What We've Learned About Washington Redskins After the Start of Free Agency

Marcel Davis@@Mar_CelDavis24Correspondent IMarch 12, 2014

What We've Learned About Washington Redskins After the Start of Free Agency

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    Despite being linked to high-profile free agents, Snyder and the Redskins didn't make headlines the first day of free agency.
    Despite being linked to high-profile free agents, Snyder and the Redskins didn't make headlines the first day of free agency.Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

    After two consecutive offseasons in free-agency purgatory, the Washington Redskins entered the 2014 offseason without the NFL-mandated $36 million cap penalty saddling their cap sheet.

    Entering the March 11 start of free agency, Washington had $18.6 million in cap space to spend, according to Mike Jones of the Washington Post.

    Notorious for investing heavily in top free agents, Washington owner Daniel Snyder resisted the primal urge to spend that landed him free-agent busts like Albert Haynesworth in the past.

    Is this a signal that Snyder is letting general manager Bruce Allen call the shots? Or did top free agents simply not consider Washington as a potential landing spot?

    Let's find out. Here's what we've learned about the Redskins after the start of free agency.

Improved Special Teams

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    Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

    With the addition of Andre Roberts and Adam Hayward, it's clear that the Redskins sought free agents capable of being two-way players that could help a special teams unit that was one of the worst in the NFL last season.

    Signed to a four-year, $16 million deal, according to USA Today (via Associated Press), it's clear that Roberts was mainly brought aboard for his receiving skills. Playing next to Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, he accumulated 107 catches and seven touchdowns the past two seasons.

    But Roberts also is a solid special teams player. While he hasn't been really utilized as return man in recent seasons, he'd be an option for a return unit that was last in yards per kickoff return in 2013.

    By signing Hayward to a three-year, $3 million deal, according to John Keim of ESPN.com, Washington gets another two-way player.

    Aside from potentially filling the void that linebacker London Fletcher's retirement left, or at least strengthening the team's depth at the position, Hayward can be a significant contributor on special teams.

    Formerly a backup player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with only 13 career starts, Hayward's seven-year NFL career can be attributed to his special teams prowess.

    For a team that had the worst punt-coverage unit in the league last season, a player of Hayward's background is key to turning around Washington's special teams woes.

Value Their Own Free Agents

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    Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

    Through the use of the franchise tag on Brian Orakpo, to the re-signings of DeAngelo Hall and Perry Riley, according to Mike Jones of the Washington Post, the Redskins prioritized keeping their top free agents.

    By not making the splash in free agency that has been customary in the past, the Redskins could very well be carving out cap space to spend on extensions for players like Ryan Kerrigan and Alfred Morris in 2015.

    With a top team like the San Francisco 49ers showing a similar willingness to lock up its core players in past seasons, opposed to being big players in free agency, such moves by the Redskins would signal that they are finally following the proper blueprint to construct a winner.

Disinterest in Marquee Free Agents

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Despite being attached to big-named free agents like Aqib Talib and Jairus Byrd, by Thomas Threlkeld of DC Pro Sports, the Redskins had no involvement in the headlining transactions that took place at the start of free agency.

    While Washington could still go after a Darrelle Revis type—if he's released, as ESPN's Adam Schefter reports is likely—it's looking like the Redskins will be in search of bargain options in light of the top free agents already being snatched off the market.

    A 2014 crop of free agents that Chris Wesseling and Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com said only featured one true difference-maker, Jairus Byrd, the Redskins aren't missing out on much by undertaking this route.

    With a 2015 free-agent class currently set to include players like Ndamukong Suh, Joe Haden and J.J. Watt, according to Spotrac.com, the 'Skins could be hoarding cap space to make a play on one of these marquee players next offseason.

Set at Wide Receiver

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Receiver was pegged as a major need for Washington going into the offseason. ESPN.com's John Keim went on to highlight the Redskins' immediate need for a No. 2 receiver to align with Pierre Garcon.

    But judging from the team's signing of Andre Roberts, along with the contracts it extended to Aldrick Robinson and Santana Moss, according to Adam Vingan of NBCWashington.com, Washington's brass isn't in agreement.

    With Garcon, Moss, Robinson, Roberts and a recovering Leonard Hankerson under contract for next season, there's a logjam at receiver.

    While the 'Skins could still seek out a big possession receiver to fill out their depth chart in the draft, it's hard to fathom any rookie receiver making a large impact next season.

    A group of receivers capable of playing in the slot and on the outside, Griffin won't have to complain about Washington's offense being predictable next season. 

    By basically sticking with the status quo, this could be a clear indication that head coach Jay Gruden believes that an improved Griffin is the key to improving on the team's 16th-ranked passing attack from a season ago.

Secondary Will Be Addressed in the Draft

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Despite the likes of Brandon Meriweather, Reed Doughty, and Josh Wilson entering free agency, the Redskins did little to address the starting spots these players vacated.

    One possible reason for this course of action could be Washington's belief that it has in-house replacements for these players.

    In safety Phillip Thomas and cornerback David Amerson, the Redskins have two young players who could fill two of the vacancies.

    Still, if the trio of secondary free agents does indeed bolt for other teams, Washington will have to look to the draft to bolster its depth chart.

    A draft deep in cornerbacks, it's likely that a top corner will be available when the Redskins pick atop the second round. According to CBSSports.com, 16 cornerbacks could be drafted in the draft's first three rounds.

    Safety, though, is a different story.

    While Calvin Pryor and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are both impact safety prospects, they are both projected to go in the top half of the first round, according to the latest mock draft of ESPN's Todd McShay (subscription required).

    Without a safety worth picking in the second round, Washington could target a pair of safeties, like Ed Reynolds and Dion Bailey, later in the draft. Both are slotted to go in the third or fourth round, via CBSSports.com.