The NFL Draft took place just more than a week ago, and whenever the lockout is lifted, free agency could begin. The Washington Redskins have money to spend and are champing at the bit, according to people inside the organization.
Over the next couple days, we’ll take a look at the Redskins’ needs, how they addressed them in the draft and where the holes remain that could be met in free agency.
Earlier today we took a look at the defensive backs, now let’s look at the linebackers.
Veterans: Brian Orakpo, London Fletcher, Lorenzo Alexander, H.B. Blades, Chris Wilson, Rob Jackson, Perry Riley, Robert Henson.http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dc-sports-bog/post/brian-orakpos-twitter-pledge/2011/03/23/ABlNMfJB_blog.html
Drafted: Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue), Markus White (Florida State).
Expired contracts: Inside linebacker Rocky McIntosh
Top need: Inside linebacker.
Orakpo will return for a third season at right outside linebacker and the team’s first-round draft pick, Kerrigan is expected to contend for the starting spot on the opposite edge. Alexander is probably his toughest competition, and Wilson and Jackson are in the mix as well. Fletcher anchors the middle, and Blades is reliable behind him. The other inside linebacker position?
McIntosh was looking at free agency last year, but the uncapped year rules made him to be a restricted agent. With the possibility that the NFL will use those same rules, which make players with six years of experience eligible for free agency, McIntosh will be looking at restricted free agency yet again. He recorded a career-high 110 tackles in his first season of playing inside linebacker after playing on the outside previously. And he wants to return. But will the Redskins bring him back?
Free agency isn’t particularly deep at 3-4 inside linebackers. Takeo Spikes recorded 109 tackles last season for San Francisco and is available, but would be entering his 14th season. Buffalo’s Akin Ayodele recorded 106 tackles in his ninth season. San Diego’s Kevin Burnett is the youngest of the free agent inside linebackers, having just completed his sixth season (95 tackles, six sacks).
If they don’t re-sign McIntosh, and given the lack of youth and depth in the free agent class, the Redskins’ best option could be Riley. The 6-foot, 238-pound Riley saw limited action as a rookie, but showed promise in the preseason (when he recorded 12 tackles) and late in the season, particularly against Dallas and Jacksonville.
Henson is another option. A two-year veteran, the 6-foot, 240-pound Henson recorded a team-high 19 tackles and two sacks in the preseason, but suffered a knee injury that required season-ending surgery.