Taking a look at areas of need for the Washington Redskins entering free agency, having picked the brain of people in the NFL as well as my NFL Nation colleagues.

Why it’s a need: Because the Redskins are in transition up front and could use more bodies. They have one starting end in Jason Hatcher and could always move Chris Baker back to end, creating a hole at nose tackle. They cut end Stephen Bowen and nose tackle Barry Cofield last week, but could re-sign Cofield at a later date if he’s healthy. They need younger bodies up front; Hatcher is 32. Newly signed Ricky Jean Francois is best as a reserve. Frank Kearse played well as a backup last season and Kedric Golston remains a capable reserve (and special teamer). Still, they could use more up front. To make a 3-4 dominant, you’d better have a good nose tackle.

Top tier: Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh. I won’t even put anyone else here with him because no one is in his class. Suh will receive the biggest contract in free agency. He’s the most dominant defensive player.

Others to watch: Tackle Terrance Knighton, tackle Jared Odrick, tackle Nick Fairley, end Jabaal Sheard, nose tackle Dan Williams.

Big question: How hard will the Redskins chase Suh? Any team with a need up front should be interested in him so just saying there’s interest is far different from being, say, a front runner to land him. There’s probably a 50-percent chance he sticks with Detroit, but the Lions certainly have a firm deadline with him. It’s tough to imagine him returning if he does get on the open market. As for the Redskins, they have approximately $25 million in cap space, but others have more. If Oakland wants him, the Raiders and their cap space will be tough to beat. Miami and Jacksonville certainly are teams to watch as well. Maybe even Indianapolis.

Is Suh worth the money?: He is not Albert Haynesworth, Part 2 – nor is he Dana Stubblefield or Dan Wilkinson, for that matter. People I’ve talked to who have worked with Suh love him – his work ethic (relentless, one source said), his ability, his penchant for playing hard all the time. One source called him meticulous in his preparation and said he is an excellent practice player, too. There is the matter of those stomping penalties, but he’s not a guy whose effort will fall off after signing a big contract. Both Haynesworth and Stubblefield produced in a contract year after some up-and-down seasons. Suh has only been up -- and he makes others better.

Who makes sense: Williams. But it does not make sense if you want to spend more than $4 million for him. He’s not a three-down player and those are the guys who should get big money. However, with more teams playing the 3-4 now than the 4-3, there will be competition for him. While Williams has a good reputation – he’s considered a true nose tackle; no-nonsense guy and not vocal – he’s not a Pro Bowler. He’ll turn 28 in July, so he’s still in his prime. Signing him would give the Redskins someone to plug the middle and allow Baker to rotate between nose and end. You can’t run an effective 3-4 without solid nose tackle play.

Statistic worth noting: Another reason why stronger nose play matters – the Redskins ranked 28th in rushing yards per carry up the middle (4.89 yards per carry) on first down, when teams are more likely to be in their base formation. The Cardinals ranked fourth at 3.18 yards per run. There are other factors involved and it’s not as if Baker was bad, but that stat must change in 2015.

Buyer beware: Fairley. Too inconsistent. There’s a reason the Lions declined last year to pick up his fifth year option a year ago. Not a bad guy, just inconsistent and will get paid more than he should. Another guy is Green Bay’s B.J. Raji. He was good – a while ago. But he did not play well in 2013 and missed last year with a torn biceps. You have to know what you’re getting in a player so unless they’re at a certain level, or unless you have ties to them, it’s best to pass on guys with questions like this. Arizona’s Darnell Dockett is coming off a torn ACL; it’ll be tough for him to play to his reputation next season.

Ties to the Redskins: Defensive coordinator Joe Barry coached Cory Redding for two seasons when he held the same job in Detroit. Redding was OK last season in Indianapolis. But he’s also 34 years old. If the Redskins somehow pursued him, he should only receive a one-year deal. General manager Scot McCloughan made it clear when he came here that giving multi-year deals to players over 30 is not wise. Redding considered retirement last year.

