Predicting Redskins' Starting Lineup After First Wave of Free Agent Signings
The Washington Redskins, for better or for worse, appear to have opted out of the act of throwing money at players in free agency. Though they didn't land any big marquee names, they added solid talent to bolster their roster.
With several months standing between now and the start of the season, the roster only sort of resembles the final product that will take the field.
Regardless of who is added, who else is subtracted and how everything shakes out, we have a vague idea of how the depth chart will end up based on who is on the roster.
Here is a look at Washington's depth chart following the initial free-agent signings.
Starter - Robert Griffin III, Backup - Kirk Cousins
Starter - Alfred Morris, Backups - Roy Helu, Jr., Chris Thompson
Starter - Darrel Young
Starter - Jordan Reed, Backups - Logan Paulsen, Niles Paul
Starters - Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts, Santana Moss, Backups - Aldrick Robinson, Leonard Hankerson, David Gettis
Starters - Trent Williams, Tyler Polumbus, Backups - Tom Compton, Maurice Hurt
Starters - Shawn Lauvao, Chris Chester, Backups - Josh LeRibeus, Adam Gettis
Starter - Kory Lichtensteiger, Backup - Tevita Stevens
Starters - Jason Hatcher, Jarvis Jenkins, Backups - Kedric Golston, Stephen Bowen
Starter - Barry Cofield, Backup - Chris Baker
Starters - Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan, Backups - Brandon Jenkins, Gabe Wilson
Starters - Perry Riley, Jr., Akeem Jordan, Backups - Adam Hayward, Keenan Robinson
Starters - DeAngelo Hall, David Amerson, Backups - Tracy Porter, Richard Crawford, Peyton Thompson
Starter - Brandon Meriweather, Backup - Bacarri Rambo
Starter - Phillip Thomas, Backup - Bacarri Rambo
Punter - Robert Malone, Kicker - Kai Forbath, Returners - Richard Crawford, Chris Thompson\
Robert Griffin III is not going anywhere anytime soon. As rough as the 2013 season was for him, he's still the future of the franchise.
Over one year removed from surgery to repair the ACL and LCL in his right knee, the 2014 edition of RGIII will look more like the electric 2012 RGIII.
Behind Griffin, at least for now, is Kirk Cousins. Cousins stepped in and performed admirably when Griffin was deactivated, but he failed to recreate his rookie season success.
Mike Jones and Mark Maske of The Washington Post recently reported that the Redskins are not actively shopping Cousins, nor would he demand a trade despite his desire to be a starter.
It isn't out of the question for the Redskins to add a third quarterback at some point, but Griffin and Cousins are locked into their positions on the depth chart.
ESPN.com's John Keim spoke with new offensive coordinator Sean McVay, who shed light on the future of the Redskins' rushing attack.
“I don’t think it will change a lot,” new Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay said. “The foundation and base principles will remain the same. Jay does a great job of adjusting to his players. He doesn’t make the player adjust to his scheme.”
Great news for Alfred Morris, who is coming off of back-to-back seasons with over 1,200 rushing yards and thriving in Mike Shanahan's one-cut zone-blocking scheme.
Even though he logged 59 fewer carries in 2013, Morris still finished fourth in the NFL in rushing yards. Had he seen the 335 carries he logged as a rookie, Morris would likely be coming off of back-to-back 1,500-yard seasons.
Behind Morris is likely Roy Helu, Jr., whose speed and versatility make him an excellent change of pace to Morris.
Chris Thompson beats Evan Royster onto the roster due to his potential on special teams, an area where the Redskins have struggled to find success.
With little or no competition to supplant him, Darrel Young will be Washington's lone fullback in 2014. However, the Bengals offense under Jay Gruden didn't utilize a fullback, opting instead to put another receiver or tight end on the field.
Young has just 36 carries and 28 catches in his career, but he has scored eight total touchdowns in four seasons, proving he is capable of producing on offense.
It appears Young's job is safe for now, even if only to maintain the similarity in the rushing attack, but his role may be scaled back compared to his career to this point.
