Washington Redskins: Top 10 Free Agents to Target After the '10 Season

Matthew Brown@mlb923Correspondent IDecember 10, 2010

Washington Redskins: Top 10 Free Agents to Target After the '10 Season

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    NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 21:  Coach Mike Shanahan of the Washington Redskins watches his team against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on November 21, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Redskins won 19-16 in overtime.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Image
    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    The Washington Redskins have once again failed their fans with another mediocre season after supposedly making so many wholesale improvements over the offseason.

    The season still has four games left, but the Redskins need start evaluating the talent they have while looking around the league for talent they can get. With plenty of positions in need of an upgrade, Washington may be very active during free agency in 2011.

    With better talent evaluation and Daniel Snyder leaving the football decisions to football minds, this won't be a repeat of the 2006 free agent spree.

    The Redskins will have some decisions to make in terms of who they promote from the practice squad to extend contract offers to on their own roster, but they should certainly have their eyes on some of the available talent. With the season still going on, there are still players in the midst of playing for their next contract and teams still looking to maintain their current talent.

    Even so, Washington can be vigilant in monitoring the free agents to-be and with any luck will get one or two of these guys for the cause.

Daniel Sepulveda, Punter, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 7: Daniel Sepulveda #9 of the Pittsburgh Steelers punts the ball during the NFL game against the Seattle Seahawks at Heinz Field October 7, 2007 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers won 21-0. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    The Redskins can't keep digging Hunter Smith out of free agency to save their woeful punting. Smith is averaging just 40.7 yards per punt on 52 punts.

    Field position is one of many aspects of the game that Washington doesn't excel at, and Daniel Sepulveda could be the solution to their longstanding problem.

    He is averaging 45.5 yards per punt with a career average of 43.4 yards per punt and is just 26 years old compared to Smith at a weathered 33.

    Sepulveda is likely to be the hottest commodity among punters, whatever that is worth, but would be a sound investment considering his age and continued improvement. He owes some of his success to the special teams play of the Steelers, allowing just 8.6 yards per punt return on 23 returns.

    The Redskins have not had the best of luck with punters, with their 2008 draft pick Durant Brooks lasting all of one month with the team.

    Field position is important for teams to take pressure off the defense, and Sepulveda has had plenty of experience doing just that for the Steelers.

Mike Sims-Walker, Wide Receiver, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 31:  Wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker #11 of the Jacksonville Jaguars celebrates a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys in the first quarter at Cowboys Stadium on October 31, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    It is no secret that the Redskins are hurting for playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, and the wide receiver position is particularly desperate. Santana Moss is not getting any younger, Anthony Armstrong is still progressing and Malcolm Kelly's fate is far from certain.

    They are projected by some to take a receiver in next year's draft but could find an experienced upgrade just as easily in free agency.

    Mike Sims-Walker is the big target that would serve as the perfect complement to Moss' slot game and Armstrong's big play ability.

    As the biggest playmaker for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sims-Walker is 6'2" and 214 lbs. He emerged last season with 63 catches for 869 yards and seven touchdowns. At just 26 years of age, Sims-Walker has voiced some frustration with the Jaguars and is likely to seek better pay and a better environment than Jacksonville. Even with his numbers dipping this season, Donovan McNabb is still an appealing quarterback for receivers with big play potential.

    Sims-Walker is looking for a way out of Jacksonville but doesn't have the career numbers to demand a big contract. The Redskins could get him for a good price unless the Jaguars line his pockets with enough cash to make him overlook how terrible the team is.

Barry Cofield, Defensive Tackle, New York Giants

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 16:  Joe Flacco #5  of the Baltimore Ravens scrambles as Barry Cofield #96 of the New York Giants gives chase during their game on November 16, 2008 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    The transition to the 3-4 has not been an easy one for the Redskins defense, and much of the problem is the lack of players who fit the system.

    The defensive line has been gouged by opponents on the ground and failed to take up space and open lanes for pass rushers to get to the quarterback. Vonnie Holliday has been a good placeholder at defensive end, but the need to improve is apparent.

    Consider that Barry Cofield is just 26 and would be a powerful player at the physically demanding defensive end position.

    Adam Carriker has played well from the left side, but the right defensive end position has been lacking despite Holliday's unexpected play. Cofield is a 4-3 defensive tackle but is great at getting a strong push on the line. Moving him to defensive end in the 3-4 scheme is not that big of a difference, and he isn't likely to be the pain that Albert Haynesworth has proven to be.

    The Giants have a lot of defensive linemen at their disposal but would be remiss to allow Cofield and his 9.5 sacks from the DT spot to just walk away.

