What's Next for Washington Redskins After Initial Wave of Free-Agent Signings

Marcel DavisCorrespondent IMarch 23, 2014

Hatcher ranks as Washington's top free-agent acquisition this offseason.
Hatcher ranks as Washington's top free-agent acquisition this offseason.Associated Press

In a free-agent flurry that saw top free agents and potential targets such as Aqib Talib and Jairus Byrd net contracts north of $50 million, the Washington Redskins were uncharacteristically absent from the splash signings that filled the NFL's transaction wire.

Of the $74 million in player contracts that Spotrac indicates the Redskins spent on 11 unrestricted free agents, defensive lineman Jason Hatcher's four-year, $27.5 million deal stands as the lone contract with an average annual salary over $5 million.

A free-agent haul heavy on defensive players, one thing Washington's free-agent class is not composed of is many impact starters. In an overview of the Skins' signings, Hatcher, receiver Andre Roberts, guard Shawn Lauvao and safety Brandon Meriweather—for now—appear to be the only likely starters.

For a defense that surrendered 29.9 points per game in 2013, you don't have to be told how problematic this could be for Washington's 2014 outlook.

Hence the question, what's next for the Redskins?

While the upcoming NFL draft would seem to be the logical place for Washington to upgrade its roster, particularly in the secondary, comments made by Washington general manager Bruce Allen to John Keim of ESPN.com allude to the team continuing its bargain hunting on the free-agent market.

"We have a lot to do. We're still having conversations with players and next week I'm sure there will be a lot of discussions about teams offering up players for trades," Allen said.

Minus the draft capital, you can probably rule out Washington bidding for players via the trade market.

But in free agency, in need of an upgrade at safety—the only people who'd be happy to see Meriweather in the starting lineup are in the charity organizations his fines are donated to—Washington's talks with former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark are worth monitoring.

With Allen's recent comments to Mike Jones of The Washington Post highlighting safety Phillip Thomas as a potential starter, signing Clark would enable Washington to use Meriweather as an insurance policy in the case that the redshirt rookie, he missed the entire 2013 campaign with a Lisfranc injury, isn't ready to start.

Having roughly $7.5 million available in salary-cap space, according to The Washington Post's Mike Jones, the signing of Clark would probably bring an end to Washington's spending, when you consider the money it'll take to sign the team's draft picks.

With the draft serving as perhaps the last avenue to improve the roster, targeting a receiver, offensive tackle and a cornerback would seem to be the best course of action for the Skins.

Despite the signing of Roberts, Washington is still in need of a bigger possession receiver, especially with Leonard Hankerson recovering from a torn ACL.

A stocked position in the draft, it wouldn't come as a shocker to see wideouts such as Kelvin Benjamin and Jordan Matthews still available when the Skins pick atop the second round.

While opening the season as a starter may be far-fetched for either, their wide catching radius would certainly assist Robert Griffin III in improving a Washington offense that only scored touchdowns on 52 percent of its red-zone trips in 2013.

In need of a cornerback who can eventually supplant DeAngelo Hall and ideally bump Tracy Porter out the team's nickel package, Lamarcus Joyner is a prospect the Redskins should consider nabbing if he's still available in the third round.

Although he's diminutive in size, Joyner isn't foreign to getting physical with receivers at the line of scrimmage. Capable of covering the slot, Joyner's excellent tackling in the open field and his experience at safety give Washington options in how to construct its back end.

With an eye on slotting right tackle Tyler Polumbus in his proper place, the bench, the Redskins may not be able to resist taking a player like Cyrus Kouandjio if he falls to the second round.

Touted as an elite prospect prior to the 2013 season, Kouandjio is currently cast as a bubble first-rounder by CBSSports.com.

While his conditioning and inconsistent play last season certainly played a part in his stock falling, it's more likely that what NFL.com's Ian Rapoport has tweeted is driving down Kouandjio's draft stock:

Possessing All-Pro talent, he's been compared to Tyron Smith by CBSSports.com's Rob Rang, Kouandjio would be a good fit opposite Trent Williams should his medical reports check out.

By ably filling their holes with the said players, or comparable ones, the Redskins would be hard-pressed to duplicate the poor play they exhibited in 2013.

By the same token, with four of Washington's 2014 opponents hailing from the NFC West—perhaps, the NFL's best division—the Skins may find it difficult to return to the postseason.

Clearly behind the Philadelphia Eagles in the hierarchy of the NFC East, second place within the division appears to be the ceiling for Washington in 2014.