Redskins re-sign Duke Ihenacho

March, 4, 2015
Mar 4
The Redskins claimed Duke Ihenacho off waivers last summer, hoping he would provide depth in the secondary. Then he got hurt. Now they want to bring him back and try it again.

The Redskins re-signed Ihenacho, who was an exclusive rights free agent, on Wednesday -- giving them one more experienced person at safety. He'll likely make $510,000 next season. The Redskins had only two experienced players at safety before this signing: Akeem Davis and Phillip Thomas. Neither one has played a full season. Ihenacho, a strong safety, was cut by Denver after it upgraded its safety position in the offseason. Ihenacho said at the time that he was surprised by the move, anticipating a roster spot as a reserve if nothing else.

The Redskins had a dire need at safety last season with Brandon Meriweather suspended for the first two games, Thomas hurt and lackluster play from others. But Ihenacho made no impact. He had to first learn the defense and then was placed on injured reserve after Week 3 after breaking a bone in his left foot.

If nothing else, he'll provide competition in training camp. The Redskins can't, and won't, view this as a need that was filled. They will bring in safety Tyvon Branch for a visit, according to Fox Sports Mike Garafolo. Branch has played only five games combined the past two seasons because of injuries, but he once was considered a rising standout at safety.
Some quick quarterback thoughts:

  • Minnesota traded quarterback Matt Cassel to Buffalo on Wednesday, taking another team out of the hunt for another quarterback. There are still a few who need help, but Cleveland (Josh McCown) and Buffalo (Cassel) have found veterans. Tampa Bay will pick one in the draft. And St. Louis still has Sam Bradford -- for now. If the Rams do get rid of him, they could be players for Marcus Mariota in the draft. The New York Jets and Houston remain in the market for quarterbacks, though the Jets, picking sixth, could land Mariota if no one trades into the top five for him.
  • [+] EnlargeKirk Cousins
    Patrick Smith/Getty ImagesShould Kirk Cousins stay with the Redskins, the QB will need to work on cutting down on INTs.
    So, the question then becomes: What does this mean for Kirk Cousins? As of now, he'll be with the Washington Redskins, according to a source. I don't think his side expects that to change, either. The Redskins do like having him around for competition with Robert Griffin III.
  • Yes, Griffin was named the starter entering 2015, but how long that lasts remains uncertain. He'll have to look good to keep that job. And if he hangs onto the job entering the season, I would not be surprised to see a quick hook. As I've written a few times, the coaches do like Cousins and there was a sense he got a raw deal last season (which suggests to me that not all the moves were of the coaches' doing). But if Griffin plays well, then the coaches would be thrilled. His talent is high; he just needs to play better. Keep in mind, others benefit if Griffin plays well. You can put up with anything if a player produces and your team wins.
  • What the coaches need to see from Cousins as much as anything? Fewer interceptions; better reaction to adversity. It will be tough to know how he handles both situations until he plays in a game. He also can improve in the pocket, knowing where to go with the ball, etc.
  • It's not as if every decision he made was the right one last season. On one interception vs. the New York Giants, he went to his No. 2 receiver for some reason (I believe it was Ryan Grant). His first read, on the other side, was open. An easy pick and a bad decision. So it's not just about responding to adversity. People I talk to around the league, from agents to executives to coaches or scouts, are split on what Cousins can do. Some like; some don't like at all.
  • The point is: Both quarterbacks have their issues. Griffin will just get the first crack at the starting job; how long he holds onto it is up to him. I also think if you're going to keep him as the starter, then they should do what they can to bolster the run game. Yes, the run game. Do better on first down, put him in less obvious pass situations. It matters.
  • Of course, if Cousins returns along with Griffin, I can't imagine Colt McCoy, a pending free agent, would want to be back in Washington. McCoy genuinely loved playing in this offense and felt he was in sync with what the coaches wanted. That's why he seemed crushed he could not finish the season because of injury; it was an opportunity lost and he knew it.
We're taking a look at the Washington Redskins' free agents as we approach the start of the open signing period on March 10.

