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Washington Redskins Free Agency Preview (2014)

Redskins Hand out new Jersey Numbers

Redskins Free Agency Preview

The Washington Redskins haven’t had a normal free-agency in years. In 2010 every team in the NFL was readying itself for the impending lockout so no long term deals were truly on the table and new head coach (at that time) Mike Shanahan was still having to deal with the contracts he inherited when he took on the job, including that of Albert Haynesworth.

2010 ultimately became the year the Redskins dumped tons of money from bad contracts into what the NFL said was an “uncapped” year, of course everyone knows how that turned out. In 2011 the NFL lock out occurred and no real free-agency period was ever truly had. In 2012 the Redskins planned on making splashes all over the place until literally hours before free agency was set to open the NFL hit the franchise with a $36 million dollar salary cap penalty for dumping the contracts into the “uncapped” year (which still is confusing but whatever)…the Redskins were able to reach deals with Josh Morgan and Pierre Garcon (seemingly deals made before they knew of the impending penalty’s). In 2013 the Redskins were unable to sign any meaningful players to fill the massive needs they had due to having no cap money at all, it was actually surprising they were able to return 21 of 22 starters from the year before.

What the last few years have done to the Redskins is make them rely on the draft for certain needs or just plain do without. The issue that raises is that Washington now has several expired contracts and holes all over the roster. With approximately $22 million left to spend (after tagging Brian Orakpo) it’s obvious the Redskins will not be able to fill all their needs through free agency, what they can do though is focus on getting 3-6 new players who can contribute at the right price.

List of needs for the Redskins heading into 2014:

  • Inside Linebacker (may need 2 if Perry Riley does not sign)
  • Defensive Tackle (Nose Tackle)
  • Wide Receiver (Need 2)
  • Right Tackle
  • Safety
  • Center
  • Cornerback
  • Punter

Now keep in mind that the draft will have to provide a couple of players as well as Washington does NOT have enough salary cap space to sign a top player to fill each of these needs. I’ve comprised a list of potential free agents the Redskins may pursue. I’ve asked Steve Shoup from fanspeak.com to help me out with the current market numbers of these players since that is one of his many specialties, and his opinion on each of their market value.

Safety

The Redskins made the best of the situation they had in front of them a year ago without a first round pick and managed to draft Phillip Thomas in the 4th round and Bacarri Rambo in the 6th round. While I’m not ready to give up on either of those players, the Redskins need to have improvement of the safety unit on their mind since the position has not been filled effectively since Sean Taylor was murdered some 6 years ago. The fact that Brandon Meriweather won’t be returning means this will be a position the Redskins have to address.

Jarius Byrd: 5 years $45 million 50% guaranteed

-Byrd wants to be the highest paid safety in the league and i think it happens. Not only is he arguably one of the most talented safeties, but the cap saw a big jump and the future looks good.

Donte Whitner: 5 years $38.5 million, 40% guaranteed
-Whitner will come in under his former teammate Goldson, but I think he gets a big deal.
T.J. Ward: 5 years $37.5 million, 45% guaranteed
-Ward is 2 years younger than Whitner and arguably just as good or better, but Whitner is more high profile playing for SF and that could be enough to give him some extra money. I think Ward though will get a higher percentage guaranteed though given the youth.
Chris Clemons: 4 years $18 million, 40% guaranteed
-Ideally it would be structured so nearly all the guaranteed money is paid in the first two years so the team could easily get out of it after year two if Clemons has shown any sign of decline.

Mike Mitchell: 5 years $25 million, 35% guaranteed

-Mitchell is a tough guy to figure his market, b/c a year ago he was considered a major draft bust and nothing more than a back-up/ST player. Now though given his good year and young age he’s considered one of the better safeties on the market. I think he gets a good middle deal in the $5-6 million a year range. The guarantee will probably be on the low side considering he’s basically a one year wonder at this point and did his damage as a part of a top defense.

My Take

I believe Byrd and Whitner both will be too pricey for the Redskins, but still worth a hard look none the less, in a perfect world where money is no issue there is no question that Byrd would be the guy. Ward and Mitchell both worry me a little bit being as much of their market value is based solely on their performance last year but at the same time players often have break out seasons and roll on from that point in their career.

Offensive Line

OT Anthony Collins: 5 years $31.25, 35% guaranteed
-This would be low end LT money and top end RT money (top 5). The guarantee should be lower since he doesn’t have as extensive of a track record. Also it will ideally be structured so the team can get out of the deal fairly easily after 3 years.
OT/OG Rodger Saffold: 5 years $31.25, 40% guaranteed
-Saffold doesn’t want to play RT so this could be an issue. He’s definitely a better player at guard an if he can convince teams he’s healthy it should help his market (guards make more than RT’s). His market is one of the toughest to predict because he’s missed so much time the last 3 years (17 games over that time frame).

My Take

Either of these guys would offer an improvement on the offensive line for the Redskins. Collins played for new head coach Jay Gruden while in Cincinnati so he seems a front runner but will gather a lot of interest elsewhere as well. Saffold has versatility being able to play guard or tackle but has injury concerns as well.

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