front too often easily overpowered. Adding a player like Colon would help solve that problem.
One note of caution is that the veteran will reportedly undergo offseason surgery. According to Rich Cimini of ESPN New York, Colon suffered a torn biceps in the final week of the regular season.
Cimini suggests the post-surgery recovery period will include some of free agency. But if the Redskins are prepared to wait, they could snare an excellent interior blocker for relatively cheap.
Wade Smith, G, Houston Texans
Of course, reinforcing the O-line doesn't necessarily mean Washington will ditch its mostly successful zone-blocking scheme. The team has shown interest in Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who is another proponent of zone-based blocking, and interviewed him last week, according to Zac Boyer of The Washington Times.
If the system does stay intact in D.C., the Redskins would be smart to pursue guard Wade Smith. The 32-year-old has started every game during the last four seasons in the Houston Texans' zone scheme.
Under former head coach Gary Kubiak, a Shanahan disciple, the Texans ran the same blocking system that has made running back Alfred Morris a star in Washington.
But new Houston head coach Bill O'Brien is expected to overhaul his staff and possibly the schemes. He has already dumped offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, according to John McClain of The Houston Chronicle.
That could mean an end to the Shanahan-style, zone-based brand of attack and leave Smith on the open market. By taking a chance on another veteran, the Redskins would get a smart, skilled and durable blocker for a modest fee.
Many might roll their eyes at the idea of signing a few players the other side of 30. But remember, this franchise won three Super Bowls by relying on a core of wily vets.
Jairus Byrd, S, Buffalo Bills
If owner Dan Snyder stays true to form and makes one headline-grabbing move in free agency, it must be to sign safety Jairus Byrd. The arch-opportunist is the prolific ball hawk the Redskins need at perhaps the weakest position on their roster.
Byrd has proved his bona fides as a turnover machine by forcing 11 fumbles and snaring 22 interceptions with the Buffalo Bills. His best season came in 2009, when he stole nine passes.
That year Byrd was coached by Fewell, who was on the Bills' defensive staff and even served as interim head coach. Reuniting the two in Washington would be a major boost to the shaky Washington defense.
But first, the team will have to sift through Byrd's complex contract status. He was franchise tagged by the Bills this season, but doing that again would be costly.
Mike Rodak of ESPN.com states it would absorb $8 million of Buffalo's cap room to keep Byrd around on those terms. In a separate report, Rodak has noted that Byrd and his teammates seem to be already anticipating his departure.
If he hits the market, the 27-year-old will command a marquee fee. But given Washington's major woes at safety, Byrd would be worth a hefty investment.
Donte Whitner, S, San Francisco 49ers
There is a big difference between Donte Whitner and current Washington starting safety Brandon Meriweather. Both players pride themselves on delivering big hits.
But while that is often all Meriweather is concerned with and contributes, Whitner is also a smart safety, capable in coverage. The 28-year-old is a key member of the San Francisco 49ers' awesome defense, the best unit the league has seen since the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Whitner stays disciplined and focused in a simple coverage scheme that demands both. Those are exactly the traits the Redskins need at safety.
Signing Whitner should be near the top of the team's offseason to-do list. In fact, for a really bold move, Allen and Snyder could reunite Whitner with Byrd.
The two played together for the Bills in 2009 and 2010. Investing big on these two would instantly fix a problem position and provide a massive boost not only to the secondary, but also to the entire defense.
All of the players on this list fit Washington's primary needs. Significant chunks of cap money would not be wasted on any combination of these names.