How Will Washington's Free-Agency Strategy Affect Their Approach in the Draft?

Matthew Brown@mlb923Correspondent IMarch 21, 2014

ASHBURN, VA - JANUARY 09:  Washington Redskins Executive Vice President and General Manager Bruce Allen (R) listens to Jay Gruden speak as he is introduced as the new head coach of the Washington Redskins at a press conference at Redskins Park on January 9, 2014 in Ashburn, Virginia.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Boasting around $22 million in cap space, according to's Rich Tandler, just days before free agency, most expected the Washington Redskins to heavily pursue big names to fill big needs on their roster. After over a week of activity, the 'Skins have not made any splashes and still have holes at critical positions.

With only six picks, and no first-rounder, in April's draft, Washington strategy in free agency has not affected their draft approach.

Among the most glaring needs the Redskins needed to address this offseason were free safety, offensive line, receiver and linebacker.

London Fletcher's retirement puts the Redskins in the market for a replacement linebacker. Thus far, they have signed Akeem Jordan, Adam Hayward and Darryl Sharpton, but it is difficult to find a true starter in the trio.

It is likely to be a competition between Jordan and Sharpton—Jordan because of his experience, and Sharpton because of his relative youth.

Hayward's history with secondary coach Raheem Morris, however valuable, doesn't make him a factor in the competition.

Signing three inside linebackers, however lackluster they may be, shows they aren't looking to make a splash early in the draft by grabbing Stanford's Shayne Skov.

The defensive line, which was an area of need to start the offseason, has taken a different look in recent weeks.

The Redskins released Adam Carriker after he missed most of the last two seasons due to injury. Stephen Bowen underwent microfracture surgery and is a bit of a question mark at this point.

Enter Jason Hatcher, fresh off of a career-high 11 sacks with the division rival Dallas Cowboys.

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 30:  Alfred Morris #46 of the Washington Redskins is tackled by  Jason Hatcher #97 of the Dallas Cowboys in the second quarter of their game at FedExField on December 30, 2012 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Regardless of Bowens' future status, Hatcher is a starter for the Redskins and solves at least one problem on the line.

Add in the giant, Clifton Geathers, and the Redskins have the makings of a nice defensive end rotation.

Nose tackle Barry Cofield played with a fractured hand in 2013, which hampered his performance. The Redskins re-signed Chris Baker, who could have a breakout season if given enough opportunities.

Smart and understated moves have changed the defensive line for the better. Drafting one of the better defensive linemen doesn't seem to be the plan for the Redskins.

Jairus Byrd was the top name on the market at free safety, and he would have cost the Redskins a hefty chunk of their cap space. Though they did not pursue Byrd with the fervor for top talent they typically showcase, they also did not pursue talented value free agents.

A capable free safety would revitalize a shoddy secondary, and the Redskins failed to address the need.

Brandon Meriweather was re-signed to a one-year deal, but the move feels more like a Band Aid for a bullet hole. Meriweather is a veteran and is solid in run support, but he's inconsistent in coverage and favors big hits over sound tackles.

Top prospects Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor aren't likely to be on the board when the Redskins make their first pick at No. 34, and Florida State's Terrence Brooks isn't an elite option.

The move to bring Meriweather back seems to signal the desire to focus on needs the team can solve this offseason, with this draft.

At the other safety position lies a lot of doubt. Phillip Thomas didn't play a single down of regular-season football after suffering a Lisfranc ligament tear that put him on injured reserve for his rookie season.

Bacarri Rambo looks more and more suited to play strong safety to free safety, but he remains an unknown.

Nov 20, 2013; Toledo, OH, USA; Northern Illinois Huskies safety Jimmie Ward (15) warms up before the game against the Toledo Rockets at Glass Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

With a talent like Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward potentially on the board for Washington at No. 34, it may be difficult to pass up a playmaking prospect for the needy secondary.

He would be an immediate boost on special teams before being groomed to be the starter. The issue here is that Thomas hasn't been given the chance to show his worth, and drafting Ward would erase any chance of that happening.

Washington's offensive line was inconsistent last season, particularly in the interior between center Will Montgomery and right guard Chris Chester.

Montgomery was released, the team signed guard Shawn Lauvao from the Cleveland Browns and, as Josh Alper reports, is courting New Orleans Saints center Brian de la Puente.

De la Puente would replace Montgomery and Lauvao would displace Chester, who stands to earn $3 million in base salary in 2014.

Based on the moves to revamp the interior offensive line, the Redskins are either looking to upgrade their right tackle position with one of their first two picks, or they're hoping Tyler Polumbus can improve on his surprising, if only average, 2013 campaign.

Moving outside, the Redskins signed receiver Andre Roberts, formerly of the Arizona Cardinals.

Roberts doesn't have numbers that jump off the page, but his best season came in 2012, where he caught 64 passes for 759 yards and five touchdowns. During that season, Arizona started four different quarterbacks, none of whom would be considered elite on their best days.

It brings to mind Pierre Garcon's final season with the Indianapolis Colts, where he caught 70 passes for 947 yards and six touchdowns from the likes of Kerry Collins, Dan Orlovsky and Curtis Painter.

While he isn't a big-name signing, Roberts is a step up from Josh Morgan and gives the Redskins a solid second receiver opposite Garcon.

August 17, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Andre Roberts (12) runs the ball against the defense of Dallas Cowboys inside linebacker Bruce Carter (54) during the first half at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The concern becomes who steps up as the third receiver behind Garcon and Roberts.

Santana Moss was re-signed as a veteran option, and he is a more reliable presence than the injured and inconsistent Leonard Hankerson or the one-trick pony, Aldrick Robinson.

Receiver could be in the cards for Washington in the second or third round, particularly given the potential for talented prospects to fall out of the first round.

Cornerback is a position the Redskins could upgrade with an excellent player in the draft.

They re-signed DeAngelo Hall and added Tracy Porter, giving them a solid trio of corners along with David Amerson.

However, options like the instinctive and tenacious Kyle Fuller or the athletic Marcus Roberson may be too much to pass up, particularly if they aren't sold on Amerson, though it is much too soon to make that judgment.

Though not a position of need, Jay Gruden's offense requires something the Redskins lack, which is a second pass-catching tight end.

Logan Paulsen is the team's best blocking tight end, but he isn't going to win any foot races or have any 50-catch seasons. Niles Paul is undersized and a special teams ace, nothing more.

Jordan Reed, when healthy, is an excellent young tight end, but Gruden had Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert, both first-round picks, at his disposal.

It isn't out of the question to see a tight end targeted in the third round at the earliest, but it isn't a position of dire need.

In review, the Redskins did some quiet work to upgrade weak spots on their roster. It would have been foolish to try fixing all of the problems and filling all of the holes in a single offseason.

They still need an upgrade at right tackle and maybe even strong safety, but the glaring needs have been dulled a bit.

Their strategy thus far has been a smart one, and if that continues through the draft, things will be interesting for Washington.


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