Redskins' Blueprint for Winning Free Agency
For the first time in what feels like forever, the Washington Redskins have cap room to make moves and hopefully improve a 3-13 roster from a season ago.
In addition to making decisions regarding current players, the Redskins will also need to dig deep in free agency in order to land the best possible value. Overpaying for older players in Washington is a thing of the past—and that's where it needs to stay.
With a number of factors to consider, the following is simply a type of blueprint for Washington. Depending on who signs where, what position looks the weakest, who receives the franchise tag, etc., prepare to see both reactionary and proactive moves alike.
Let Brian Orakpo Walk
Although Redskins fans would love to see Brian Orakpo stick around in Washington, it can only be done for the right price. If the 27-year-old linebacker demands elite pass-rusher money, it's in the Redskins' best interest to let him cash in elsewhere.
Even if defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is a big fan of Orakpo, the former 2009 first-round draft pick hasn't produced numbers worthy of a high-paying long-term deal nor the franchise tag, which will pay linebackers a salary of $11.4 million in 2014, according to NFL.com.
If the Redskins roster didn't have the number of holes and needs that it does, perhaps retaining Orakpo would make more sense. But for what the Redskins would pay Orakpo, they could likely sign two defensive starters.
Sign D'Qwell Jackson
Despite turning 31 in September, Jackson has proven himself as a tackling machine and leader on the field. He'd fit perfectly in the middle of the Redskins' 3-4 defense, and he'd help cushion the blow of losing a high-motor veteran like London Fletcher.
Sign Michael Johnson
At 6'7", 260 pounds and coming off 15 sacks over his last two seasons, defensive end Michael Johnson presents plenty of intrigue as a free agent.
Of course, if Orakpo stays in Washington, Johnson doesn't remain a part of the equation. But if Orakpo leaves, the Redskins will need to address the void with an athletic pass-rusher who can make an immediate impact.
After spending his first five seasons in Cincinnati, there's the obvious connection between Johnson and Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. There's also the natural attraction of a lengthy athlete bending around the edge, and Johnson's recent numbers—including 10 pass deflections and two forced fumbles last season—would help offset the loss of Orakpo and for a lesser price.
Release Adam Carriker
It's unfortunate for a player like Adam Carriker, but things don't add up well for the 29-year-old defensive end this offseason. Not only has Carriker had three surgeries on his right quadriceps since 2012, but he's also set to count $6.5 million against the cap in 2014, according to Spotrac.com.
The Redskins are in need of help along the defensive front, and Carriker at full health would undoubtedly help the situation. But at this point, it's impossible to rely on Carriker's recovery, and his price tag is entirely too high.
Release Stephen Bowen
Similar to Carriker, Stephen Bowen's durability moving forward in combination with his large cap number in 2014 don't present an easy scenario for the Redskins.
Bowen continues to recover from microfracture surgery to repair a torn PCL, he'll turn 30 later this month, and he's due to count more than $7 million against the cap this year, according to Spotrac.com.
Needless to say, Bowen's future in Washington doesn't appear all that bright.
Simply put, $7 million is too much for a defensive end with a now-concerning injury history.
Sign Linval Joseph and Move Some Pieces
With the injury hits to both Carriker and Bowen, the Redskins could afford to invest in the defensive line and move some pieces in order to better shore up the unit.
Linval Joseph is a 25-year-old defensive tackle who has spent the first four years of his NFL career with the New York Giants. Although the 6'4", 328-pounder has played the tackle position in New York's 4-3 defense, he has the talent and skill set to excel at the nose in a 3-4.
If the Redskins could land Joseph in free agency, he'd immediately take over the middle of the line, while Barry Cofield could move to his more natural end position and the recently signed Chris Baker could take over the other end spot. Sure, the defensive line would still require depth, but Joseph, Cofield and Baker would make for a strong starting unit.
Avoid Crazy Coin for Perry Riley
As a guy who was once on board for re-signing middle linebacker Perry Riley, I've admittedly changed my tune a bit, adopting a more conservative approach in bringing back the 25-year-old former third-round draft choice.
If Riley is looking for a contract similar to what the Miami Dolphins gave Dannell Ellerbe a year ago, hopefully the Redskins kindly show Riley the door. While he's a reliable tackler, Riley isn't a playmaker. He's an average and dependable linebacker whose play isn't worth $7 million a year.
Retain Riley for the right price or let him try and get that kind of coin elsewhere. Don't overpay.
Come in, Captain
Re-signing DeAngelo Hall was a top priority this offseason, and the Redskins are fortunate enough to have already checked it off their to-do list. But addressing the cornerback position doesn't end there.
Captain Munnerlyn is a gritty 25-year-old corner whose style would immediately improve the Redskins' struggling secondary. With Hall on one side and second-year corner David Amerson on the other, Munnerlyn would help fill the role as reliable and playmaking slot corner.
After being retained on a one-year deal by the Carolina Panthers last spring, Munnerlyn turned in the best season of his five-year career, recording three sacks, two interceptions and two defensive touchdowns. His desired payday will adjust accordingly, but Munnerlyn's best days are ahead of him.
Help Wanted: Punter
Anyone who can punt a football would be an improvement.
The Redskins special teams unit last season was one of the worst we've seen. It was so terrible that it left so much room for improvement—not excluding a consistent punter.
Re-Sign Rob Jackson
Whether or not Orakpo returns to Washington next season, Rob Jackson should be re-signed. In the pass-happy NFL, your team can never have too many pass-rushers.
Jackson is coming off a 12-game season following a four-game suspension, and he'll turn 29 midway through the season; he should be well within the Redskins' budget.
Not to mention, Jackson's 2012 campaign in which he recorded 4.5 sacks, four interceptions and a touchdown while filling in for the injured Orakpo should still count as proof of his playmaking ability when he's put on the field.
Sign Anthony Collins and Shake Up the Line
Improving Robert Griffin III's supporting cast is an essential part of the Redskins' offseason. In addition to receivers, the offensive line needs help in Washington.
Anthony Collins served as the Cincinnati Bengals' left tackle last season under then-offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. In Washington, Collins would help hold down the right tackle spot, allowing the Redskins to move left guard Kory Lichtensteiger to his more natural center position and then focus on finding a left guard in May's upcoming draft.
Adding Collins and finding a left guard in the draft could drastically help RG3 and the Redskins in 2014.