With increasing optimism that the lockout will be resolved over the next few days, it seems that a very frantic free agency period will be upon us sooner rather than later. This being the offseason, various media outlets have “reported” that the Redskins should be expected to make a play for various big name free agents, because that’s what football reporters do. The most notable is of course NFL Network’s Jason LaCanora, who has the Redskins signing about half the league. Many of these reports are obviously mutually exclusive. Nonetheless, let’s look at some of the names that have been brought up and discuss the feasibility of signing them and what impact they could have on the Redskins roster.
DT Aubrayo Franklin (49ers)
As maybe the top 3-4 nose tackles in the league, Franklin is a rather obvious option for a team that struggled in transitioning its defensive scheme in 2010. I don’t doubt his quality. Both Pro Football Focus and Greg Tripieddi point out that he is a classic run stuffer but offers little pass rush, but I am okay with that because as long as he holds his ground I think our ends can pinch the pocket well enough to keep quarterbacks from escaping the edge rushers as easily as last year. After a year of watching Ma’ake Kemoeatu and Kedric Golston on their backs six yards past the line of scrimmage on every running play, I could be talked into a run-first defender.
He’s an outstanding player; the only real problems are that he will be obscenely expensive and 31 years old by the time the season starts. He is, in a lot of ways, the “typical Redskin” free agent signing. And, there is a case to be made that the Redskins just might be able to find decent NT play out of the guys on their roster. Ma’ake was a disaster in 2010, but was pretty clearly bothered by his slower recovery from Achilles surgery and from a fresh shoulder injury. Does he not deserve a chance to show that he can play when healthy? And Anthony Bryant, though he only played in a few games, played well in those games. Second round pick Jarvis Jenkins possibly spending some time at tackle as well as end. Finally, seventh round pick Chris Neild may have been the second to last pick in the draft, but he at least looks like a typical nose tackle and with a nickname like “Truck” he at least needs to be given a chance, right? Because it would be cool to have a NT named Truck, that’s why. All of these guys have serious question marks, but out of these four aren’t we likely to find one decent starter and one decent backup, thus avoiding spending huge money on an older free agent and leaving other needs unfilled? I’m not 100% convinced myself, but there’s a reasonable case to be made for it.
DE Cullen Jenkins
He is the top 3-4 DE on the market, and can both swallow up blockers and break into the backfield to destroy quarterbacks. So he sure is fun to think about, though he is 30 years old. The only real problem with signing him (other than the expense, which will be considerable) is that is will probably necessitate a painful cut on the defensive line. Adam Carriker has (or should have) a lock on the left end job. The coaches like Jeremy Jarmon, and Vonnie Holliday played very well when called upon last year (especially against the pass). Jarvis Jenkins is of course a lock to make the roster as a second round pick, so if Cullen Jenkins takes over the starting RDE job, either Jarmon or Holliday is likely out the door (Philip Daniels may have a hard time sticking regardless of whether or not a free agent is added). Jarmon probably has an advantage due to the age factor, but either way we’re saying goodbye to a guy who can play.
DL Barry Cofield (Giants)
Cofield was mentioned as part of LaCanfora’s spendfest. I call him only “DL” because it’s not immediately clear to me which position he would play. He is considered a nose tackle in the Giants 4-3 defense, but at a “mere” 306 pounds he’s rather light for that job in a 3-4, so I have to at least consider the possibility that he would be considered for end. In a normal offseason he would be signed in February and they might ask him to gain 20 pounds by camp, but this year with Redskins training camp set to open on July 28th that’s obviously not an option.
CB Nnamdi Asomugha (Raiders)
No one really disputes that Nnamdi Asomugha is the best corner in the NFL. But he is a simply terrible fit for the Redskins defense. Jim Haslett, rather notoriously, has his corners play very soft zones and then try to jump routes to create turnovers. Nnamdi, however, has excelled as a press-man corner who smothers his receiver so well that the ball never gets thrown his way in the first place. Plugging Nnamdi into this defense makes about as much sense as trying to make Albert Haynesworth a nose tackle. And his contract would be equally Haynesworthian.
The more reasonable options are the Bengals’ Jonathan Joseph or the Jets’ Antonio Cromartie. Both are highly athletic corners who may be more natural as the playmakers that Haslett seems to prefer. Both have some doubts – Joseph had lingering injuries last year and Cromartie is known for getting sloppy in his technique and has at times been exploited for big plays. Of course Haslett’s defense is designed such that the corners are bound to give up big plays anyway, so jsut maybe that can be overlooked. While the price tag on either of these guys would be reasonable compared to Nnamdi, they would still be expensive as they are considered the second and third best corners available by everyone except Carlos Rogers.
Speaking of Rogers, he seems to be one of those pretty good players who has gotten it in his head that he’s great. It sure seems like he’s as good as gone, because he wants the second biggest CB contract handed out after Asomugha. I’ve always liked Carlos and wouldn’t mind having him back, but it won’t happen with the kind of contract he’s thinking about. The only hope for a return would be if he realizes that he has overestimated his market. If Joseph and Cromartie have already signed, and Rogers’ complete lack of ability to make an interception means the offers are coming in much lower than he expected, then he just may fall back into the Redskins price range. Though I rather doubt that he will be back.
