Buying or Selling Latest Washington Redskins Buzz on the Free-Agency Rumor Mill

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistMarch 10, 2014

Buying or Selling Latest Washington Redskins Buzz on the Free-Agency Rumor Mill

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    The latest free-agency buzz surrounding the Washington Redskins involves their attempts to poach the best cornerback on the market. The team are also being tentatively linked with a talented but currently below-par wide receiver from an NFC East rival.

    There is also reported interest in two excellent defensive players from that same division foe. Washington general manager Bruce Allen and head coach Jay Gruden are also tipped to pursue an unheralded linebacker and safety.

    Here is a buy or sell judgement on the top six rumors involving Washington on the eve of free agency.

Interest in Offensive Tackle Anthony Collins

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    Bengals swing tackle Anthony Collins makes a lot of sense for the Redskins.
    Bengals swing tackle Anthony Collins makes a lot of sense for the Redskins.Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

    Mooted interest in Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Anthony Collins is one of the easiest free-agency rumors to buy regarding Washington.

    Mike Jones of the Washington Post says Gruden is "expected to pursue" the player he coached as offensive coordinator of the Bengals. Coupled with Collins' familiarity with the new man patrolling the sideline for Washington, the player answers an obvious team need.

    The Washington O-line was a disaster zone for much of the 2013 season. While a lion's share of the problems were along the interior, there were also issues at tackle, particularly on the right.

    Tyler Polumbus labored through the season. He was occasionally solid and capable as a run-blocker, but he was exposed by any half-savvy pass-rusher.

    Collins is a more accomplished pass-blocker. He has not allowed a sack in more than 713 attempts, per statistics from Pro Football Focus (h/t Josh Kirkendall of

    Collins is also versatile enough to play of the left side if injury were to strike Pro Bowler Trent Williams. At the very least, he makes perfect sense as an invaluable swing tackle, and probably starts immediately on the right.

    Verdict: Buy

A Big Pursuit of Aqib Talib

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    Aqib Talib has to be a prime target this offseason.
    Aqib Talib has to be a prime target this offseason.Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    It's not exactly secret that the regime in Washington is enamoured with Aqib Talib. He has ties to assistant coaches and to Allen, and was a target last offseason.

    Now B/R analyst Chris Simms indicates the Redskins will make another big push to land Talib. It makes sense simply because there isn't much this team doesn't need to do to get better in the secondary.

    As the premier cornerback on the market, Talib is too good to pass up for last season's 20th-ranked pass defense. He is a shutdown cover man whose physical, press style is something this defense sorely needs on the outside.

    The chances of landing Talib are good, considering the New England Patriots aren't falling over themselves to offer him the deal he wants.

    The 27-year-old wants to be paid like the "top-of-the-market player at his position," according to Boston Herald reporter Jeff Howe. But Pats owner Robert Kraft has already poured cold water on a mega-bucks deal for his Pro Bowl cornerback, per a report from columnist Tom E. Curran.

    The concerns with Talib are obvious. He has a history of off-field troubles, including suspensions and arrests. But he has stayed focused in New England and performed at a stellar level.

    One big drawback might be the injuries that have taken him out of the last two AFC Championship Games. But the truth is even at a position loaded with marquee players like Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson and Joe Haden, true shutdown cornerbacks are still a rarity in today's NFL.

    Having a cover ace who can be relied upon to keep an opposition's star receiver quiet opens up the entire playbook for a defensive coordinator.

    That is certainly the kind of boost beleaguered Washington play-caller Jim Haslett needs. Pairing Talib with recently re-signed veteran DeAngelo Hall would give Haslett the security in the defensive backfield his blitz-happy 3-4 scheme has missed.

    As a more aggressive, physically imposing player than Hall, Talib can be moved around to cover in the slot. He did that superbly in Week 6, when New England used him to shut down New Orleans Saints star tight end Jimmy Graham.

