2014 Team Needs: Washington Redskins
The 2012 Washington Redskins surpassed expectations, winning their division for the first time since 1999. Unfortunately, that playoff berth only resulted in a one-and-done loss and, more importantly, a serious knee injury for their talented rookie QB, Robert Griffin.
The consequences of that injury were naturally felt the next season as it was obvious to everyone that Griffin, who was the Week 1 starter despite playing no preseason snaps after surgery, was not the same. The defense was also culpable in a season that ended with just three wins, and none against divisional opponents. There was plenty of off-the field drama as well.
Once again change has come to Washington as Mike Shanahan was unsurprisingly fired and replaced with rookie head coach Jay Gruden, the former Bengals’ offensive coordinator. They are still without a first-round draft pick from the Griffin trade with the Rams and have many holes to fill, but which are the biggest?
Potential Cap Casualties
Fortunately for the Redskins, the two-year salary cap penalty (which many felt was unjustified) that tied their hands in free agency is over. That is not to say there aren’t some players whose release could help them. Here are some suggestions via contract data provided by overthecap.com.
– They could save nearly $3 million by releasing DE Adam Carriker. Due to injuries, he has only played in one full game in the last two seasons.
– Right Guard Chris Chester had a great 2012 season (+15.2 overall), but last year was a different story. He was by far the worst pass-protecting lineman on Washington’s roster, and the Redskins could save over $2.5 million by looking elsewhere.
– Ex-Cowboy Stephen Bowen has arguably not lived up to his contract in the three years he’s been in Washington. He also suffered a season-ending injury in Week 11 last year. The Redskins could save nearly $2 million by releasing him.
The group patrolling Washington’s back-end last year (and playing at least 340 snaps) were long-tenured Redskin Reed Doughty, free agent E.J. Biggers (playing out of his natural position at corner), Brandon Meriweather, and rookie Baccarri Rambo. Their combined overall grade of -40.5 tells you all you need to know about their weekly struggles in both run defense and coverage, categories which all four earned ‘red’ grades for. Doughty, Biggers, and Meriweather are all currently scheduled to become free agents.
Free agent fix: Chris Clemons would be a welcome addition, and should be less expensive than some of the other more prominent players. His performance against the run last season was below average (-3.6), but he performed well in coverage (+7.2 after a +2.9 2012 season). That is crucial for a true free safety and desperately needed in Washington’s secondary.
The right side of the Redskins’ defensive front five is going to change at least a little bit — both Brian Orakpo and back-up Rob Jackson (who was thrown into a starting role in 2012 when Orakpo was injured in the second game of the year) are set to be free agents, as is backup journeyman Darryl Tapp (-1.6 overall in 86 snaps). Brandon Jenkins, a fifth round pick in 2013, is still quite unproven, playing only 41 snaps his rookie year.
Free agent fix: Keep Brian Orakpo, whether it’s with a new long-term deal or the franchise tag. Most of the big-name edge defenders in this free agency class operate in a 4-3 (Michael Bennett, Greg Hardy, Michael Johnson to name a few) and, while one of them could possibly fit in a 3-4 scheme, why go that route? Keeping Orakpo, who’s spent the last four years in Jim Haslett’s scheme and has improved in run defense and coverage, just seems to make the most sense.
Yet another hole the Redskins find in their defense is at inside linebacker. London Fletcher retired after an underappreciated career, and Perry Riley is set to become a free agent. Journeyman Nick Barnett, who provided relief snaps to Fletcher (mostly) and Riley, is also an impending FA, and struggled in limited snaps anyway. There’s also fourth-round 2012 pick Keenan Robinson, who didn’t play a snap last year due to injury.
Free agent fix: First, like Orakpo, re-signing Perry Riley should be a priority. He did end up with an unenviable -12.4 overall grade, but did earn a ‘green’ grade in three of the last six contests and provided adequate pass rush (three sacks, five hits and 12 hurries). It has been said that Riley, who’s held a starting spot in the middle since Week 10 of 2011, is the heir to Fletcher; if that is true, he will certainly be re-signed. That still leaves another spot to fill, unless they are willing to trust Robinson with it; even then, they’ll need to find depth in the draft or free agency.
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