WRs Sidney Rice (Vikings), Santonio Holmes (Jets), Braylon Edwards (Jets)
Any talk of signing free agent receivers is inextricable from the debate on whether or not to resign Santana Moss. As you know by now I am in favor of letting him go as 32 year old speed receivers are generally not a great investment. I am not, however, in favor of letting him go without significantly upgrading the position in free agency.
Sidney Rice is the have-our-cake-and-eat-it-too player – the downfield playmaking ability is there, as is the size (6’4”) that the Redskins have been lacking for so many years. Crucially, he is a mere 24 years old. As such, he will be one of the most expensive players out there. As you know, I think that multiple average starters in areas of need will help the Redskins more than one or two exceptional players, so I am skeptical of Rice in burgundy and gold. But I have to admit that if he does land here it would be difficult not to be excited. The injury concerns are real – he missed much of 2010 with hip problems. And if the contract is so big that it prevents us from filling needs at offensive line or cornerback, his production could be offset by holes elsewhere.
Santonio Holmes is also a simply outstanding player, though without the size/speed combo of Rice (he lacks the size). His talent is undeniable though, and allows him to contribute in any role a WR may need to fill despite his modest size (5’11, 192). But next to Rice he is 1(b) on the receiver market. Fun to imagine… but may rule out upgrading other positions.
Braylon Edwards seems to have come up simply because he is a recongnizable name. But he has been rather mediocre throughout his pro career and still garners press attention because of his college exploits. Granted he has never had an ideal quarterback situation in Cleveland or with the Jets… but the QB situation here wouldn’t be that great either, would it?
I am still sticking to my argument for second or third tier wide receivers that I made back in February. After letting Santana walk we need two new guys – an X receiver (preferably over six feet) and a slot guy – this assumes Anthony Armstrong holds onto the Z/flanker job. There are approximately a million and a half decent slot receivers on the market, the best ones being Steve Smith (Giants), Steve Breaston (Cardinals), and Lance Moore (Saints). These guys are all 26/27 and will still be good several years down the road, which is why they should get the money instead of Santana.
That handles Z and slot, but we need a good possession receiver over on the strong side. Either Rice or Holmes could fill that roll and also add true playmaking ability as a bonus, but if it is determined that their contract demands are unpalatable I would not mind seeing the Redskins go to my old recommendation of Mike Sims-Walker. He is a pretty unexciting guy and I do not pretend otherwise. But he is a solid possession guy with size, and given the sorry state of the receiver position in recent years some boring averageness would be a huge upgrade over Joey Galloway. And given that rookie Leonard Hankerson’s skill set fits this position well, we would even have depth at this position. After the draft I wrote about how Hankerson just might be able to contribute faster than most rookies. I stand by that, but a rookie is still a rookie so any plan that relied upon him as a top 3 guy would worry me.
OL Marshall Yanda (Ravens)
Yanda has played both right guard and right tackle for the Ravens, and played both well. If the Redskins are legitimately interested in him, the next logical question is what position they intend for him to play. The LaCanfora piece indicate he’d be a tackle, with holdover Artis Hicks taking over one guard spot while a free agent fills the other, nonetheless Yanda’s versatility means we can’t be certain.
Despite the rather obvious need along the offensive line, the rather dubious “reports” that have been bombarding us this offseason have been conspicuously lacking in offensive linemen, I assume because it still is not a glamor position and the fun is to link the Redskins with the most high profile names out there. So I am taking it upon myself to suggest a few additional names that could be options:
- OT Doug Free (Dallas)
In general I object to signing anyone who ever showed the thorough lack of moral fiber necessary to allow a blue star to be attached to his helmet, but I could make an exception in this case. Free is rather young and has the quickness and athleticism the Shanahans prize. He has played both left and right tackle, so he could easily slide into the RT spot opposite Trent Williams. Realistically, he is one of the top linemen on the market and will be very expensive. This most likely won’t happen. But Dallas would love to have him as a starter for many more years, and stealing him would absolutely ruin their day. So it would be tempting just out of spite.
- RT Ryan Harris (Denver)
Hogs Haven has been making the case for Harris for some time now, and they may be on to something. He is only a decent player, not great. But he is good enough to be a starter, and of course is very familiar with the offense. At 26 years old, it would make a fair amount of sense to invest in him as a long term starter even if his ceiling is limited.
- OG Evan Mathis (Bengals)
Pro Football Focus has consistently raved about Mathis’ athleticism despite his somewhat limited playing time. That same limited playing time means he should be rather cheap. He has played more at left guard, but has also spent time on the right side. If he can be starter-quality and had for cheap, I say go for it.
- OG Mike Brisiel (Texans)
Injury prone, but a 28 year old free agent who knows the system from his days under Kyle Shanahan.
- OG Justin Blalock (Falcons)
Atlanta has a number of young free agent linemen, and Blalock may be the one they choose to prioritize. If not, he may be one of the better free agent guards available.
Hopefully, the actual free agent market will be occurring soon enough and we can see what happens. Until then… who did I miss?