A Plan for the Redskins in Free Agency

What follows is my plan in free agency for the Washington Redskins.  My stated goal for the offseason is to increase competition at critical positions, and to add talent to key areas of the team, without significantly altering the team’s strong financial position.  That means a similar approach to the 2011 offseason, except with no poor contracts.

How does this plan differ from the actual Redskins plan?  My plan takes a more serious approach to fixing the defense in free agency than the actual Redskins plan will because it acknolodges that by the end of the 2011 season, the offense had surpassed the defense.

Expected points for the Redskins defense in 2011:

-Prior to Week 5 Bye: +28.78 XP
-Following Week 5 Bye: -49.39 XP

Expected points for Redskins offense in 2011:

-First 12 games: -62.90 XP
-Final 4 games: +19.38 XP

The Redskins were a bad team for about eight games of last year, a good team for the first two, and an average team for the remaining six.  But while the offense took a beating for it’s performance last year, it overcame injury and some suspect coaching to be a productive unit by the end of the season.

This will shock you though: by the expected points measure of success, the Redskins defense in 2011 was worse following the bye then it was in the 2010 season.  With the exception of a couple of exceptional games to start the year driven by Ryan Kerrigan’s immediate impact, the Redskins defense actually got worse in 2011.

So the focus of free agency need not be the offensive line (contractually, the Redskins are sort of hamstrung there anyway).  It need not be wide receiver (they need a playmaker, and there are plenty in the draft).  There will be a QB signing in here (in preparation of getting Robert Griffin, the Redskins will save their resources for other positions in the draft if they fail).

March 2 Salary Cap Room: $30.41 million

Releases

DeAngelo Hall – $5.8 million net cap gain
John Beck – $0.6 million net cap gain
Reed Doughty – $0.8 million net cap gain
Mike Sellers – $0.55 million net cap gain

Total net cap gain from releases: $7.75 million
Cap situation after releases: $38.16 million

Re-signings

LaRon Landry 5 years – $35 million ($15 million guaranteed) – The Redskins are probably going to let LaRon Landry walk in a very weak safety market, and with the exception of one guy who I will advocate signing below, there’s just no one who can replace him.  DeJon Gomes profiles a lot better as an injury handcuff for Landry then he does as a starting safety in the NFL right now.

It’s really hard to understand the Redskins actual logic with Landry, outside to say that when you don’t separate your GM and Coach, then the frustrations that plague the on-field operation with a player who can’t stay healthy end up forcing irrational decisions during the offseason.  Landry, when active (not even when healthy — when active), is the best defensive player on the Redskins.  That’s with all due respect to London Fletcher, the team MVP because he never misses a snap.  Look at the numbers above if you needed more proof of this.

2012 cap number: $5.25 million

Adam Carriker 4 years – $16 million ($8 million guaranteed) – Jeremy Zuttah is an offensive player, but one of similar stature in this league to Carriker, and that’s the deal he signed.  Carriker can probably expect to get something similar.

2012 cap number: $3 million

Tim Hightower 2 years – $5 million ($1 million guaranteed)

2012 cap number: $1.5 million

Phillip Buchanon 1 year – $930,000

2012 cap number – $930,000

Rex Grossman 1 year – $1.75 million (including $500,000 roster bonus in April/non-guaranteed $1.25 million salary) - I do like Brady Quinn as a backup if the team decides to end it’s relationship with Grossman.

2012 cap number: $1.75 million

Byron Westbrook 1 year – $640,000

2012 cap number: $640,000

No London Fletcher?  Well, I think the sides should have been intelligent enough to come to agreement before the end of the season.  At this point, a three year extension for Fletcher would not solve the problem it could have prevented back in October.  The Redskins should keep their options open with Fletcher, but a three year deal exceeding $20 million in total value makes a lot less sense now that the Redskins can test the FA market.  The Redskins should sign his ‘replacement’ while remaining open to bringing Fletcher back.

Cap cost to remaining projected resignings: $10.82 million
Remaining cap room after projected resignings: $27.34 million

Signings

Geno Hayes (25), LB, Tampa Bay Bucs 5 years, $20 million ($12 million guaranteed) – This is the guy who the Redskins should target to replace London Fletcher at the MLB position, a guy who Bruce Allen drafted in Tampa Bay, played for Redskins DB coach Raheem Morris, and who had a promising first three years before struggling along with the rest of the Bucs defense last season.

2012 cap number: $3.1 million

Erin Henderson (26) LB, Minnesota Vikings 4 years, $18.5 million ($6.5 million guaranteed) – This prospective signing is one that would be targeted should the efforts to re-sign London Fletcher fall through.  Would compete with Perry Riley at the JLB position.  More mobile, less injury prone, but also far less proven than current teammate and fellow Terrapin, and brother, E.J.

2012 cap number: $4.05 million

Dwight Lowery (26) FS, Jacksonville Jaguars 5 years, $ 27 million ($12.5 million guaranteed) – Would compete to start over O.J. Atogwe.  Gives the Redskins great flexibility in their dime package because he can cover the slot receiver man to man and allows Atogwe to play in sub packages, justifying his roster spot.  Of all available free agents, Lowery makes the most sense for the Redskins.

