Power Ranking Washington's 10 Best Moves of 2014 Offseason
This offseason has brought a lot of change to the Washington Redskins. They parted ways with Mike Shanahan and most of his coaching staff and hired Jay Gruden, who began shaping the roster to fit his vision for the team.
With a lot of need for change, the Redskins did their best to sign players that fit their needs and draft players to build for the future.
Though there is more to a successful offseason than the headline moves, the big moves do determine the immediate direction the team takes.
Here are the power rankings for Washington's offseason moves.
10) Re-Signing Brandon Meriweather
As someone who has been critical of Brandon Meriweather since he arrived in 2012, including this move as one of the top moves of the offseason says something. Not only did they sign him to just a one-year deal, they moved him back to his natural position at strong safety.
Meriweather at free safety was frustrating to watch, seeing him out of position, incurring penalties for overly aggressive hits, opting to hit instead of tackle.
It was an infuriating experience, but he was playing out of position and the options behind him at free safety were none too appealing. Now he's back where he belongs, where he is not being asked to drop into coverage, where he can attack the line of scrimmage and fly to the ball.
With one move, the Redskins removed a liability at free safety and added an asset at strong safety. Brilliant.
9) Franchising Brian Orakpo
Brian Orakpo's franchise tag will earn him $11.45 million for the 2014 season, regardless of health or performance. For the Redskins, it was a risk they needed to take even though Orakpo missed 14 games in 2012 and has not produced elite sack totals so far in his five-year career.
Though he has yet to turn in a 15-sack season, Orakpo has the potential to be a disruptive force that the Redskins would rather have on their roster than risk seeing excel elsewhere.
Discounting the 2012 season he spent on injured reserved, Orakpo has averaged over nine sacks per season. While that average isn't eye-popping, numbers do not reflect his ability to collapse the pocket, harry the quarterback and generally create problems for opponents.
For the Redskins, they could get a monster year out of Orakpo, giving them every reason to sign him to a long-term, lucrative deal. He could also turn in a decent season, but one that doesn't prove worthy of a huge deal, in which case the team would save huge money in the long run.
8) Signing Andre Roberts
With the addition of DeSean Jackson, Andre Roberts has fallen out out of the picture in the Redskins' receiving corps. Jackson, being one of the more electric playmakers in the NFL, deserves the attention, but Roberts doesn't simply become irrelevant on the offense.
Roberts will be the receiver who benefits the most from defenses paying so much attention to Jackson and Pierre Garcon, who are certain to wreak havoc on opposing secondaries.
Though not purely a slot receiver, Roberts could carve out a major role running routes to the voids left by defenses trying to account for all of the threats on the field. Garcon and Jackson can occupy the corners and safeties and tight end Jordan Reed will draw a linebacker, leaving the speedy Roberts to roam the field against slower defenders.
His role may be largely different than what he thought when he first signed, but Jackson's presence doesn't render Roberts useless. If anything, it enhances Roberts' value.
7) Drafting Spencer Long and Morgan Moses
Washington's offensive line was awful last season, and it was awful even before Chris Chester and Will Montgomery were giving up 2.5 sacks to Kevin Williams in 2013 and before Tyler Polumbus was impersonating a turnstile at right tackle.
Enter promising rookies Spencer Long and Morgan Moses, the heirs apparent to Chester at right guard and Polumbus at right tackle.
Having done very little to change the offensive line in free agency, adding only left guard Shawn Lauvao from Cleveland and moving Kory Lichtensteiger to center, the Redskins needed something to bolster their offensive line.
Moses, a third-round pick out of Virginia, is a big tackle with strength and long arms to win battles against defenders. Long was a bit of a reach in the third round, but the Nebraska product is a nasty run-blocker who plays quicker than expected, though he's not a spectacular athlete.
While they still have to earn their respective starting jobs, Long and Moses are the future for the Redskins on the right side and should prove to be upgrades over the current starters.
