Freedom! After back-to-back years in salary-cap prison as a result of $36 million worth of sanctions from the NFL, the Washington Redskins finally have money to spend on the free-agent market. This comes just in the nick of time, because the Washington roster has more holes than a golf course and the 'Skins are once again operating without a first-round draft pick.
No pressure, though, Bruce Allen.
Here's our free-agency preview from Washington's perspective.
After placing the franchise tag on Brian Orakpo, the Redskins have approximately $22.5 million to spend, according to Over the Cap. However, they could be forced to replace three starters on defense and desperately need upgrades in the secondary, along the offensive line and in the receiving corps.
London Fletcher has retired, and his partner at inside linebacker, Perry Riley, is on the verge of hitting the market. Riley is a solid—not spectacular—player, but he's coming off a down season. I think they'll find a way to keep him, mainly because he's only 25 and they're already tasked with having to replace Fletcher.
I don't think it would hurt to bring back defensive veterans Rob Jackson, E.J. Biggers, Darryl Tapp and Reed Doughty, but losing them wouldn't be back-breaking.
And finally, Bryan Kehl is a definite re-sign if they want to try to fix those special teams.
Players they'll have to let walk
Josh Morgan and Santana Moss are both slated to hit free agency, but it might be time to move on. Morgan was a bust during his two years in D.C., and Moss is 34 years old.
Josh Wilson and Fred Davis are both 28 with starting experience, but they should also be finished in Washington. Wilson has been far too inconsistent the last two years and will probably be overpaid. Davis is a headcase who has been replaced completely by 2013 third-round pick Jordan Reed.
And forget about Brandon Meriweather, who can't stay healthy but is overrated when on the field anyway.
What they need
What do the Redskins need most in free agency
Regardless of whether they keep Morgan and/or Moss, a big playmaker at receiver has to be a priority. Maybe they go that route in the draft, because this year's class of wideouts is so deep they could land one with a first-round grade in the No. 34 spot. Regardless, that's a position to keep an eye on in free agency, too.
The focus, though, has to be on the offensive line as well as the defense. They need to bulk up that line, especially inside. The team also needs to look for some upgrades at corner and safety while also finding someone who can step into Fletcher's shoes.
Players they should chase
Depending on whom the Redskins re-sign and what happens with Orakpo's tag, they should have about $10 million to spend. Here are a few names that make sense based on the notes above:
Jon Beason (LB, Giants): He had a bounce-back year in New York but is about to hit the market. Beason has a Fletcher-like feel and still hasn't turned 30. If they can't poach him from the Giants, former Colts tackle machine Pat Angerer would be intriguing, as would the underrated Akeem Jordan.
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Pro Football Focus
Chris Clemons (S, Dolphins): He's only 28 and is strong in coverage, which is something this defense really needs. Plus, he'll likely be cheaper than the top-tier guys like Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward. Antoine Bethea and Michael Mitchell are also starting-caliber safeties who could be had for reasonable prices.
James Jones (WR, Packers): Eric Decker will be too expensive and has high bust potential. Jones started 30 games the last two years in Green Bay, scoring 14 touchdowns in 2012. Golden Tate and Jerome Simpson are also options, but neither are big targets.
Travelle Wharton (G, Panthers): He and Charlie Johnson are the best bulky guards with strong pass-protection skills. Johnson is younger and could be cheaper.
What can wait for the draft
Again, receiver doesn't have to be addressed now, but they'd be crazy not to test those waters before the draft. The same rule applies to the offensive line. You can find starting-caliber guards and safeties in the middle rounds, and all of their 2013 starters remain under contract.
So the offensive needs can probably be delayed, but the defense can't be ignored this March.