WASHINGTON — The Redskins have been one of the quieter teams so far in Free Agency — well, on the player front, anyway.
Several key players have left for other teams, most notably Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson and Chris Baker, and Washington has netted a foursome of potentially useful players in Terrelle Pryor, D.J. Swearinger, Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain. (Update: The Redskins signed linebacker Chris Carter on March 16.)
The first big wave — the afternoon of March 9, when all the previously agreed-upon deals are signed, and March 10, when free agents have had a chance to sleep on their decisions — of free agency has come to an end. A smaller second wave followed and is still wrapping up, a miniature wave should pass after the draft, and then the remaining few free agents will be signed at various times over the coming months before training camp starts.
Here are some players the Redskins could still target at positions of need, and get them at a relative bargain, before the draft:
The Redskins showed interest in safety Jairus Byrd when he entered free agency in 2014, coming off three Pro Bowl seasons in five years with the Buffalo Bills. Washington was outbid by the New Orleans Saints, who never got to experience the full talent of Byrd thanks to a devastating knee injury his first season with the team, and the safety never fully recovered.
After playing just 17 games over his first two seasons in New Orleans, Byrd managed to stay on the field for all 16 games in 2016. He intercepted two passes and defended three passes, and his 82 total tackles were the most he’s had since 2011, suggesting he might finally be regaining a former spark.
Byrd, 30, is nowhere near the player he used to be, but he might be worth bringing aboard on a one-year flier. Safety is perhaps the biggest hole on Washington’s roster, and with second-year hybrid player Su’a Cravens expected to transition to safety in 2017, having a former Pro Bowler at the position to help mentor him couldn’t hurt.
Former Los Angeles Rams safety T.J. McDonald is just 26 and has room to grow, but he has a frustrating LaRon Landry-esque tendency to give up the big play that might drive Redskins fans crazy. He can lay receivers out with big hits, but he also tends toward doing precisely that instead of making the sure tackle far too often, making him a true boom-or-bust safety.
That said, he’s coming off a season of 64 tackles and six pass breakups while playing all 16 games, and he added two interceptions and a sack. McDonald could play for several years without his athleticism falling off, and he would surely provide an upgrade to the safety play Washington’s had recently, but with the addition of Swearinger and Cravens’ pending transition, it’s unlikely the Redskins would pony up the necessary money to sign McDonald.
Darius Butler took the DeAngelo Hall route, which is to say he transitioned from cornerback to safety once he started losing a step. He picked off three passes in 12 games for the Indianapolis Colts last season, and he added seven passes defended, a forced fumble and 33 tackles. Butler turns 31 later this month, so he isn’t a long-term solution, but having another capable body wouldn’t hurt. (Update: Butler is re-signing with the Colts.)
The Redskins would love to add another cornerback, especially after the New York Giants (Brandon Marshall) and Philadelphia Eagles (Torrey Smith, Alshon Jeffery) each bolstered their receiving corps in the first two days of Free Agency. Brandon Carr turns 31 in May, but he has started every game in his nine-year NFL career and is coming off yet another season of capable play at cornerback.
Carr had one interception in 2016 after not picking off a single pass in each of the previous two seasons, and he hasn’t defended double-digit passes since 2013. However, Carr keeps receivers in front of him and is useful in run defense, with at least 60 tackles in each of his past four seasons. (Update: Carr signed with the Baltimore Ravens.)
Other options include cornerbacks Davon House, Shareece Wright, Darrelle Revis and Patrick Robinson, as well as safeties Kendrick Lewis, Bradley McDougald, Lardarius Webb and Aaron Williams. (Update: House signed with the Green Bay Packers.)
Washington needs help in many areas along the defense, but after three signings on the defensive side of the ball, the inside linebacker positions might be the most pressing.
One of the best in the game, Dont’a Hightower, is available and turns 27 on Sunday. Hightower spent the first five seasons of his career with the New England Patriots, recording 17.0 sacks in that time to go along with 372 tackles and two forced fumbles. He has played in all 16 games just once, but he’s never played in fewer than 12 games, and he’s one of the most talented playmakers in the NFL at his position. It would be a substantial coup if the Redskins could sign him, and the defense would immediately look much more reliable. (Update: Hightower re-signed with the New England Patriots.)
Another interesting target is Zach Brown, a freak athlete who once ran a 4.50 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Brown, who hails from Maryland, made the Pro Bowl in 2016, his first season with the Buffalo Bills. He recorded 149 tackles while adding on 4.0 sacks, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles and an interception. He is versatile and could play inside or outside linebacker, but he turns 28 in October and figures to have several years of high-end football left in him.
Big-name running backs such as Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles and Eddie Lacy are unlikely to find their ways to Washington, though it’s possible Washington could try to poach the last of the three remaining. (Update: Lacy signed with the Seattle Seahawks.) LeGarrette Blount, Latavius Murray and DeAngelo Williams are also available, and it’s much more likely the Redskins would try to snag one of those three, or even Rex Burkhead to help shore up a backfield that desperately needs help. (Update: Burkhead signed with the New England Patriots, and Murray signed with the Minnesota Vikings.)
Washington might look into adding another receiver, such as Kendall Wright or Cordarrelle Patterson, as right now its receiving corps is fairly unproven. (Update: Wright signed with the Chicago Bears and Patterson signed with the Oakland Raiders.) Jamison Crowder, Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson have incredible potential as a trio, but Pryor has just one good season as a receiver and Doctson hasn’t yet proven anything. Adding a fourth receiver, especially a big one such as Patterson (6-foot-2, 216 pounds), would significantly improve the depth.
The offensive line is in fine shape as is, but it wouldn’t hurt to upgrade the left guard position with a top guard such as T.J. Lang, and even D.J. Fluker could help improve the run game. (Update: Lang signed with the Detroit Lions and Fluker signed with the New York Giants.)
There’s always a chance Washington could do some huge blockbuster trade for Kirk Cousins, and that would in theory open the team up to one of the quarterbacks on the market. There are also plenty of players the Redskins could cut to save some money, which would open them up to more needs.
With players still slowly trickling off the board, the Redskins would be wise to make a play for one of the top defenders in free agency. But considering the turmoil ongoing around Redskins Park, they might have a hard time luring players without offering well-above market value contracts.