Deuce Lutui, Guard, Arizona Cardinals

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    GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 16:  Guard Deuce Lutui of the Arizona Cardinals #63 in a three-point stance against the Seattle Seahawks at University of Phoenix Stadium on September 16, 2007 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Cardinals defeated the Seahawks 23-20. (Pho
    Kevin Terrell/Getty Images

    The longest standing problem with the Washington Redskins next to lacking a franchise quarterback has been the abysmal offensive line play. At its best, the line boasted Pro Bowl tackle Chris Samuels, the "Rock" Jon Jansen and Randy Thomas. At its worst, the line has started Stephon Heyer, Todd Wade and Pete Kendall.

    Though Trent Williams is the future of the line at left tackle, it hasn't stopped the interior of the offensive line from decaying rapidly over the last few years.

    Enter Cardinal Deuce Lutui, who is looking to get paid for his experience and skill at the guard position.

    With Mike Shanahan, it has come to matter less and less who is blocking and more how they are blocking within the zone blocking scheme. That being said, the loss of Mike Williams before the season, the poor play of Artis Hicks in season and the weird rotation of Derrick Dockery and Kory Lichtensteiger has decimated whatever chemistry may have been present to start the season.

    Lutui has started 68 games for the Cardinals over five years and has proven to be plenty durable over his career. The Redskins are hurting along the line, and the ability to stop interior pressure is at a premium.

    Lutui has had the rotten luck of playing for the Cardinals, who have done nothing without Kurt Warner, and was on the verge of holding out before signing his one-year tender. He may look to seek greener pastures in free agency, and the Redskins would do well to pursue him. Unless they intend to promote Erik Cook from the practice squad or Williams returns healthy next season, they are going to need someone to strengthen the offensive line in a big way.

    At 6'4", 338, Lutui does just that.

Richard Marshall, Cornerback, Carolina Panthers

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 24:  Richard Marshall #31 of the Carolina Panthers against the San Francisco 49ers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on October 24, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Washington's secondary has been under severe scrutiny for much of this season. Aside from DeAngelo Hall's interceptions and LaRon Landry tackling everything that moves, no one has really stood out for anything positive.

    Phillip Buchanon has proven he cannot handle the starting job, and Carlos Rogers continues to drop every interception that hits his hands.

    With Rogers' inconsistency, recent injury history and age (29), the Redskins need to consider the free agent market for an upgrade at the corner position.

    Richard Marshall is in his fifth year, which is one fewer than Rogers, and is just 25 years old. In his career, he has intercepted 13 passes. The Panthers are in rebuild mode and won't part with Marshall so easily. However, if the Redskins want to improve their 19th-ranked pass defense, it would go a long way to have a corner who can catch the ball when it hits him in the hands.

    Beyond his playmaking ability, Marshall has shown to be a willing and able tackler, which would be necessary if he were to come to Washington. Marshall sticks to his man and makes tackles and could be the man to replace Rogers, who, despite being a coach favorite, is on his way out.

    Marshall also has 41 pass deflections for his career, which in itself is a boost to playmaking in the secondary. If he can put the ball in the air, other defenders can get their hands on the ball, and that is an invaluable talent.

Ryan Kalil, Center, Carolina Panthers

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    OAKLAND - NOVEMBER 9:  Ryan Kalil #67 of the Carolina Panthers walks on the field during the game against the Oakland Raiders at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on November 9, 2008 in Oakland, California. (Photo by: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    While he is the longest-tenured member of the Washington Redskins offensive line, Casey Rabach's level of play has quickly declined.

    Whether it is a drop in his performance or a mix of failures of those around him, Rabach is not playing well at all. The interior of the offensive line has been particularly weak for Washington, and he is a big part of that problem.

    The best available center projected for free agency is Ryan Kalil of the Carolina Panthers.

    The biggest issue Rabach has created stems from stepping on Donovan McNabb's foot on several occasions. Looking at replays, it isn't a matter of McNabb not getting from under center quick enough, but Rabach taking too deep of a first step. There is no logical reason for him to do so, as it only gives the defender more space to beat the block. He has been a solid starter since 2005 but is showing his age in a big way.

    Kalil, on the other hand is 25, and heading for his second consecutive Pro Bowl appearance.

    Kalil is more compact at 6'2" than Rabach at 6'4" but is listed at 295 to Rabach's 288 lbs. He is closer to the ideal size for a center and is an upgrade in almost every way over Rabach. He won't come cheap, and Rabach did just sign a three-year extension in March, but Rabach has been on the injury report a few times this season.

Tamba Hali, Linebacker, Kansas City Chiefs

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    SEATTLE - NOVEMBER 28:  Linebacker Tamba Hali #91 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates after recovering a fumble on a sack of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck of the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field on November 28, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Gr
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Washington has seen its defense give up the most yards in the NFL and produce just 22 sacks. Andre Carter has not taken well to his second stint as a stand-up linebacker, producing two sacks this season and ultimately losing his starting job to Lorenzo Alexander.

    While Alexander is a good enough player, he isn't quick enough to keep contain on run plays and is a liability in coverage.

    Tamba Hali was made for the 3-4 and has 18.5 sacks over the last two seasons to prove it.