2012 cap number: $6.5 million

Tim Jennings (29) CB, Chicago Bears 1 year, $2.25 million ($500,000 roster bonus in June) – Not a particularly important part of the defensive puzzle, but in the scenario outlined above, DeAngelo Hall was released for a salary out of whack with his production level.  Jennings is a much cheaper (and better) option who would come in and not block Buchanon, Westbrook, or Barnes if he’s beaten out of a job.  Does not prevent the Redskins from picking a corner in the draft, including Morris Claiborne in the first round.  Just a good zone corner who fits what the Redskins want to do, and won’t cost much.  Giants corner Terrell Thomas is a better, but riskier, FA option who is rehabbing an ACL tear suffered in the preaseason next year, but would be a huge upgrade over Hall once healthy.

2012 cap number: $2.25 million

Wallace Gilberry (28) DE, Kansas City Chiefs – 3 years, $11.5 million ($4.5 million guaranteed)- A pass rusher on the defensive line who has spent his careers (college and pro) playing in an odd front.  There will be competition from the Chiefs who have the cash, but this could be the missing piece on the DL who complements Jarvis Jenkins.  Depth who has a role on the third down pass rushing packages, who can spell Cofield and Bowen so they aren’t playing so many snaps.

2012 cap number: $2.75 million

Marcus McNeill (29) OT, San Diego Chargers 1 year, $4 million (no guarantee) – Widely expected to be released, because of the history of back injuries.  Could be signed on a one year prove it deal, and could replace Jammal Brown at RT during the season if he continues to underachieve.  Could get a lot of interest because of a weak OT class, but becomes a potential candidate for the franchise tag after the season if he’s healthy and a starter.

2012 cap number – $4 million

LaDainian Tomlinson (33) RB, New York Jets (league min 930k salary, 50k/week roster bonuses) – Not a viable runner in the NFL anymore, but devastated Mike Shanahan’s teams for years, is a consumate team player, will complement and not inhibit the development of Roy Helu and Evan Royster.  Royster remains the workhorse of the group.  Helu remains a starter.  But Tomlinson’s work ethic could really help this team.  Plus, he’s a complete player on passing downs, and Kyle Shanahan likes to throw the football.  A lot.

2012 cap number: $1.78 million

Chaz Schilens (27) WR, Oakland Raiders 3 years, 6 million ($2.25 million guaranteed) – Has the skill set to be a go-to third down possession and red zone target in the NFL.  His problem has been health.  He can’t seem to keep himself on the field, though he had a healthy 2011 after getting back from a pre-season back injury.  If the Redskins trainers can do a better job than the Raiders trainers do, Schilens could be the steal of the free agent class.

2012 cap number: $1.3 million

And finally….

Alex Smith (28) QB, San Francisco 49ers 5 years, $55 million ($24 million guaranteed – no SB, guaranteed $12 million salaries in year one and year two — year one salary in form of guaranteed RB/SB) – I would not put Alex Smith here if I didn’t think he would hit the open market next week.  The 49ers are locked in on getting this deal done, but “this deal” is the one that they want, a deal that they can get away from after two years.  The Redskins might be able to poach Smith if they are so inclined.  They might not have the opportunity if the 49ers agree to terms with him before the start of the free agent period, but Smith/Ryan Tannehill is one of the more intriguing QB pairs available because the two of them are basically the same player.

Smith is perhaps the one guy on the FA market after Manning who would pry the Redskins off the need to trade up for Robert Griffin.  However, Smith is not enough of a name to keep the Redskins from grabbing Griffin on their own accord.  They need to shift the QB leverage back and while I think Chad Henne, Jason Campbell, and David Garrard are better QB, when you play the leverage game with other teams in the NFL draft, you need to play with big name guys.  This would be “buying high” but Smith is still young enough to justify a long term contract.

This is certainly overpaying for a player who can’t live up to the contract, but it’s really just a two year committment that’s over in 2014 when the salary cap skyrockets because that’s when the Redskins will go out and be able to put a team around Robert Griffin or Ryan Tannehill or whoever.  And theoretically, it pays itself back when the Rams realize they can’t get value on the second pick because the Redskins can sit and wait on Tannehill if they need to.  Alex Smith’s lone playoff win is the kind of street cred that can buy Mike Shanahan the kind of time to build the team how he wants to, and makes sense once the team can’t get Peyton Manning.

2012 cap number: $4 million
(2014 release fee: $6 million)

Cap costs for 9 FA signings: $26.355
Remaing 2012 salary cap room: $1.0 million

This plan would keep the Redskins competitive in the NFC East.  They’d probably need to screw with a couple contracts to be able to sign their draft class, but the future integrity of the team’s contracts are relatively unharmed, so long as the Redskins are willing to sit on their hands in free agency a year from now.  

What would you do with your cap dollars in free agency?

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