Player: E.J. Biggers

Position: Cornerback

History with the Redskins: Signed with Washington in 2013 to be a backup corner. He ended up starting a combined seven games the past two years.

2014 cap hit/salary: $635,000 cap hit; $795,000 salary

Projected market: Slim. He’ll find his way onto someone’s roster, but I can’t imagine for anything other than a minimum one-year deal.

Reason he might re-sign: The Redskins lack depth at corner, though they will benefit from the return of DeAngelo Hall to pair with Bashaud Breeland and David Amerson. There are questions about each player: Will Amerson progress and develop into the playmaker the team wanted? Will Hall be the same player after recovering from his torn Achilles? Will Breeland take that so-called next step? Can he be a solid starting corner on a good team? They also have Tracy Porter, who is once more coming off injuries in a career filled with them. So the only reason to re-sign Biggers is to add depth. He is a taller corner at 6-foot and he is fast. But his play has not warranted a return.

Reason he might not: I would not expect Biggers to be back. I would imagine the new defensive staff would want their own players and Biggers’ ties were with the previous regime and Raheem Morris in particular. Biggers could line up at safety at times, but there was a difference between lining up there and actually playing the position. He’s too thin and not physical enough to be a factor in that role and didn’t do a whole lot in coverage there, either. Biggers really didn’t warrant a return last year; there’s not much reason to bring him back in 2015. He is why it’s hard to trust corner rankings; Pro Football Focus graded him as a top-20 cover corner two years ago. They do some metrics that are solid; this was not one of them.

Which free agents will return to Redskins?

March, 4, 2015
Mar 4
ESPN Washington Redskins reporter John Keim talks about the free agents the team should try and re-sign, including tight end Niles Paul.
A few thoughts on the Philadelphia Eagles trade of running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso, and its impact on the Washington Redskins:
  • These were the two guys Washington most worried about two years ago: receiver DeSean Jackson and McCoy. They combined for 3,480 yards and 20 touchdowns during the 2013 season. McCoy, alone, contributed 2,146 yards and 11 touchdowns.
  • The previous Redskins' defensive staff loved McCoy and considered him the best back they faced because of his all-around game. Their plan every time they faced Philly was to stop McCoy. In the first game against Washington last season, McCoy only rushed 19 times for 22 yards -- but the Eagles won 37-34 because, well, they couldn't stop much else.
  • The Redskins actually did a solid job against him during his Eagles' tenure. In 11 games, McCoy rushed 206 times for 807 yards -- a 3.92 yards per run average. He added 51 catches for 479 yards, a 9.39 yards per reception average.
  • McCoy surpassed 100 yards twice against Washington, including the 181-yard game on the opening night of 2013. That game forced the Redskins to tweak how they defended the Eagles, specifically McCoy, and in the three ensuing games they played McCoy gained a combined 187 yards.
  • In five of the 11 games vs. the Redskins, McCoy rushed for 50 yards or less.
  • It's not as if McCoy had the same level of impact last season, rushing two less times than in 2013 but gaining 288 fewer yards. However, you wonder about the loss of Jackson and the impact it had on how teams defended McCoy. But: McCoy faced a seven-man front one fewer time in 2014 than the previous year and faced only four fewer six-man fronts (he averaged 5.09 yards against that look in '13; and 4.42 against it this past season), according to ESPN Stats & Information.
  • But McCoy was always dangerous and using he and Darren Sproles in the backfield at times last season put defenses in a bind. They were successful at using screens in which they'd fake a handoff to McCoy running one way -- defenses had to honor it because of who it was -- and then screened to the other side for Sproles, now in a favorable spot. McCoy would also serve as a blocker for Sproles on occasion. So McCoy's impact was more than just about him running the ball: It was receiving, a little blocking and a dangerous decoy.
  • Until we know what other moves the Eagles, make it's tough to say what they've truly gained or lost. Alonso had a terrific rookie season, but the Bills' defense flourished without him last season when he missed with a torn ACL. But the move also provided them with an extra $10 million in cap space. That could result in two or three more players -- or one (potentially) dominant one.
  • It's not as if Chip Kelly made McCoy; the Redskins' thoughts about him being the best, for example, pre-dated this marriage. So whether Kelly can just plug any back into his system and produce the same numbers is uncertain. Perhaps he can. But the passing game last season definitely missed Jackson, the other big name he jettisoned. And it's always dangerous when a coach thinks it's about his system and not the players.
  • But these moves for the Eagles also are about the future and re-shaping the roster to more of what Kelly wants or needs. Perhaps he's getting rid of McCoy a year or so too early; we'll see. McCoy did not look like he had the same burst and wiggle as he did in 2013. He averaged only 5.5 yards per reception. McCoy still finished third in the NFL in rushing, but he also gained a combined 1,976 yards before contact the past two years -- an NFL best. Just a hunch: I'm guessing Kelly attributed that in part to the line and his system. It's also unnecessary to have a running back count $11.95 million against the salary cap as McCoy would have (though at least McCoy is a three-down guy, which increases his value).
  • The Eagles still have talented parts on offense; the line should be healthy and strong. Receiver Jeremy Maclin is dangerous (assuming he's re-signed; receiver Jordan Matthews had a good rookie season and tight end Zach Ertz is a big threat as well.
  • But they will need to replace McCoy and that won't be easy. Then again, they have a lot of money and flexibility -- and it makes you wonder what other moves are on the horizon and how it will impact the Redskins. Will this aggressive mindset carry into the draft with Kelly trying to land quarterback Marcus Mariota? And will the team on the other end be the Redskins or someone else? It would be a steep price to pay for the Eagles, but Kelly isn't afraid to make bold moves.
Taking a look at areas of need for the Washington Redskins entering free agency.

