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.
We’ve examined the Redskins’ linebackers, defensive backs, defensive line, offensive line , running backs, receivers, quarterbacks and the free agents at each position. Lastly, we look at special teams.
Veterans: K Graham Gano, P Sam Paulescu, LS Nick Sundberg, KR/PR Brandon Banks.
Top needs: Consistency across the board
In his first full NFL season, Graham Gano proved that he has a strong leg but still has to get the accuracy part down. Gano made only 68.6 percent of his field goals (24-for-35) last season, but Shanahan continued to express confidence in the Florida State product.
When the season concluded, Gano talked about changing his approach and believed that would lead to improved accuracy. It wouldn’t be a surprise at all, though, for the Redskins to bring in someone to compete with him in training camp. There are kickers on the free agent market. The Eagles drafted a kicker, and David Akers will be a free agent. Adam Vinatieri, Ryan Longwell, Shayne Graham and Matt Bryant also are available. But all of them are also getting up in years.
Punter Josh Bidwell’s season was limited to just four games by a hip injury, and Hunter Smith was brought back. But the Redskins cut Smith after Sundberg’s high snap slipped through his hands, costing Washington a game-tying extra point in a 17-16 loss to Tampa Bay. Smith was cut two days later. But Paulescu didn’t do any better. His net was 33.1 yards a punt. Smith’s was 33.7.
Former Redskin Matt Turk will be a free agent. He is now 42, but still has a stronger leg than any of the three players who punted for Washington. Last season he posted a 42.1-yard average and a 36.8-yard net. The other three free agent veteran punters -- Ben Graham, Michael Koenen and Brad Maynard – also fared better than the Redskins’ 2010 trio. The Redskins always could bring in an undrafted free agent to provide competition for Paulescu.
In the return game, Banks – who as a rookie ranked 12th in the NFL with 25.1 yards per kick return and one TD, and ninth in the NFL with 11.3 yards per punt return – will have competition this year.
The Redskins added Paul and Robinson in the draft, and both are bigger, and possibly more durable. Banks had some electrifying games, but more often than not, he was good, not great. He probably came back from knee surgery sooner than he should have. He said in the second half of the season that he wasn’t able to cut like he did before the operation. Shanahan said, however, that the addition of Paul and Robinson aren’t signs that the Redskins lack confidence in Banks. Instead, they were moves to give the Redskins more options and depth, the coach said.