Under-the-Radar Free Agents Washington Redskins Should Pursue
While it's fun to talk about the popular names floating around the rumor mill, general manager Bruce Allen and the front office could also afford to find value in lesser-known players who may come at a friendlier price.
For a team like the Redskins who have numerous holes to fill, getting the best bang for their buck will carry them the farthest.
Set aside the thought of guys like Linval Joseph (whom I love), Captain Munnerlyn (whom I also love) and Anthony Collins (who makes a ton of sense), and get acquainted with an unpopular group of guys who'd find a spot in Washington.
All posted ages are reflective of player's age at start of 2014 season
Outside of Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed, the Redskins are lacking both receiving targets and playmakers. Roberts offers a little of both, racking up more than 100 catches and 1,200 yards over the past two seasons and possessing the necessary quickness to earn yards after the catch.
This idea may have made even more sense before Brian Orakpo received the franchise tag, but since when can any team have too many guys who can play the edge?
Originally drafted in the third round of the 2009 NFL draft by the Oakland Raiders, Matt Shaughnessy made the switch from defensive end to outside linebacker upon signing a one-year deal in Arizona last offseason.
At 6'5", 260 pounds, Shaughnessy certainly looks the part, and his ability to change positions last season to fit a new defensive scheme proves his versatility. He finished last season with 36 tackles, three fumble recoveries, three sacks and a touchdown.
Safety Taylor Mays is a guy with whom head coach Jay Gruden is familiar, as the former second-round draft pick of the 49ers has spent the last three years in Cincinnati.
Although Mays never lived up to his 2010 draft selection, he remains an athletic type with good size (6'3", 220 lbs) who saw time at nickel linebacker for the Bengals last season.
With the Redskins slim at the safety position and without a linebacker who can cover, Mays could carry some decent value in Washington, even if it's just on a project basis.
With limited production and concerns regarding his durability, Mays should come at a fairly low price. At the very least, the Redskins can sign him, realize he can't cut it on defense and instead settle for the addition of a good special teams contributor.
Vance Walker spent the first four years of his career in Atlanta before signing a one-year deal last offseason to play in Oakland. He served as a reliable run-stopper along the defensive line, yet also demonstrated his ability to penetrate the pocket, finishing the season with three sacks.
Walker wouldn't start in Washington, but he'd help the rotation. With Adam Carriker out and Stephen Bowen set to count more than $7 million against the cap coming off microfracture knee surgery, the Redskins need to address the defensive front in terms of both talent and depth.
This isn't the first time I've mentioned the Redskins going after a tight end this offseason. Jay Gruden wasn't shy about his love for 2-TE sets during his time in Cincinnati. If the coach can find another threatening tight end to line up with Jordan Reed, it's safe to assume he's on the Redskins' radar.
Although Jermichael Finley is the more popular name at the position, it's the other tight end in Green Bay who appears to carry the better value.
Not only is Andrew Quarless younger than Finley, but he's also not coming off a major neck injury, and his asking price won't reflect gaudy production totals. It wasn't until last season—in the absence of Finley—that Quarless put up notable numbers of 32 catches for 312 yards and two touchdowns in 10 starts.
At 6'4", 250 pounds, with the ability to catch and run, Quarless would seem to fit the athletic and sizable mold of a Gruden-preferred tight end.
Whenever you hear someone bring up the need for a better supporting cast surrounding Robert Griffin III, the offensive line needs to be included. Despite any argument regarding poor footwork by the passer or positive unit evaluation grades, the offensive line in Washington (especially along the interior) was not good last season and it remains an area of need.
While I've often mentioned the move of Kory Lichtensteiger from left guard to his more natural center position, that doesn't necessarily mean coaches agree with the fit too.
Due to their unstylish position, centers tend to be unpopular anyway. But Evan Dietrich-Smith is one of the more highly regarded centers on the market this year, and his asking price will reflect that.
Even so, Dietrich-Smith is well within the Redskins' budget and he'd immediately fill a gaping hole on the offensive front.
It's hard to say why I continuously plug Dezmon Briscoe as a possible piece of the Redskins' future. Clearly his age is beneficial, as is his size at 6'2", 210 pounds. There's also interest in his potential stemming from a 2011 season in Tampa Bay in which he caught 35 balls for 387 yards and six touchdowns. Even his contract demands should work in the team's favor.
For a team like Washington that is in search of more playmakers, Briscoe has potential. Signing him to a small deal and waiting to see what he shows you in camp could pay off for the Redskins.
Despite him spending all seven years of his career in San Francisco, it doesn't appear the 49ers are in a hurry to re-sign Tarell Brown. According to Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area, Brown said he's had no discussion regarding a new contract with the team that drafted him in the fifth round back in 2007.
While re-signing DeAngelo Hall to a new contract was a great move for Washington, the secondary remains a concern. Brown may not be the youngest guy on the market, but he's a good, savvy veteran who could bring some of that attitude we see in the 49ers defense to the rebuilding Redskins.
Brown will have suitors, so it's unclear where the market drives his price. Although no one's asking the Redskins to empty the wheelbarrow on Brown's front stoop, it's a scenario worthy of their due diligence.
The streak continues, as I attempt to mention the often forgotten punter on every Redskins free-agent list this offseason.
Not only was Sav Rocca coming off a miserable season, but the Redskins have since released him, meaning they're definitely in need of a guy who can consistently boot the ball downfield.
Another good thing about McAfee is his ability to handle kickoff duties, which wasn't exactly Kai Forbath's strong suit last season.
Pat McAfee appears to be tops in the market at his position, so expect his price to reflect that. Are the Redskins willing to give a punter/kickoff man $3 million to $4 million a year?
Old? Not really. More like old-ish. Or seasoned. Antonio Smith, despite turning 33 in October, could serve as a luxury within the defensive line rotation if the Redskins are convinced he has some fuel left in the tank.
Taking into account both his age and what it is he'd be asked to do in Washington, the Redskins could come out looking pretty good with Smith on a short-term deal.
Amid the secondary, the Redskins are weakest at safety. While names like Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward are hot, a guy like Mike Mitchell could be had for much cheaper, allowing the Redskins to find themselves a safety and still have enough money to make impact signings elsewhere.
After spending his first four years in Oakland, Mitchell played last season in Carolina on a one-year deal. His four sacks, four interceptions and two forced fumbles made him a playmaker in the deep half, which should all work well to garner interest from the Redskins.
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