Ranking Washington Redskins' Top Offseason Moves Following 2014 NFL Draft
While the Washington Redskins' 3-13 record in 2013 brought about a regime change, the customary roster upheaval that often accompanies it never came to fruition in the 2014 offseason.
There was the high-profile signing of DeSean Jackson, but for the most part, the 'Skins' core group of players remains unchanged.
Does this make Gruden's hiring the most impactful move of Washington's offseason, though? Or is that title bestowed on another of general manager Bruce Allen's moves?
Let's find out. Using short-term impact as the barometer, here are the Redskins' five best offseason moves in ascending order.
5. Signing S Ryan Clark
Cast out of Pittsburgh for his diminishing physical skills, it's the intangibles Ryan Clark brings that make him such an impactful signing for the 'Skins.
After London Fletcher's retirement, there was a large leadership void in Washington's locker room, a void that Clark can now fill.
With Clark being the lone reinforcement at safety—a position group that was marred by mental miscues, missed tackles and undisciplined play—any improvement at this position is going to have to come from player development.
A former undrafted free agent who's thrived despite his physical limitations, Clark is the ideal candidate to groom Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo, two talented but relatively raw prospects.
Ultimately, Clark's addition should shore up a pass defense that was Washington's Achilles' heel in 2013.
Paired with an explosive offense, any improvement on this front would be evident in the team's win-loss record.
4. Franchising LB Brian Orakpo
Already down the leader and heart and soul of its defense—Fletcher—Washington could ill afford to lose its top pass-rusher, Brian Orakpo, as well.
At the same token, due to his injury history and his lack of standing amongst the league's elite, the team wasn't in the position to surrender the type of long-term deal that Orakpo could fetch on the open market.
By franchising Orakpo, though, the Redskins were able to balance the short-term and long-term needs of the franchise.
Alleviated of the financial risk of a long-term deal, Washington has now been afforded the opportunity to put into action a contingency plan to replace Orakpo, while also maintaining the quality of its defense.
Starved for a new deal, from another team if not the 'Skins, an inspired Orakpo should lead the charge in improving a pass rush that only tallied 36 sacks last season.
3. Hiring Jay Gruden
A franchise set back by its previous head coach, Washington did well for itself by landing Gruden.
With more experienced offensive minds like Jim Caldwell and Ken Whisenhunt available, though, it remains to be seen if Gruden was the best candidate Washington could nab for its head coaching job.
A team that clearly lacked leadership a year ago, the Redskins are making a gamble by assuming that Gruden can not only lead the offense, but the team as a whole.
Now blessed with a more talented quarterback, the sky's the limit for what Gruden could coax out of Griffin.
Left with a team that will rely heavily on its offense to win games, Gruden's propensity to adjust accordingly to the strengths of his players—like implementing the zone-blocking running scheme that his predecessor used successfully—will pay dividends in a division filled with flawed teams.
2. Signing DeSean Jackson
The latest ballyhooed free agent to sign on with Washington, DeSean Jackson is the type of big-play receiver the team has lacked during Griffin's stint at quarterback.
Although Pierre Garcon set career and franchise highs for receptions last season, he doesn't strike fear into opposing defenses like Jackson.
Jackson hauled in eight passes of 40-plus yards in 2013. In his two seasons in Washington, combined, Garcon only caught four such passes.
With defenses fixated on taking the big play away from Jackson, there should be plenty of room to operate for Garcon, Andre Roberts and Jordan Reed on intermediate routes and for Alfred Morris in the running game.
The biggest beneficiary of Jackson's arrival, though, is Griffin.
Lacking the mobility he exhibited during his rookie season, Griffin was heavily blitzed in 2013.
After only throwing 92 passes versus the blitz in 2012, he threw 156 such passes last season—and that was in four fewer games.
With Griffin's mobility a looming question entering the 2014 campaign, Jackson's effectiveness against the blitz could be a godsend.
Jackson accounted for over 30 percent of Nick Foles' completions against the blitz last season, tallying 23 receptions, 410 yards and three touchdowns.
An impact player even when the football isn't in his hands, Jackson's acquisition gives Washington the potent offense it'll need to mask a defense that surrendered 29.9 points per game last season.
Stats on this slide are courtesy of ESPN.com, via Elias Sports Bureau
1. Firing Mike Shanahan
Being that he was tasked with coaching and remaking the 'Skins roster, Mike Shanahan should bare the blunt of the blame for the ineptitude that scarred his four-year tenure in Washington.
As much as he deserves credit for unearthing gems like Morris in the sixth round, the talent level that Shanahan amassed was never up to snuff.
At various points, Rex Grossman and John Beck were his starting quarterbacks. Making his 24-40 record all the less surprising.
Ultimately, though, Shanahan's exodus was a result of his coaching.
The retainment of Orakpo and the signing of Clark and Jason Hatcher, moves aimed to bolster a horrid Washington defense, would be moot if Shanahan were still coaching the 'Skins.
DeAngelo Hall levied accusations to ESPN 980, via Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post, that Shanahan micromanaged Jim Haslett's defense, hindering Haslett's ability to maximize the talent on hand.
Then there's the daily soap opera that chronicled Shanahan's maligned relationship with Griffin last season.
Do you really think that Jackson would willingly sign on to go to Washington if the Shanahan-Griffin feud was still brewing?
Ultimately, from the ideal distraction-free environment that his ouster brought about, to the much-needed changing of the guard in the front office—although, it's questionable how much of an upgrade Allen is—Shanahan's firing laid the foundation for the Redskins' 2014 offseason.
Thus making it the most impactful move of the offseason.
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