Position: Offensive line

Why it's a need: The Redskins allowed 58 sacks, but to blame the line for that alone is foolish. The Redskins were second in the NFL in coverage sacks allowed (28.6 percent), according to ESPN Stats & Information. And the rest of the protection struggled, too. But it's not like the line was great, either. However, the big issue was the constant third-and-long situations. If the Redskins want to improve the pass game, they need to quit putting their quarterbacks in third-and-long all day -- they must produce better there, but it's a lot easier in third-and-four or less. So improving the run game is paramount and getting stronger run blockers is crucial. The Redskins were 21st in the NFL in yards per carry on first down (3.98). That must change; if it does, then they'll be in more favorable third-down passing situations.

Top tier: San Francisco guard Mike Iupati; Green Bay tackle Bryan Bulaga. Both players are expected to get strong interest if they hit the open market. The Packers would like Bulaga back at a reasonable price, which suggests a deal would be tough before free agency. Iupati seems likely to hit the open market.

Others to watch: Dallas tackles Doug Free and Jermey Parnell, Denver guard/tackle Orlando Franklin, Kansas City center Rodney Hudson.

Big question: What position do the Redskins want to pursue? They have a need at right tackle where Tom Compton did not prove he should be the starter in 2015 and where Morgan Moses is recovering from a Lisfranc injury -- and before the injury teammates viewed him as a guy who was raw. It would be real hard to rely on Moses being ready to be a starter this season. The Redskins could opt for Iupati, a left guard, release Chris Chester and slide Shawn Lauvao to right guard. I would not put center on the must-have list; Kory Lichtensteiger had a solid season, though if they want more power all-around the Redskins could do anything. I most definitely would not overspend to replace him, as they likely would need to do.

Who makes sense: Iupati. However, this comes with an asterisk. His strength is run blocking, which is fantastic. But his weakness is pass protection and he struggled in that area this past season. Signing him will not cure all their evils (and at some point the quarterbacks have to learn to succeed despite pressure that other quarterbacks manage to win with). He's a three-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro performer. The Niners used less power blocking last season, which is his strength. The Redskins want to run more power in 2015.

