Complete 2014 Washington Redskins Offseason Preview and Predictions
As the curtains officially close on the 2013 NFL season, hope once again springs eternal for football fans everywhere.
Time for the offseason.
The Washington Redskins are notorious for being brash and bold from March to August and quiet as church mice from September to February. Ask any fan and they'll tell you that the "offseason champs" label is tiresome.
Redskins faithful are numb to excitement over a new free agent or a draft pick with potential—they want results in the fall.
There is so much work that needs to be done before the games are real again in eight months. The head coach is new, the quarterback is healthy and the salary cap penalties are over.
Redskins general manager Bruce Allen is aware of what's at stake. He knows offseason headlines are meaningless and that the work of his staff must be meaningful to get this franchise back on track.
Here's what you need to know in a pivotal offseason for the burgundy and gold.
A Healthy Robert Griffin III
The biggest parting gift Mike Shanahan gave the Redskins in 2013 was delivering quarterback Robert Griffin III 100 percent healthy for the offseason.
Griffin, who spent last offseason rehabbing his reconstructed knee, will be able to devote all of his time and attention to working with new head coach Jay Gruden. He'll also have a familiar face in his corner.
Sean McVay, the Redskins tight ends coach last season, is now the offensive coordinator. McVay is a young upstart who is highly regarded by the organization. His ties to Gruden from Tampa Bay and the UFL should help Griffin to pick up the playbook quickly.
Griffin's motivation to succeed should be boiled over. His former coach benched him. His quarterback counterparts all made the postseason in 2013. And the stink of a 3-13 season clouded all of his rookie accomplishments.
How Griffin responds to the adversity may determine how this franchise is looked upon for the next decade.
NFL Scouting Combine
When: February 22-25
The mock drafts in January and early February are fun, but the NFL Scouting Combine is when things start to heat up.
Prospects can separate themselves with a speedy 40-yard dash or fall back because of a shaky one-on-one interview. When the dust settles, real NFL draft boards start to take shape.
Name a position and you can bet a scout from the Washington Redskins is evaluating it.
Another reason for Redskins fans to look forward to the combine is to hear head coach Jay Gruden address the media. It will be the first time since his introductory press conference last month.
Besides a few clips from Hard Knocks and some back-and-forth with reporters on his first day, we haven't had too much exposure to the new head coach. Right now, he's still better known as Jon's brother.
Salary Cap Casualties
With $36 million of cap penalties behind them, the Redskins are finally back to being on equal footing with the rest of the league.
ESPN.com's John Keim noted late last month that the Redskins will be approximately $30 million under the salary cap. That number could grow depending on the cap's final number, plus any cuts the organization decides to make.
As for player turnover, there will be no shortage. Below are the most likely salary cap victims, per CSNWashington.com's Rich Tandler:
|5 Potential Cap Casualties |
Cap savings courtesy of overthecap.com
When: Tuesday, March 11 at 4 p.m. ET (teams can begin negotiating with player agents on Saturday, March 8)
Biggest positions of need: cornerback, safety, wide receiver, offensive tackle, guard, defensive line
The Redskins will first work to take care of their own in free agency. The Washington Post's Mike Jones reported Sunday that the organization has already begun talks with cornerback DeAngelo Hall on a new multiyear deal.
Linebackers Brian Orakpo and Perry Riley will also be given an opportunity to stay in Washington, though it's possible that other teams will fork over more lucrative offers.
As for the rest of the open market, look for Allen to seek a healthy balance of top-end talent and bargains who can contribute immediately.
Below are six players the Redskins could target based on need, fit and/or familiarity:
|6 Likely Targets:|
|Anquan Boldin||SF||WR||33||Boldin's resume speaks for itself. He would bring invaluable experience and leadership to a young offense.|
|Jairus Byrd||BUF||S||27||Washington desperately needs to upgrade its secondary with an impact player in his prime; Byrd is just that.|
|Arthur Jones||BAL||DE||27||Bleacher Report's Aaron Nagler breaks down why Jones makes sense in Washington.|
|Geoff Schwartz||KC||G/OT||27||Schwartz can play both guard and tackle; Pro Football Focus (subscription required) graded him as the NFL's eighth best guard in 2013.|
|Zach Strief||NO||OT||30||A proven veteran to protect RG3. Strief was graded as 2013's best right tackle by Pro Football Focus.|
|Aqib Talib||NE||CB||27||The connections to Allen, Gruden and Raheem Morris add up to a possible reunion in D.C.|
2014 Schedule Release
When: April (specific date TBD)
A 3-13 team typically doesn't get a lot of love in prime time, but there are some interesting story lines that the networks may want to take advantage of.
The obvious is the Gruden brothers. You can bet that ESPN will have at least one of the Redskins games on its Monday Night Football schedule as Jon attempts to be overly objective towards his younger brother, Jay.
The young quarterback narrative is most definitely in play, too. Robert Griffin III, in a season with a lot to prove, will go head-to-head with Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick and newly minted Super Bowl champion Russell Wilson.
And for as mediocre as the NFC East was in 2013, the rivalries are still among the best in football. It wouldn't be at all shocking to see the Redskins take on the Cowboys, Eagles or Giants under the lights.
Opponents' 2013 combined win percentage: .490
When: Thursday, May 8 (Round 1), Friday, May 9 (Rounds 2-3) and Saturday, May 10 (Rounds 4-7)
Where the Redskins draft via Walter Football: Round 1 (no pick), Round 2 (No. 34 overall), Round 3 (No. 66 overall), Round 4 (No. 98 overall), Round 5 (No. 130 overall), Round 6 (No. 162 overall), Round 7 (No. 194 overall)
The final piece of ransom for Robert Griffin III is a hefty one.
Washington handed its second overall pick to the St. Louis Rams in the Griffin trade, leaving them with a total of six picks, starting with No. 34 overall in the second round.
There are a number of directions the Redskins can go in the draft. And while it largely depends on what happens in free agency, two areas seem to make the most sense: inside linebacker and offensive line.
The free agent crop of inside linebackers isn't overwhelming and the position is currently in flux with the retirement of London Fletcher and impending free agency of Perry Riley.
Last month before the Senior Bowl, I wrote about Chris Borland being an ideal replacement for Fletcher. He may not have the size, but his instincts are exceptional and he's a bonafide playmaker. Both he and Stanford's Shayne Skov could be possibilities in the second- or third-round.
Since the Redskins don't have a first-round selection because of Griffin, they may as well protect their investment.
Stanford guard David Yankey is an instant plug-and-play prospect who could fall to the Redskins in the second-round. Another player projected as a second-rounder is Virginia tackle Morgan Moses. Either guy would bring immediate help to an offensive line that allowed way too many hits to its franchise quarterback last season.
OTA's and Minicamps
When: April, May and June (dates TBD)
One benefit to having a new coaching staff is more time on the practice field.
Per Article 22, Section 1 of the NFL's Collective Bargaining Agreement:
Each League Year each Club may hold a maximum of one mandatory minicamp for veteran players. If a Club hires a new coach after the end of the prior regular season, that Club may hold one additional voluntary minicamp for veteran players.
This will help give Gruden's staff a more precise gauge for where they're at in various positions. While player turnover is expected to be dramatic, an extra minicamp will also allow the newcomers additional time to get acclimated.
It's an advantage that 25 other teams in the league don't have. When you're 3-13, you'll take what you can get.