Positions of Need
You know things are bad at cornerback when you desperately miss DeAngelo Hall, who missed 13 games. Hall isn’t great, but those 3 games he played were the only 3 games the Redskins had anyone resembling an NFL starting cornerback out there. David Amerson has been a massive disappointment a 2013 2nd round pick, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 84th ranked cornerback out of 110 eligible as a part-time player as a rookie and then grading out dead last at his position as a starter this season. Bashaud Breeland was a 4th round rookie and looked the part in 2014, grading out 99th out of 108 eligible. EJ Biggers, a mediocre at best veteran journeyman, was their 3rd cornerback and graded out 102nd at the position, giving them 3 of the worst 10 eligible cornerbacks in the NFL. Biggers is a free agent and should not be welcomed back, while the other two should not be guaranteed playing time. There’s also doubt about whether or not Hall will be back in 2015, going into his age 32 season, owed a non-guaranteed 4 million, coming off of a significant injury. He might be back out of sheer necessity, but, either way, they need to add at least two new cornerbacks to the mix this off-season.
As bad as things were at cornerback, things at safety might be equally bad. Brandon Meriweather and Ryan Clark were the starters last season and both are free agents this off-season. Meriweather has always been pretty mediocre and has missed 29 games over the past 4 seasons combined. Clark, meanwhile, is expected to retire this off-season, rather than play his age 36 season. That’s a good idea, considering he graded out dead last among safeties this year, as age finally caught up to the long-time solid safety. The Redskins will need either one or two new safeties this off-season as they don’t really have any internal options. Their secondary is a complete mess. With limited draft picks because of the RG3 trade, the Redskins couldn’t afford to miss on Amerson, Breeland, Phillip Thomas (2013 4th round), and Bacarri Rambo (2013 6th round) the way they did.
The secondary is the Redskins’ biggest need, but any defensive back might be a reach at #5 (Alabama safety Landon Collins seems like the most logical option if they went that direction). If they can’t trade down, I could definitely see them taking someone like Notre Dame offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley, even though he isn’t a defensive back, as right tackle is a serious need too. The Redskins drafted Morgan Moses in the 3rd round last year, but he barely saw the field as a rookie and struggled mightily when he did, filling in for an injured Trent Williams at left tackle. The Redskins need right tackle help as Tom Compton and Tyler Polumbus both struggled mightily there this season, but 3rd rounders often don’t pan out and the Redskins are in no way married to Moses, as evidenced by the fact that he couldn’t get on the field over Compton and Polumbus. Even if they don’t go right tackle at 5, it’s still one of their bigger needs.
Jason Hatcher was a good pickup in the off-season, as the veteran graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 10th ranked 3-4 defensive end, one of the Redskins’ few good defensive players, but they desperately need help opposite him. Jarvis Jenkins, the other starter, was basically Hatcher’s polar opposite, grading out 3rd worst at his position. He’s a free agent anyway, while veterans Stephen Bowen and Barry Cofield both struggled mightily in limited action last season and are expected to be cap casualties. If Leonard Williams manages to fall to them at 5, I can’t see them passing on him.
Jay Gruden obviously isn’t sold on RG3 long-term, while backups Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy didn’t prove they were anything more than backups this season. McCoy, the better of the two last season, is a free agent anyway. RG3 is their best long-term solution. He was so good in college and as a rookie in 2012 that I’m not ready to give up on him just because he’s had injuries and isn’t an ideal fit for Gruden’s scheme. The Redskins shouldn’t give up on him either and should instead tailor their offense to fit his skill set better, the way Shanahan did in 2012. The Redskins will almost definitely add competition at some point this off-season though.
Keenan Robinson and Perry Riley were Pro Football Focus’ 44th and 48th ranked middle linebackers out of 60 eligible in 2014, so they could add competition at this position. The Redskins really like Riley and he has a long-term deal, so he’s kind of locked in to a starting job, but getting someone to push Robinson, a 2012 4th round pick and a first year starter in 2014, isn’t a bad idea.
