Redskins free agency: Top remaining needs on defense


Jim Haslett’s unit has a number of holes to fill. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

The Washington Redskins earlier this week addressed one pressing need on their defenses by ensuring that they will not lose top pass-rusher Brian Orakpo to free agency. But many holes remain on a unit that ranked second-worst in the league in points allowed.

When free agency gets underway in a few days (negotiation period begins Saturday, and players can begin signing contracts Tuesday), Washington is expected to take an aggressive approach to meeting their many needs.

Today we’ll take a look at the biggest remaining holes on the defensive side of the ball, and possible free agent targets.

Safety

This could be the biggest need on the entire roster as the Redskins have no proven players at either strong or free safety. Brandon Meriweather and Reed Doughty have expiring contracts, and it remains unclear whether Washington will attempt to re-sign either. Bacarri Rambo struggled mightily in the limited action he saw as a rookie last season. The team just re-signed Jose Gumbs, but he played primarily on special teams last season. Phillip Thomas missed all of his rookie season, and it’s hard to say how much Washington can count on him. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Redskins turn to free agency to find starters at both safety positions. The main question, however, is whether they can afford some of the top safeties on the market. They consumed $11.455 million of their roughly $30 million of cap space when they used the franchise tag on Orakpo. They did create around $4 million in cap space by releasing Adam Carriker and Sav Rocca. So, the Redskins could have between $20 million and $23 million of cap space. But with so many needs, that money will go quickly.

Top safeties available: Jairus Byrd (Buffalo), T.J. Ward (Cleveland), Donte Whitner (San Francisco), Antoine Bethea (Indianapolis), Chris Clemons (Miami), Louis Delmas (Detroit).

Inside linebacker

Gone is London Fletcher, and Perry Riley remains unsigned. The only inside linebackers on the roster are special teams contributor Josh Hull, Keenan Robinson, who has missed much of his first two NFL seasons because of injury, and Will Compton, who spent the bulk of the year on the practice squad. Riley had expressed a desire to re-sign with Washington, but the two sides remain far apart on a deal, so he is expected to test the waters of free agency. Talks with the Redskins remain ongoing, however. Donald Butler re-signing in San Diego for $6.8 million a year could help set the market. The Redskins need to find two significant contributors at this position.

Top inside linebackers available: Riley, Karlos Dansby (Arizona), Brandon Spikes (New England), Daryl Smith (Baltimore), D’Qwell Jackson (Cleveland).

Cornerback

The Redskins re-signed DeAngelo Hall to fill one starting cornerback slot; now they need to find another starter and probably one more backup. David Amerson will enter his second season, but Redskins coaches have questions about how ready he is to start. He made some plays last year, but also blew a fair amount as well. Look for Washington to try to add another veteran to the mix to replace Josh Wilson. Amerson likely will have the same role as last season as third corner, playing often while still gaining valuable experience and developing into an eventual starter. E.J. Biggers served as a versatile backup last season and also is a free agent, but Washington has expressed some interest in re-signing him. Richard Crawford is coming back from injury and can chip in, but he’s not starter quality. The Redskins had interest in Aqib Talib last season, but couldn’t afford him. With Brent Grimes re-signing with Miami for $8 million a season earlier this week, Talib is expected to want about $9 million a year, which could exceed Washington’s budget. There are number of other quality corners on the market and in the draft however.

Top cornerbacks available: Aqib Talib (New England), Sam Shields (Green Bay), Vontae Davis (Indianapolis), Brandon Browner (Seattle), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Denver), Charles Tillman (Chicago), Corey Graham (Baltimore), Alterraun Verner (Tennessee).

More from The Post:

Redskins, Perry Riley remain far apart in negotiations

Mailbag: What’s impact of Orakpo’s tag

Orakpo encouraged by team’s move to tag him

Reid: Orakpo move was not the route to go

Redskins re-sign safety Jose Gumbs

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Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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Mike Jones · March 4

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