Jordan Reed was a breath of fresh air as a rookie in 2013. He finished second on the team in receptions with 45 despite playing just nine games. It speaks to Washington's lack of receivers but more importantly the ability Reed has to be a go-to receiver.
Gruden's offense used two tight ends in a lot of situations, and Cincinnati's Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert caught a combined 91 passes for six touchdowns last season.
If healthy, Reed is a no-brainer to start at tight end. Logan Paulsen is the best blocking tight end, but he is limited in terms of athleticism in the receiving game.
Paulsen can catch, but he lacks the speed that Gruden likes from his tight ends. Niles Paul is a converted receiver with superior speed to Paulsen but lacks the size to stand up against linebackers in the middle of the field.
Pierre Garcon's franchise record 113 receptions in 2013 are both a sign of his ability as a top receiver and the lack of targets the Redskins have on their roster. Santana Moss had the second-most receptions among receivers with 42.
No other receiver had more than 30 receptions.
Garcon remains the top receiver but things aren't as certain down the depth chart. The team re-signed veteran Santana Moss, who will more than likely compete for a role as a slot receiver.
As for the second receiver, Andre Roberts has a chance to start opposite Garcon, especially considering Leonard Hankerson's ongoing recovery from a 2013 ACL tear.
Aldrick Robinson is a wild card on the roster because he has great speed and ability to stretch the field, but he doesn't do much else. He doesn't run underneath routes very well and and doesn't fight for the ball.
If he can show he has refined his route running or expanded his skills, he can rise, but he remains a fourth or fifth option on offense.
David Gettis is on the roster after signing a futures contract in January, but aside from familiarity with RGIII, his role and spot on the roster are uncertain.
Trent Williams is the unquestioned started at left tackle. He made the Pro Bowl in 2013, his second appearance in as many years, and he has continued to elevate his game to become arguably the best left tackle in the NFL today.
Tyler Polumbus, the starter at right tackle, has improved from being a turnstile in 2012 to a solid, if unimpressive, blocker in 2013. He can be upgraded, but the Redskins have yet to do so, which means he's the starter for now.
The only other tackle on the roster is Tom Compton, a 2012 seventh-round draft pick who was active for 15 games in 2013, who didn't see much in terms of playing time. Maurice Hurt can play tackle, but he is listed at guard.
Hurt can play tackle, but it's better if he doesn't.
Signing Shawn Lauvao means a lot of things for a lot of linemen currently on the roster. Coupled with the release of center Will Montgomery, Lauvao's signing likely means that either Kory Lichtensteiger or Chris Chester will be displaced, if not both when all is said and done.
For simplicity's sake, Lauvao slides into the left guard spot, which moves Lichtensteiger to center.
Chester, who is 31 and had an awful season in 2013 and may yet be replaced via the draft, will be facing competition from Adam Gettis and Josh LeRibeus. He's still the starter, but it may not last long.
LeRibeus showed some promise in 2012 in relief of Lichtensteiger, but he showed up to training camp out of shape in 2013, which landed him in the dog house. Gettis has seen action in 13 games but remains a raw prospect with little experience.
The Redskins released Will Montgomery in a move that saved the team close to $2 million. As of now, there is no definite plan to replace him, but the signing of Shaun Lauvao may lead the Redskins to move left guard Kory Lichtensteiger to fill the void.
Pencil Lichtensteiger in as the starter with Tevita Stevens as the backup. Kevin Kowalski, who was signed to a futures contract in January, has an outside shot at making the roster following the draft and ongoing free agency.
Jarvis Jenkins is the only healthy returning starter from 2013, which bodes well for his position in 2014. The Redskins released Adam Carriker after close to two seasons of not playing.
Stephen Bowen underwent offseason microfracture surgery to repair a torn PCL and may be a cap casualty before the offseason is through.
The Redskins added former Dallas Cowboy Jason Hatcher, who finished 2013 with a career-high 11 sacks. Until further notice, Hatcher is the starter opposite Jenkins.