Roy Helu is a free agent this off-season and, if he leaves, they’ll need a new pass catching running back. Jay Gruden really likes having a running back he can trust in pass protection and as a pass catcher and that’s what Helu was. As good as Alfred Morris is as a runner, he’s not that type of player and he’s strictly a two-down running back.
Key Free Agents
OLB Brian Orakpo
Orakpo was Pro Football Focus’ 4th ranked 3-4 outside linebacker in 2013 and was franchised tagged as a result. However, Orakpo ended up missing 9 games with a torn pectoral in 2014, the 3rd time in his career that he’s torn his pectoral in his career. Now he hits free agency again having missed 24 of 48 games over the past 3 seasons with torn pectorals. He’s very talented when he’s on the field; in addition to his strong 2013, the 2009 1st round pick also ranked 7th at his position in 2011. However, injuries will put a big buyer beware stamp on him this off-season. The Redskins don’t seem like they’re going to bring him back, opting to move forward with Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy.
S Brandon Meriweather
Meriweather made two Pro-Bowls in New England, but, as they tend to be, the Patriots were right to release him before the 2011 season. In 4 years since the Patriots have let him go, he’s missed 29 games and the only season he graded out above average was his 2012 season, which lasted just 1 game. Sadly, he’s the Redskins’ best safety, so they’ll probably try to bring him back this off-season, but he’s barely starting caliber.
TE Niles Paul
Niles Paul was a 5th round pick of the Redskins’ in 2011 and turning the big bodied wide receiver into a pass catching tight end was always kind of a pet project of Mike Shanahan’s. Ironically, Paul didn’t really produce until this year, when Jay Gruden came in. Paul caught 39 passes for 507 yards and a touchdown on 280 routes run, largely in the absence of oft injured tight end Jordan Reed. The 6-1 241 pounder predictably struggles as a run blocker (62nd out of 67 eligible in that aspect this season), but has a role in the league as a #2 move tight end.
RB Roy Helu
Roy Helu only has 255 carries in 4 seasons since the Redskins drafted him in the 4th round in 2011, but he’s averaged 4.44 yards per carry and where he really provides value is as a 3rd down back. In 48 career games, Helu has 129 catches for 1152 yards and 3 touchdowns and he’s been a top-5 pass blocking running back in 2 of the 4 seasons he’s been in the league. In a league that’s becoming increasingly pass heavy, Helu will have plenty of suitors for a backup job this off-season.
QB Colt McCoy
McCoy, a 2010 3rd round pick, was on his 3rd NFL team this year in Washington. He drew a few starts, but once again showed what’s been clear for his whole career, dating back to his time at the University of Texas, that he isn’t anything more than an NFL backup. He’s completed 60.3% of his passes for an average of 6.57 YPA, 25 touchdowns, and 23 interceptions in the NFL. He’ll sign with someone as a backup this off-season.
DE Jarvis Jenkins
Jenkins was yet another draft pick that didn’t work out by the Redskins over the past few years. After missing his entire rookie year with injury, the 2011 2nd round pick graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 23rd ranked 3-4 defensive end out of 34 eligible in 2012, 35th out of 45 eligible in 2013, and 45th out of 47 eligible in 2014. He’s a backup at best and shouldn’t draw much attention on the open market.
OT Tyler Polumbus
Polumbus was randomly Pro Football Focus’ 18th ranked offensive tackle in 2013, but he’s generally been a very poor right tackle for the Redskins. Despite making just 7 starts, he was Pro Football Focus’ 62nd ranked offensive tackle out of 84 eligible in 2014. In 2012, he ranked 77th out of 80 eligible and, in 2011, no one played fewer snaps than his 216 and graded out worse. He shouldn’t be a starter next season.
S Ryan Clark
Clark was a solid safety in Pittsburgh for a number of years, grading out 22nd, 21st, 19th, 24th, 9th, and 45th among safeties in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 respectively, but age finally caught up to him this season, as he graded out dead last at his position. He’ll turn 36 in 2015 and it sounds like he’s going to hang them up, rather than giving another NFL season a try. Even if he doesn’t retire, he might not get any offers.