Buyer Beware: Plenty of examples. Guard James Carpenter's knock in Seattle, where he was a first-round pick, was pass protection. Always be wary of teams letting guys walk, unless it's just a money issue. Bulaga has been a solid right tackle, and he played well last season, but durability is a big concern (he's missed 28 games the past four years, including all of 2013). I would also stay away from Anthony Collins if he's released from Tampa Bay before free agency. He struggled big-time last season and if they're really shopping him one year after signing him, that's not the sort of player you want -- he was inactive the last four games in 2014.

Bad sign: If the Redskins go out and sign another guard, one year after inking Lauvao. The Redskins have drafted two guards in the third round the past three drafts in Spencer Long and Josh LeRibeus. When you can't develop your own talent, or when you draft guys higher than others, you end up paying for your mistakes in free agency instead of solving issues. A vicious cycle, one that results in multiple double-digit loss seasons. You dig?

Ties to the Redskins: Iupati does not have direct ties; he was drafted in San Francisco a couple months after Scot McCloughan was fired. But clearly McCloughan would have done a lot of work on him. McCloughan was in Seattle when guard Carpenter was drafted. Free and Parnell both played under line coach Bill Callahan in Dallas. Guard Clint Boling played two years for then offensive coordinator Jay Gruden in Cincinnati. It's hard to imagine the Bengals allowing Boling, a solid guard, to leave. He's considered an excellent run blocker.

Bargain shopping: Parnell. While Free might seem to make sense, it could be that Callahan likes Parnell more, having developed him in Dallas -- he was a college basketball player and only played one year of college football and was converted full-time to tackle in 2010. Callahan worked with him starting in 2012. Free is two years older and McCloughan said he does not want to spend solid free-agent money on players in their 30s. Parnell is 28. If Moses develops, then Parnell is just a short-term solution. He's an OK tackle who moves well, but has mental lapses in protection.

Free-agency guide: Redskins

March, 3, 2015
Mar 3

Ahead of the start of free agency, Insider is providing buyer's guides for all 32 teams: biggest need positions from Football Outsiders, top targets from KC Joyner and Matt Williamson and predictions on how everything will play out from our NFL Nation team reporters.

Included below are links to every team's article. This is the entry for the Washington Redskins.

Biggest needs

Safety: According to Football Outsiders' DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) metric, Washington had the NFL's worst pass defense in 2014. Now Ryan Clark has retired, and Brandon Meriweather is a free agent. Washington's top safeties under contract are Duke Ihenacho (whose last start came with Denver in the Super Bowl loss to Seattle) and Trent Robinson (one NFL start in his three-year career).

New Washington Redskins defensive end Ricky Jean Francois' contract does not pay him like a guaranteed starter, but, much like Chris Baker a year before, like a top backup -- and potential starter.

Jean Francois, who signed with the Redskins last week, will have a salary-cap hit of $2 million this season with a cash value of $4 million -- the same numbers Baker had last year, the first of his three-year deal.

Jean Francois
Jean Francois' base salary will be $1 million, which is fully guaranteed. The Redskins could use more line depth and will have to pursue some at a starting level. One AFC scout said Jean Francois was best used in reserve, one reason why the Colts released him rather than have him count $5.5 million against the salary cap.

But the Redskins' contract suggests they view him as a rotation guy and not a guaranteed starter. After signing him, they released defensive end Stephen Bowen and end/nose tackle Barry Cofield (who was waived with a failed physical designation; if healthy, he could return).

Here's the complete breakdown of Jean Francois' deal courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information:


Cap hit: $2 million
Base salary: $1 million (fully guaranteed)
Not likely to be earned incentives: $750,000 based on playtime and making the Pro Bowl.


Cap hit: $3 million
Base salary: $1.75 million
Roster bonus: $250,000 ($15,625 per game active)
NLTBE: $750K based on playtime and making the Pro Bowl.


