|(Of course, Robert Griffin's knee and recovery is the top priority.)|
With the Combine only a week away and free agency not that far behind it, its time to look at the Redskins biggest off-season needs to address. In this case I'm just addressing top needs more than who to target, cap numbers etc. When we get slightly closer to free agency (post-combine) I'll have some more targets to look at as potential new Redskins.
1. Safety. Quick, name the starting safety tandem in 2012. If you said Madieu Williams and Reed Doughty then you are correct. That said, that wasn't the intended starting tandem. It was supposed to be Tanard Jackson and Brandon Meriweather. Jackson was suspended indefinitely prior to the start of the season and will not be eligible to be re-instated until the end of August 2013. Meriweather had a great half against the Eagles, but that was it as knee injuries kept him off of the field throughout most of 2013. The Redskins need a significant upgrade at the position heading into the 2013 season because neither Williams or Doughty should be starting on a regular basis. Most importantly the Redskins need to find a fast, agile, good tackling FS who can cover a WR and play single deep safety. The last legitimate FS on the team was Sean Taylor in 2007. Since then players have had to play out of position (LaRon Landry, Reed Doughty) to fill a hole in the roster.
2. Cornerback. Josh Wilson had an okay 2012. Yes, he got beat a few times and missed a couple of tackles but generally he did what was expected of him. DeAngelo Hall had another up and down season but finished well with a shut down performance on Dez Bryant. There was some clear miscommunication between the corners and the safeties during the season and it led to blown coverages and easy TDs for the opponents. The Redskins clearly need to get better, faster and possibly younger at this position if the team is to have any success in a pass happy NFL. Hall may not even be with the Redskins unless he takes a significant pay cut or re-structure/extension as he is due $7.5 million and the Redskins are currently around 4 million over the salary cap number. Richard Crawford is still developing and could be a possible option in the future. Chase Minnifield is the real wild card in this mix. Considered by many to go as high as the 1st round last year, Minnifield went undrafted because of injury concerns with his knees. Minnifield tore his ACL during OTAs and is currently rehabbing. If he can stay healthy could the Redskins have a potential starting corner on the roster? I still expect them to look for talent at this position through the draft.
3. Tight End. Fred Davis, Chris Cooley and Logan Paulsen (RFA) are free agents. It's not likely that we'll see a return of Captain Chaos to the Redskins. Davis will only be welcomed back for the right price because he has been unable to finish the last two seasons (injury, suspension). I expect Paulsen to be tendered at a reasonable price that at worst will give the Redskins a draft pick if another team makes an offer they can't match. The Niles Paul experiment has hit some early bumps and while Paul has been a great blocker and kick returner, he's has yet to show that he'll be the next Shannon Sharpe. The Redskins could use at least 1-2 more TEs to enter the season with one of them being a significant pass catching threat.
4. Right Tackle/OT. Jammal Brown's contract was voided. Tyler Polumbus and Jordan Black are free agents. While I like Polumbus to come back and be an extremely good depth player with the capability to start at multiple positions in a pinch, the Redskins could use an upgrade at right tackle. They have a few options on the roster in Maurice Hurt and Tom Compton but neither may ready to be a starter if ever for the team. Hurt has had the majority of his snaps as a guard and Compton has limited experience. The good news is that there is a large FA market or tackles this year and the Redskins should be able to get a starting caliber RT at a reasonable price if they don't see a starter worth taking in the early rounds of the draft.
5. Wide Receiver. It's not that the Redskins don't have talent at the position, it's just that beyond Pierre Garcon and Santana Moss (who is more part time WR than starter at this point in his career) the talent needs to step up and be much more consistent. Josh Wilson was arguably a great run blocker and made some tough catches, but virtually disappeared at times on the field. He needs to be the consistent pass catcher to complement the other players. Leonard Hankerson is a huge question mark. He has the size and talent and has flashed it at times. That said, other times he has ran sloppy routes, dropped easy passes and gave up on plays. This has to be the year he steps up and shows what he can do, or he'll be the next Devin Thomas. Aldrick Robinson is another guy with blazing speed who has flashed at times and then disappears. I don't expect Brandon Banks to be back with the Redskins. The Redskins could look for another WR on the cheap in free agency or try to find the next Garcon in the later rounds of the draft.
6. Linebacker. I add this a little late because of the uncertainty of the position. Right now we don't know if London Fletcher is coming back or if he will retire. Nor do we know if Brian Orakpo will recover from his 2nd pectoral tear and be able to play without re-injuring it again. Nor do we know if Keenan Robinson will be 100% after his knee injury. Chris Wilson, Lorenzo Alexander and Rob Jackson (I believe is still considered a RFA) will be free agents. I expect Alexander to be a priority to re-sign for the 'Skins and the team will try to keep Jackson or at least try to get something for the former 7th round pick. It really depends on what happens in free agency and health that will determine the need for this position group.