Free-agent signing Clifton Geathers is a big body, standing 6'8" and weighing 340 pounds, but he is likely a depth signing to go along with veteran Kedric Golston.
Washington's nose tackle position is among the most exciting on their roster because of the potential breakout for Chris Baker. He may be listed behind veteran Barry Cofield, who played through a fractured right hand in 2013, but he has the potential to overtake and exceed all expectations.
With Cofield starting and Baker nipping at his heels, there may not be room for Chris Neild.
Neild missed all of 2012 and didn't really play a big part in the defense last season. He offers reliable depth but is on the bubble this offseason.
The return of Brian Orakpo, even on a franchise tag one-year deal, makes outside linebacker a position of strength. Regardless of his sack totals, Orakpo makes the defense better and he is the starter opposite Ryan Kerrigan.
Kerrigan, who has been a steady presence as a pass-rusher and playmaker, is the unquestioned starter as well.
Brandon Jenkins, a second-year linebacker, has potential to be a solid rotation player and benefits from the team not re-signing Rob Jackson.
Gabe Miller, a converted tight end, may catch on for depth purposes, but he hasn't done anything to distinguish himself in his career.
Re-signing Perry Riley, Jr. was huge for the Redskins defense. In spite of his up and down 2013 campaign, it was easier to invest in his future than create a bigger need by letting him walk in free agency.
Replacing London Fletcher isn't likely to be as easy.
The team signed Akeem Jordan, who spent time in Kansas City's 3-4 defense last season, and he gets the nod next to Riley due to his veteran status and the uncertainty of the other options.
Robinson has been on IR for most of his two seasons and may be on his last legs. He'll battle with Adam Hayward for playing time, but could carve out a special teams role.
Hayward may push Jordan for the starting spot based on his history with Raheem Morris in Tampa Bay.
DeAngelo Hall returns as Washington’s top corner, and the departure of Josh Wilson puts second-year man David Amerson as the second corner on the depth chart.
The newly-signed Tracy Porter is at least the team’s third corner, but he could see an expanded role if rotated with Amerson or depending on how defensive coordinator Jim Haslett calls games.
Beyond that trio is a bit of a crapshoot.
Richard Crawford has proven value as a punt returner, but he has not shown enough on the field to warrant the fourth corner spot. He could be a surprise nickel corner, but he remains the fourth corner until he shows otherwise.
Peyton Thompson was signed to a futures contract but isn't likely to factor into the regular roster. He may be listed as the fifth corner, but he'll be replaced at some point this offseason.
NBC (h/t Washington Post) first reported word of Brandon Meriweather re-signing with the Redskins on a one-year deal, which is precisely what he deserves. While Meriweather leaves a lot to be desired in coverage and tackling, he is a veteran and has made plays.
More importantly, having Meriweather is better than having no one of consequence at free safety.
Bacarri Rambo didn’t look comfortable at free safety, but he could still push for time behind Meriweather if he shows improvement.
As of now, Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo are the only players who fit into the strong safety picture. Rambo was tried at free safety, but he looked uncomfortable in the role.
He could be a solid strong safety, which would demand less in coverage where he struggled as a rookie.
Thomas needs to show he is healthy before he can make a push for playing time.
Reed Doughty is a free agent, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him return at some point this offseason, even if only for a veteran presence.
The Redskins released punter Sav Rocca, which isn’t particularly surprising. Rocca had been inconsistent, and both his age and injuries made him an unappealing option to retain.
Washington does have Robert Malone, who was signed to a futures contract late in 2013, but he hasn't been a full-time punter since 2012.
Kai Forbath had a so-so 2013 season, in which he was injured and struggled to make some routine kicks. He’s never been a great kickoff man, but he’s better than nothing.
Andre Roberts may see some time as a returner, having seen kick return duties during his time with Arizona. He is an upgrade over just about everyone the Redskins threw out on kickoffs.
Richard Crawford, assuming he is healthy, should be the punt returner. If not, Chris Thompson will be the man back deep for Washington.