Cap hit: $4 million
Base salary: $2.75 million.
Roster Bonus: $250K ($15,625 per game active)
NLTBE: $750K based on playtime and making the Pro Bowl.
Join us today at 1 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. PT for NFL Nation TV's Spreecast as we return for episode No. 46 with our sights fully set on free agency.

Host Paul Gutierrez (San Francisco 49ers reporter) and co-hosts Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and Mike Wells (Indianapolis Colts reporter) Will be joined by four other NFL Nation reporters throughout the show.

Michael Rothstein (Detroit Lions reporter) will take us behind the Lions' decision to avoid franchise-tagging defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, and also give us an idea of where the prized lineman might end up.

Mike Reiss (New England Patriots reporter) will join to make sense of New England's decision to place the franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski, instead of potentially doing so with free-agent defensive backs Darrelle Revis or Devin McCourty.

Todd Archer (Dallas Cowboys reporter) will give us an update on the Cowboys' apparent decision to let DeMarco Murray, 2014's rushing leader, test the open market.

Sticking with offense, Rob Demovsky (Green Bay Packers reporter) checks in to outline why the Packers may be content doing the same with receiver Randall Cobb, who reportedly was looking to stay in Green Bay for $12 million a year.

As always, viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions as well as contribute in the chat feature.

[+] EnlargeRandy Gregory
AP Photo/Nati HarnikThe Redskins are in need of a dynamic rusher, and Nebraska's Randy Gregory seems to fit Washington's profile.
The Washington Redskins don't have to select a pass-rusher with the fifth pick. They might make a move in free agency that negates the need; they could trade down. But if they stay there, there will be some interesting choices.

Nebraska's Randy Gregory will be, and has been already, projected to the Redskins by any number of mock drafts. That could be cause for celebration -- and a little bit of crossing the fingers. Gregory is a freakish athlete; he's also someone who needs work to make his game fit in the NFL.

So says ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. Gregory's film supports Kiper's belief: In my write-up on him, it was clear he made athletic plays, but his strength is an issue, whether against the run or in beating his opponent in a pass rush where speed isn't working.

"Gregory has to get stronger," Kiper said. "He's more the developmental type. ...If he does, then you could be looking at a guy who can be a very good pass-rusher."

That word, developmental, could scare people. But with Gregory, there are things you can't teach or coach or improve. Like his athleticism and his length. Both are attributes of a (potentially) special pass-rusher.

It's often difficult for pass-rushers to make instant impacts, even if selected high in the draft. J.J. Watt is a dominant rusher now; he was drafted 11th overall and in his first year recorded 5.5 sacks -- and then 20.5 as a second-year player. Last year's No. 5 overall pick, Khalil Mack, had fantastic measurables (a 1.53 in the 10-yard split; anything under 1.6 is good) and showed good things as a rookie. He had just four sacks. St. Louis' Robert Quinn had five sacks as a rookie; two years later he had 19. Teams are trying to find guys who can make a long-term impact, not just an instant splash.

The trick is projecting who will develop into that special rusher. Which of the available pass-rushers could be that guy?

Gregory benched 225 pounds 24 times at the combine, an OK number. But Kiper said his film looked more like someone who benched that weight 15 times. In watching him, Gregory often had a tough time getting off blocks in the run game.

If the Redskins drafted him, they wouldn't necessarily need him as much in the run game with Trent Murphy available. Murphy played the run well, but lacks the explosiveness of any of the available-pass rushers in the first round. Gregory, though, likely would play a lot given how much nickel the Redskins are forced to play (partly because of the division).

However, they'd still have to cross their fingers and hope it pans out. Here's the thing: That's true of pretty much every player in the draft. The more players are scouted and watched, the more they're picked apart. The offensive tackles all have flaws as well -- some project more to guard. Nose tackle Danny Shelton has warts, too; there's concern about his inconsistent game film.

But with the pass-rushers, there is a choice. Florida's Dante Fowler, Jr., has the necessary size, but his game, too, is raw -- he has an explosive first step, but needs to learn how to react thereafter. For Gregory, it's about adding strength -- and staying explosive. Will that happen? It's a bet some team will make.

