5 Moves the Washington Redskins Should Have Made This Offseason
In his first offseason calling all the shots, Washington Redskins president and general manager Bruce Allen has made some impressive moves.
Allen acquired two Pro Bowl players, Jason Hatcher and DeSean Jackson, from NFC East rivals. He also signed and drafted affordable players who can make an immediate impact on what was the worst special teams unit in football last season.
There's always room for improvement, though.
Every NFL GM is second-guessed to some degree and Allen is no different. Here are five moves that the Redskins probably should have made this offseason.
Acquired a Full-Time Return Specialist
According to Football Outsiders, the Redskins had the worst average starting field position in the NFL last season (25.32). A key reason for that ineptitude was a lack of stability at punt and kickoff returner.
Newly-signed wide receiver Andre Roberts has been taking reps at punt and kickoff returner this offseason, according to CSNWashington.com's Rich Tandler. Roberts' career numbers returning punts and kicks don't exactly fly off the page. Per Tandler, he's returned 35 punts for an average of 6.9 yards and 16 kickoffs for a 22.4-yard average.
There were opportunities for the Redskins to acquire punt/kick return specialists this offseason. Despite his fumbling issues with the Denver Broncos, Trindon Holliday had three kickoff returns of 40 yards or more and three punt returns of 40 yards or more in 2013. The New York Giants signed him to a one-year, $700,000 deal.
Devin Hester, one of the greatest return men of all time, was another player who was available this offseason. He signed a three-year, $9 million deal with the Atlanta Falcons.
Redskins cornerback Richard Crawford showed flashes of being a dependable returner two seasons ago, but after tearing his ACL last preseason, it's a stretch to expect him to fill that role in 2014.
So for now, it's Roberts—not necessarily a bad thing, just more of the same: uncertainty.
Bolstered the O-Line with Proven Veterans
For as rock solid as Bruce Allen was in filling out the roster this offseason, there was one particular move that had many fans scratching their heads.
The Redskins invested a chunk of money (four years, $17 million) in former Cleveland Browns guard Shawn Lauvao. An ankle injury limited Lauvao to just 11 games in 2013.
Of the 81 guards Pro Football Focus (subscription required) graded in 2013, Lauvao was No. 70. He is projected to start at left guard.
At right guard is the incumbent Chris Chester, who is coming off one of his worst seasons as a pro. His only competition in training camp is third-round draft pick Spencer Long.
Notable free-agent guards this past offseason included Geoff Schwartz (signed with the New York Giants), Jon Asamoah (Atlanta Falcons) and Zane Beadles (Jacksonville Jaguars).
Washington did make an effort to sign seven-year veteran tackle Donald Penn this offseason. Penn likely would have been the Redskins' starting right tackle over Tyler Polumbus this season, but he instead signed with the Oakland Raiders.
Robert Griffin III's health is paramount if Washington is going to have any chance at the playoffs in 2014. Rookie offensive linemen Spencer Long and Morgan Moses are the future, but a ton is riding on the play of Lauvao, Chester and Polumbus.
Drafted Guard David Yankey
Rookie wide receiver Ryan Grant may turn out to be a fine pro, but it's safe to say that the Redskins reached when they drafted him with the second pick in the fifth round.
Going into the 2014 draft, it was thought by many that Yankey was on the same basic level as UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo; we had Yankey 31st overall in our SI 64 pre-draft rankings. But he fell all the way to the fifth round, while the freakishly talented Su'a-Filo went 33rd overall to the Texans. That nine other guards were drafted between Su'a-Filo and Yankey was perhaps the draft's biggest surprise, and it could be a long-term epic win for the Vikings.
Farrar also notes that Yankey has a shot to start this season. Creating running lanes for Adrian Peterson in your rookie season? Pretty impressive.
Instead of adding Grant to an already-loaded wide receiving corps, Washington had an opportunity to pair Yankey with fellow rookie guard Spencer Long. Yankey may lack the size that head coach Jay Gruden finds ideal, but passing on an All-American in the fifth round is questionable.
Who knows what could have been? Maybe nothing. But in the NFL, you can never have enough offensive linemen—especially with so much invested in your franchise quarterback.
Added More Veteran Depth at Cornerback
The Redskins made the right decision by locking in starting cornerback DeAngelo Hall to a four-year deal this offseason, but little else was done to provide veteran depth at the position.
Behind Hall and second-year corner David Amerson is veteran Tracy Porter, formerly of the Oakland Raiders. Porter has had a knack for the big play throughout his career, but he is coming off a season in which he was graded as the 103rd overall corner in the league by Pro Football Focus. Washington signed him to a two-year, $6 million deal.
It gets even thinner behind Porter. Rookie Bashaud Breeland is promising, but green. E.J. Biggers wasn't overly impressive last season. And Richard Crawford didn't play last season due to a torn ACL.
There were cost-effective DB options on the free-agent market this offseason. Walter Thurmond (signed with the New York Giants) and Carlos Rogers (Raiders), for example, both signed smaller deals than Porter.
Still, when you're coming off a 3-13 campaign, not everything can be addressed in one offseason, which is why the secondary could be the Redskins' Achilles' heel in 2014.
Drafted a Defensive Lineman
The average age of Washington's top six defensive linemen in 2014 is 29 years old.
For such a demanding position, that's old.
The Redskins should be able to get by this season by rotating elder statesmen Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen and Jason Hatcher with the younger Chris Baker and Jarvis Jenkins. Still, it was curious that they didn't draft a D-lineman in May.
Had the Redskins stayed put at No. 34 overall, they could have drafted Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman (pictured above), who was selected by the Atlanta Falcons three picks later. They instead opted to trade down and select Stanford outside linebacker Trent Murphy.
Other notable defensive linemen who were drafted later in the second round: Notre Dame's Stephon Tuitt (Pittsburgh Steelers), Florida State's Timmy Jernigan (Baltimore Ravens) and LSU's Ego Ferguson (Chicago Bears).
This offseason, Cofield underwent hernia surgery and didn't participate in OTAs or minicamp. Bowen, too, sat out offseason workouts, still recovering from microfracture surgery on his knee. And just last month, Hatcher underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee.
All three are expected to be available for training camp, but there's a lot of tread on those tires. A rookie may have helped to alleviate some of those miles.