    There's just too much about Talib to tempt Washington into spending big.

    Verdict: Buy

Possibly Signing Hakeem Nicks

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    Hakeem Nicks could ditch the Giants for Washington.
    Hakeem Nicks could ditch the Giants for Washington.Al Bello/Getty Images

    Hakeem Nicks was a shell of his once dominant self last season. But the talented New York Giants flanker will still appeal to a team as wide receiver-needy as Washington.

    ESPN reporter John Keim mentions Nicks as one of five names he hears most often linked with a move to D.C. Nicks would certainly bolster a position group headlined by the prolific Pierre Garcon, but featuring little else.

    But despite the obvious match of need and player, there are reasons to be wary about rumors concerning Nicks. At 6'1" and 208 pounds, he has the size Gruden likes at the position. But that size has not yielded the level of production that should please any coach.

    Nicks had 896 receiving yards in 2013 with no touchdown grabs. In 2012, he mustered a mere 692 yards and just three touchdowns.

    Those figures are hardly a great advertisement for a team needing greater production from the position. There is also the question of Nicks' dubious fitness record.

    He has never completed a full 16-game season since being drafted in 2009. The level of concern regarding his durability has even prompted Nicks to take steps to assure prospective buyers.

    According to ESPN reporter Chris Mortensen, Nicks and his agent have circulated letters from Dr. Robert Anderson and Dr. James Andrews endorsing his health.

    Just having to take the step proves how much trouble Nicks has had maintaining full fitness.

    Mortensen notes Nicks is prepared to dispel those worries by settling for a short-term deal:

    Nicks is receptive to returning to the Giants. If he does not re-sign with New York, he is hopeful of finding a team with a proven quarterback.

    He is willing to weigh a one-year contract to prove his past two seasons were aberrations, league sources said.

    Those are two more reasons to believe Washington's interest in the 26-year-old Super Bowl-winner won't last. The Redskins don't need short-term solutions at the position.

    After two years under a prohibitive salary-cap penalty, the franchise is now in a position to do more than just hope one-year gambles pay off.

    It also remains to be seen if Nicks and his representatives will view Robert Griffin III as "proven." He endured an horrendous second season and is barely removed from major knee surgery.

    That makes Griffin a wait-and-see quarterback at this stage of his career. Just like Washington's interest in Nicks should be.

    Verdict: Sell

Targeting Linval Joseph

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    Linval Joseph would be a luxury signing in Washington.
    Linval Joseph would be a luxury signing in Washington.Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

    Linval Joseph is another of the quintet Keim believes Washington could target. But while Joseph is a terrific young D-lineman, he rates as something of a luxury signing at this stage.

    Despite the mammoth 25-year-old developing into a consistently disruptive force up front, the Redskins may not have room for Joseph, both on a financial and personnel level.

    The team has already smartly moved quickly to bring back end Chris Baker. He is a likely starter. So is ex-Giant Barry Cofield, who certainly merits regular time at either end or nose tackle.

    Joseph could also thrive in both spots in Washington. But signing him now would be giving up on 2011 second-round pick Jarvis Jenkins as a starter.

    What the Washington D-line needs most is quality depth. Joseph is certainly not leaving Big Blue to a be a bit-part player.

    The 6'4", 323-pound 25-year-old has played himself into good money after tallying 59 tackles in each of the last two seasons, as well as collecting seven sacks along the way.

    He is likely to command the kind of contract that will be too rich for a franchise needing to revamp several other positions on the roster.

    Washington has $20,383,235 worth of cap space, per figures from But needs in the secondary, at inside linebacker and along the O-line will likely absorb most of that.

    With Baker, Cofield and Jenkins looking like a starting trio and Kedric Golston and Chris Neild as solid reserves, it would be a surprise to see Allen spend big on a free-agent lineman.

    It is especially unlikely considering the option to snare a 3-4-ready end like Stephon Tuitt at the top of the second round. That would give Washington a rookie playmaker who wouldn't have to transition from a 4-3 scheme the way Joseph would.