"Gregory's a great athlete," Kiper said. "Phenomenal athlete. He has the length; long arms. He could be spectacular in this league. He has to show he can be durable as well. He has enormous upside."
We're taking a look at the Washington Redskins' free agents as we approach the start of the open signing period on March 10.

Player: Tyler Polumbus

Position: Tackle

History with Washington: Signed with the Redskins in November 2011 and played both guard and tackle before sticking permanently at right tackle at the start of the 2012 season.

2014 cap hit: $2.6 million.

Projected market: Slim. He’ll be viewed as a backup tackle by most and likely end up with perhaps a two-year deal somewhere. He had an offer from Jacksonville two years ago, but returned to the Redskins.

Reason he might re-sign: Polumbus can play both tackle spots so, in a pinch, he can help as a reserve. He played better than given credit for in 2013 after a tough 2012 season -- the coaches gave him credit, that’s for sure. He dropped off in 2014, however. He was dealing with serious family issues, but whether it stemmed from that or just bad play, the bottom line is he did not play well. Polumbus is a hard worker, prepared and would be an able backup. In the right system (zone only), he can help as a pinch-hit starter.

Reason why he won't: There have been no discussions with Polumbus’ side about a possible return. He was benched midway through last season and there was definitely a split in the organization as to thoughts on him before the season. Tom Compton took over and had his own struggles in protection, but he is younger, so perhaps he can improve. Polumbus’ play definitely regressed last season, especially in protection. At his size he has to work hard to stay balanced and does not play with the strength Washington wants in its offensive linemen. His best fit is in a strictly zone-blocking system; the Redskins used more power last season and will transition to more in ’15. Polumbus would be a better fit in Atlanta, with new offensive coordinator and old boss Kyle Shanahan, or Denver, which will return to zone-blocking under coach Gary Kubiak. I'd be surprised if he returned -- and I think his side would be as well.

Redskins gain more cap space

March, 2, 2015
Mar 2
The Washington Redskins gained additional room against the salary cap, thanks to carryover from last season and other adjustments.

The Redskins have an adjusted cap figure of $3.2 million, according to the NFL Players’ Association. That means their adjusted salary cap for 2015 is now $146,591,745. They had a carryover from last season of $108,621. The NFLPA also said there were other adjustments during the 2014 season that increased their space.

Their adjusted cap figure puts them 18th in the NFL. Jacksonville has the highest adjusted cap at about $169 million. Philadelphia has the highest cap in the NFC East at about $160 million; the Redskins are next.

Washington freed up cap space Friday by releasing veteran defensive end Stephen Bowen and nose tackle/end Barry Cofield. That saved the Redskins $9.6 million, giving them about $25 million in cap space. They also signed Ricky Jean Francois last week, but his cap number remains unknown.

The Redskins also must spend to hit the minimum cash payment threshold established in the last collective bargaining agreement. They must reach 89 percent in the four year period beginning in 2013; they are at 87 percent after the first two years.

Also, the option year for 2016 was set at $16.155 million. That's what the Redskins would have to pay quarterback Robert Griffin III in 2016 if they decide to extend his rookie contract by the May 3 deadline.
Taking a look at the Redskins and positions they might target in free agency.

Position: Safety

Why it’s a need: The Redskins have two safeties on their roster signed for 2015 -- Akeem Davis and Phillip Thomas. Davis is not a starter and Thomas is a debatable one (the previous defensive staff had doubts about him as a future starter for any reason other than injury).

Top of the line: New England’s Devin McCourty will be the high-priced talent this offseason. Last year, the top safety, Jairus Byrd, received a contract worth up to $56 million. It was not a wise move for New Orleans; Byrd did not play well before suffering a season-ending injury on Oct. 2 in practice.

Others to watch: Buffalo’s Da’Norris Searcy, Houston’s Kendrick Lewis.