6) Signing Jason Hatcher
To say that Washington's defensive line has underachieved would be an understatement. Despite boasting productive veterans in Stephen Bowen and Barry Cofield, the Redskins' front was dominated on the ground to the tune of 110.6 yards per game and 23 touchdowns in 2013.
The addition of Jason Hatcher, who is coming off the best season of his career, changes the makeup of the defensive line.
Hatcher has played in both 4-3 and 3-4 schemes during his time in Dallas, and though he turned in his career-best 11 sacks as a 4-3 defensive tackle, he has plenty to offer the Redskins. Washington runs a 3-4 scheme, but that is merely its base formation.
With Hatcher, a disruptive presence with excellent athleticism, the Redskins have a player they can move around the line and get the most out of in multiple formations.
5) Drafting Trent Murphy
As smart as franchising Orakpo was, drafting Trent Murphy may be smarter. While he isn't an amazing talent, Murphy is a productive, high-motor player who should develop into, at the very least, a solid pass-rushing outside linebacker.
At best, Murphy is an insurance policy for Orakpo. His presence will push Orakpo to realize his potential or provide the Redskins with a good replacement for Orakpo if he doesn't play his way into a new contract.
Given Orakpo's twice-repaired shoulder/pectoral, Murphy acts as a fail-safe should anything happen to the All-Pro linebacker.
Even better is if Orakpo does erupt for 15-plus sacks, because then the Redskins can develop Murphy and plug him into different formations, developing a rotation of pass-rushing threats with Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan.
4) Retaining Jim Haslett
Jim Haslett has never been the architect of a game-changing, headline-worthy defensive unit. But Haslett is a respected coordinator who took a ton of blame for Washington's defensive woes while coaching under the meddling thumb of Mike Shanahan.
With the head coaching change focused on finding the best coach for Robert Griffin III, retaining Haslett was the only option the Redskins had.
Haslett has made a career out of being a hard-nosed coach, but his defenses have been anything but in Washington. However, Haslett will finally have control of his play-calling, his scheme and his players, which is something that will absolutely change the defense into the top-10 unit it has the potential to be.
Haslett has the personnel to create a pressure-heavy scheme that will keep the secondary from having to cover for excessive amounts of time.
3) Signing Ryan Clark
Between Bacarri Rambo and Meriweather, the Redskins didn't have a capable free safety on their roster last season, and it showed. After spending eight seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, making a Pro Bowl and winning a Super Bowl, free safety Ryan Clark returns to Washington, where he first made a name for himself.
Clark is not the same player who made an impact for the Redskins a decade ago, but he is experienced and better than anyone else on the depth chart right now.
Not only does Clark bring credibility back to the secondary—even though he's not as spry as he was those many years ago—but he brings the veteran presence the Redskins lost when London Fletcher retired at the end of the 2013 season.
It is an understated signing considering it is a short-term solution, but Clark can provide leadership and be a mentor to the younger players.
2) Signing DeSean Jackson
DeSean Jackson may be a me-guy, a headache and a pricey addition, but he is still one of the best playmakers in the NFL today. A receiver who averages 60 catches for 1,000 yards and five touchdowns per season is hard to come by.
Pairing Jackson with Garcon means the Redskins have two receivers who combined for 195 catches, 2,678 and 14 touchdowns in 2013.
It remains to be seen just how productive Jackson or Garcon will be having to play alongside one another, but having one electric deep threat in Jackson and one of the most violent runners after the catch in Garcon is a scary prospect for any opposing defense.
The Redskins upgraded their receiving corps and got a leg up on a division rival in the process.
1) Hiring Jay Gruden
Though there were more experienced head coach options on the market—coaches who could rehab Washington's mediocre defense or revamp its roster—Jay Gruden was the best coach for the Redskins.
Robert Griffin III is the future of the franchise, and Washington thought Gruden was the coach who could revitalize the young quarterback's game.
Gruden turned Andy Dalton into an above-average quarterback in Cincinnati—imagine what he can do with RGIII's mobility and golden arm. Even as a first-time head coach, Gruden has experience enough to affect great change for the Redskins.
Consider 1A the firing of Mike Shanahan.