    If Allen targets a veteran, he is more likely to go after a player like Pat Sims, who Gruden knows from Cincinnati and certainly would be more modestly priced.

    But any new starter up front is more likely come from the draft.

    Verdict: Sell

Potential Interest in Jon Beason

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    Jon Beason is a dream fit at inside linebacker.
    Jon Beason is a dream fit at inside linebacker.Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

    Jon Beason is a dream fit to solve this team's problems at inside linebacker. Keim believes there is possible interest in Beason from Washington. But Allen and Gruden shouldn't count on the Giants letting him go.

    The 29-year-old resurrected his NFL career after being traded to New York from the Carolina Panthers four games into last season. In just 12 games, Beason recorded 104 tackles, helping to engineer an impressive defensive turnaround for Big Blue.

    Mostly known as a 4-3 thumper, Beason could easily slot into a 3-4 system like the one Washington plays. There is certainly room for him at the heart of this defense.

    London Fletcher is retiring, while contract talks with free agent Perry Riley Jr. are stuttering, according to Rich Tandler of Pairing Beason with a draft prospect like Shayne Skov would make this a position of strength for Washington in 2014.

    But prying Beason away from New York won't be easy. The Giants have made retaining the active and intelligent linebacker an offseason priority, per Star-Ledger reporter Jordan Raanan.

    ESPN columnist Dan Graziano believes those efforts will ultimately be successful.

    Signing Beason would force the Redskins into outbidding an archrival who will be loath to lose a key player to a team in the same division.

    That and the presence of more experienced 3-4 linebackers, such as Karlos Dansby, on the market makes Beason a tough sell at this point.

    Verdict: Sell

Doing Deals for Joe Mays and Mike Mitchell

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    Mike Mitchell is an under-the-radar target Washington should consider.
    Mike Mitchell is an under-the-radar target Washington should consider.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Mike Mitchell and Joe Mays are the final members of the five mooted targets cited by Keim. The pair represent good value for a team that needs significantly better depth throughout the roster.

    As an attack-minded safety, Mitchell could help steady things at a position that has been as stable as quicksand in recent seasons.

    Mitchell performed well for the stout Carolina Panthers' defense in 2013. He is a sure hitter and excellent on the blitz.

    That latter quality will likely appeal to Haslett, who wasn't able to use safeties on the blitz as often without LaRon Landry around.

    But as dependable as Mitchell is attacking downhill, his coverage range is limited. He is not accomplished enough athletically to effectively patrol the deep zones.

    He can be fooled by a smart quarterback, as he was when Drew Brees and the Saints regularly targeted him in Week 14. Those limitations will dim some of the market interest in this otherwise reliable veteran.

    If Allen makes even a solid offer, he should be able to lure Mitchell to D.C.

    The same is true for Mays. Keim claims he is a target "mostly as a special teams player." Considering how bad the Washington special teams were in 2013, signing Mays is a great idea.

    He is also easily capable of starting on Haslett's 3-4 front. Mays has experience of the system from his time with the Houston Texans last season.

    In Houston he operated in a more 1-gap, attacking-style mode of 3-4 than the Redskins generally play. But at 5'11" and 244 pounds, Mays certainly has the size to play in a more traditional version of the front.

    He has always been a competent and active tackler, evidenced by his 67 stops in 2013. At the very least, he represents excellent depth at a threadbare position.

    Both Mays and Mitchell are the kind of solid veterans this roster hasn't had enough of in the last four seasons. Reliable pros like these can key a quick turnaround for a team rebounding from a 3-13 finish.

    Reasonably priced deals for the pair would help fix obvious team weaknesses and still leave enough money to make a marquee signing like Talib.

    Verdict: Buy

    These latest rumors are promising because they have Washington mostly targeting less heralded, but capable players at positions of need.