CB EJ Biggers
Biggers, a 2009 7th round pick, has been in the NFL for 6 years and has only once graded out above average. Some of his bad seasons have been pretty bad as he graded out 107th out of 109 eligible cornerbacks in 2011, 80th out of 86 eligible safeties in 2013, and 102nd out of 108 eligible cornerbacks in 2014. Biggers is a fringe NFL talent and may have run out of chances.
Cap Casualty Candidates
DE Stephen Bowen
Bowen signed 5-year, 27.5 million dollar deal 4 years ago, but hasn’t really lived up to it. He’s graded out below average in all 4 seasons. He was Pro Football Focus’ 27th ranked 3-4 defensive end out of 32 eligible in 2011 and their 26th ranked 3-4 defensive end out of 34 eligible in 2012. He hasn’t graded out quite as low in the last 2 seasons, but that’s mostly because he’s missed 14 games over those 2 seasons combined with injuries. Going into his age 31 season, with serious injury problems, there’s almost no chance the Redskins bring him back at his scheduled 5.5 million dollar non-guaranteed salary. They can save all that money on the cap immediately by letting him go.
CB Tracy Porter
Porter had a pick six in the Super Bowl during the 2009 season, but his career has gone severely downhill since then. He was Pro Football Focus’ 106th ranked cornerback out of 110 eligible in 2013 with Oakland and 91st out of 109 eligible in 2011 with New Orleans, with an injury plagued season in Denver in between (316 snaps in 6 seasons). Still, the Redskins gave him a 2-year, 6 million dollar deal last off-season, but he played just 89 snaps this season, thanks to injuries and poor performance. Cutting him, to save 2.8 million in cash and cap space, should be a no brainer.
DT Barry Cofield
Cofield was signed the same off-season as Bowen and he too has been a disappointment. Signed to a 6-year, 36 million dollar deal, Cofield has graded out above average in just 1 of 4 seasons. He hasn’t been as bad as Bowen, but he’s going into his age 31 season in 2015 and missed 8 games last season with injuries, so the Redskins could easily cut him to save 5 million in cash and 4.1225 million in cap space.
DE Kedric Golston
Kedric Golston has graded out below average in every season he’s been in the league since 2006, with his worst years coming in 2008 (66th out of 86 eligible defensive tackles), 2010 (37th out of 42 eligible 3-4 defensive ends), and 2013 (40th out of 45 eligible 3-4 defensive ends). On top of that, this year he would have been the fifth worst 3-4 defensive end if he played enough snaps to qualify. No one played fewer snaps and graded out worse. Coming off of a year in which he played 182 snaps and going into his age 32 season, he’s pretty useless and the Redskins can save 1.1 million on the cap and in cash. There’s a good chance they let him go and his career is over.
CB DeAngelo Hall
Two off-seasons ago, DeAngelo Hall was cut from his large contract by the Redskins and brought back on a cheap one-year deal worth about a million dollars. It made sense. He was going into his age 30 season and had graded out below average on Pro Football Focus in 4 of his last 5 seasons, dating back to 2008. The only season he graded out above average was 2010. In 2011, he was Pro Football Focus’ 67th ranked cornerback out of 109 eligible and in 2012 he was 64th out of 115 eligible. He struggled again in 2013, grading out 85th out of 110 eligible and, last off-season, going into his age 31 season, I thought he’d have to settle for another cheap one year deal on the open market. I guess the Redskins had different idea as they gave him a 4-year, 17 million dollar deal. Hall proceeded to struggle in limited action and then tear his Achilles. The Redskins can save 4 million in cash by cutting him this off-season. It would only free up 2.375 million on the cap immediately, but he’d be completely off their cap in 2016 and they’d avoid salaries of 4.25 million in 2016 and 2017. However, with the Redskins as thin as they are at cornerback, I expect they’ll bring him back, even as a player going into his age 32 season coming off of a torn Achilles.