    Hali is a former first-round pick for the Kansas City Chiefs who has been a consistent pass rusher despite producing just three sacks in 2008. Hali is great at forcing fumbles, with 17 for his career, and is a good tackler. He has adjusted well to being a stand-up linebacker, an adjustment that is not so easily made with most teams favoring the 4-3 defense over the 3-4.

    With Brian Orakpo on one side and Hali on the other, the Redskins would have one of the most formidable pass-rushing duos in the NFL—a duo that would rival LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison in Pittsburgh.

    Before we get ahead of ourselves, consider that Kansas City is a team on the rise and Hali is an integral part of their defense. Contract talks have been ongoing between Hali and the Chiefs, but each sack he tallies is another bit of leverage in Hali's favor and gives him more reason to seek a new team to compensate him properly.

Antonio Cromartie, Cornerback, New York Jets

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 19:  Antonio Cromartie #31 of the New York Jets in action against the New England Patriots during their  game on September 19, 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium  in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty I
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    One of the more appealing options in free agency is the ball-hawking corner Antonio Cromartie of the New York Jets.

    His ability to catch the ball is something the Redskins sorely lack in Carlos Rogers, and he has the build to be a physical corner. Having a knack for creating turnovers is something the Redskins, and every other NFL team, need.

    The biggest issue would be prying him away from his cushy job alongside Darrelle Revis, but having been around for the whole season and outperforming Revis could go a long way to deciding his fate.

    Cromartie has proven to be a versatile player, with the body of a safety and the skills of a corner, but he could find great opportunity in Washington. He may be drawn by the money, but being a corner in a 3-4 defense has suited him well during his time with San Diego and New York. The Redskins would have security at corner that neither Rogers nor Phillip Buchanon has offered this season.

    The risk of signing Cromartie is having two corners who jump routes more than they should.

    With Cromartie and DeAngelo Hall, opposing offenses would be compelled to shy away from the pass—and if teams don't pass on Washington, they typically haven't scored.

    He is a big name, and Washington has had bad luck with big name free agents.

    On the bright side, Cromartie is just 26 years old and is the furthest thing from overrated that you can get with a free agent corner.

Shawne Merriman, Linebacker, San Diego Chargers/Buffalo Bills

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    SAN DIEGO - SEPTEMBER 19:  Linebacker Shawne Merriman #56 of the San Diego Chargers waits on the line of scrimmage against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Qualcomm Stadium on September 19, 2010 in San Diego, California. The Chargers won 38-13.  (Photo by Step
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Shawne Merriman began his NFL career with a bang but has since seen injuries claim most of the last three seasons.

    With just four sacks in the last three years, and being claimed off waivers by the Bills, Merriman could see his market value at an all-time low if Buffalo declines to offer him a contract.

    If he does become a free agent, the Redskins could get him for next to nothing and get one of the best pass rushers in the NFL.

    Injuries and steroid allegations aside, Merriman is a talented player. He has come upon a rough patch in his career but isn't the type to call it quits. He tallied 39.5 sacks in his first three years with the Chargers and is just as capable of being that player again if given the proper guidance. It is a case of taking a risk for a tremendous reward, and Merriman is an experienced 3-4 linebacker with a ton of upside.

    Andre Carter is just about done in Washington, and as much as Lorenzo Alexander has done, he is just a placeholder.

    Merriman is just as likely to continue his run of bad luck by signing with the Bills. He is also from DC and may see a return home as a chance for redemption. He may not be the most loved player in the NFL, but who wouldn't want to see the "Lights Out" dance every week?

Haloti Ngata, Defensive End/Nose Tackle, Baltimore Ravens

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    PITTSBURGH - JANUARY 18:  Haloti Ngata #92 of the Baltimore Ravens reacts after he recorded a sack against Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the AFC Championship game on January 18, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. St
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    The Baltimore Ravens, along with the Pittsburgh Steelers, are the model by which all other 3-4 defenses are measured—in which case Washington falls well short of their mark due to a complete lack of personnel.

    A big reason for the inconsistency the Redskins have shown on defense is their defensive line. Success in the 3-4 is predicated upon the front three taking up space, occupying blockers and making plays if the opportunity arises.

    The Redskins don't have their space eater, and Haloti Ngata is just about the best there is at wreaking havoc in the 3-4 scheme.

    Ngata is a versatile player even at 6'4" and 350 lbs. but is the ideal player for Washington to find success in the 3-4. He has played at both nose tackle and defensive end for the Ravens and excelled at both. He can push the pile, take on double teams and still make plays in the backfield. If he makes it to the free agent market, the Redskins should dedicate all of their resources towards wooing the big man.

    The Ravens would be stupid to let Ngata get away, but with rookie Ndamukong Suh getting $68 million with $40 million guaranteed, they are going to have to dig deep.

    The best part about Ngata is that he won't cry about being asked to do his job like Albert Haynesworth. Isn't that simple fact worth pursuing Ngata?