Big question: How much will Denver's Rahim Moore command? He’s not a top-10 and perhaps not even a top-20 prospect. But with a dearth of talent at safety, and with the draft providing few answers, he’s an attractive option. He should be pursued, but you’d best keep a hard-line price and do not sign at all costs.

Who makes sense: McCourty is terrific, but would the Redskins spend that much on him given their other needs? Plus, it’s hard to imagine New England letting him walk -- and if he does, he’ll be highly pursued. Moore also will have suitors; he is not a playmaker like Byrd was a year ago in commanding a huge salary. But Moore can play the middle of the field and is a solid tackler. The key here: He’s only 25. If you’re going to sign a free agent, get one who is still on the way up and not one who is a year from being on the downside of his career. San Diego’s Marcus Gilchrist, a college corner turned NFL strong safety, would be a much cheaper option at strong safety. However, at 5-foot-10 he’s smaller than the typical safety Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan has sought in the past. And there are questions about his coverage ability.

Buyer beware: Lewis; Antrel Rolle. With Lewis, the Chiefs readily let him walk a year ago and their pass defense improved. While he played better last season for Houston, be careful on this one. The same is true with Rolle. He’s 32, past his prime and is coming off a spotty season that featured missed tackles and penalties (seven) and inconsistencies in coverage. At some point the Redskins need to find a legitimate solution; signing Rolle would be a one-year stopgap.

Ties to the Redskins: There are a handful and some of them deserve consideration. New Redskins secondary coach Perry Fewell coached both Rolle and Stevie Brown in New York. Brown’s inconsistency bothered Fewell, but he also was coming off a torn ACL. Also, it’s debatable how much Fewell would argue for either player. It’s not as if he was considered tight with Rolle, either. New Redskins coordinator Joe Barry coached in San Diego where Gilchrist played strong safety. McCloughan was in Seattle when the Seahawks drafted backup safety Jeron Johnson.

Bargain shopping: Searcy. The Bills signed safety Aaron Williams to a four-year, $26 million contract last offseason and general manager Doug Whaley has said they don’t want two safeties at a certain cap number. That could leave Searcy, a strong safety, exposed. Again, he might be overpaid (most free agents are) because of the lack of talent at the position. He’s 5-11, 207 pounds, so he’s a little smaller than players McCloughan has sought at safety. But he has played some nickel linebacker in the past. He’s also considered a good locker room guy and smart.
We're taking a look at the Washington Redskins' free agents as we approach the start of the open signing period on March 10.

Player: Niles Paul

Position: Tight end

History with Redskins: Paul was a fifth-round pick in 2011 as a receiver. He played it for one year, though he was used mostly as a blocker. After that year he was switched to tight end. In three years playing tight end, he has 53 receptions for 735 yards and two touchdowns.

2014 cap hit: $690,413

Projected market: Paul would not be for everyone, but I think he’d have some choices if he hit the open market -- obviously for a smaller three-year deal.

Reason he’ll re-sign: Paul contributes in a variety of ways for the Redskins. He caught a career-best 39 passes and with durability concerns surrounding Jordan Reed, it’s a must that the Redskins have other tight ends who can catch. Paul offers some matchup problems because he’s a faster tight end. Paul is not the best in-line blocker; he’s still a small tight end so physics often wins out up front. But he can block well on the move and in space. He’s also a good special-teams performer. Paul should not be anything other than a No. 3 tight end, but his versatility is a plus. This also isn’t the deepest draft for tight ends. He won’t be expensive to re-sign. He’s also a good fit in the locker room and a conscientious player; the Redskins need players like that. My guess is that the Redskins will keep him around.

Reason he might not: The Redskins need more from their tight ends and they really only have one blocking tight end in Logan Paulsen. Reed is mediocre at best in this area. They’d be wise to find a bigger tight end who can do both, serve as a strong in-line blocker and also be a receiving threat. But there aren’t a lot of those players available. Paul wants to return, but if he gets tired of dysfunction and losing and wants to hit the open market, he would get looks elsewhere.