NFL free agency: Five players the Redskins should avoid

The Washington Redskins will make an effort to significantly upgrade their roster over the course of the next few days and the coming week.

Cornerback, safety, inside linebacker and wide receiver top the Redskins’ needs list, and fortunately for them, this year’s free agent class boasts talent at all of those positions.

But just because some of the biggest names will present themselves doesn’t mean Washington should bite. Sometimes a team would do better to pass on certain players and find alternative that could end up working out better in the long run.

Here’s a list of five players that the Redskins should avoid in free agency:

Roddy White, Aqib Talib

Aqib Talib breaks up a pass intended for Roddy White in 2013. (David Goldman/Associated Press)

CB Aqib Talib, New England

Yes, Talib probably ranks atop the list of cornerbacks that will hit the market. And yes, he has ties to people within the Redskins organization; Bruce Allen drafted him in Tampa in 2008, and Raheem Morris coached him. But Washington should pass on the 28-year-old Talib. He wants to be paid like the top cornerback on the market, which means he’ll want his contract to exceed the deal Miami just gave Brent Grimes (a four-year deal with an average salary of $8 million per year and has $16 million guaranteed). Grimes’s contract carries a $4 million cap hit this year, and it then goes up to $10 million next year. Talib has great size at 6 feet 1, 205 pounds, and skill (four interceptions last season). But he has battled injuries since 2010, and also has off-field issues and suspensions in his past. Because of those questions, and the Redskins’ many needs, they are probably better off going after someone like Sam Shields, who should come at a more affordable price tag, but still boasts great potential. The fifth-year pro has averaged four picks a year for the Packers, has the ability to play on the outside or inside and is still entering the prime of his career.

ILB Brandon Spikes, New England

Spikes is a tenacious player when it comes to stopping the run, but he struggles significantly in pass defense. Because of that, the Patriots would yank Spikes on obvious passing downs. The Redskins can’t afford to spend significant money on a player that will only help on first and second down. The Redskins would like to re-sign Perry Riley Jr., and he is a young, talented player who they hope can have a more impactful role than he did last season. He really showed promise in 2012, and it’s hard to say if Riley is ready to take over as the leader of the defense now that London Fletcher is gone. A veteran like Karlos Dansby, who despite being 32 remains athletic and productive, could be a good pick for Washington, even if he costs a little more.

Hakeem Nicks tries to hang on to a pass with DeAngelo Hall in coverage in December. (Julio Cortez/Associated Press)

Hakeem Nicks tries to hang on to a pass with DeAngelo Hall in coverage in December. (Julio Cortez/Associated Press)

WR Hakeem Nicks, N.Y. Giants

Nicks has good size at 6 feet 1, 208 pounds, and he’s still young at 26. But he has yet to return to the impactful form that we saw in 2010 and 2011 when he had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and combined for 18 touchdowns. He has battled some injuries, and also has been guilty of inconsistent play. One league insider described Nicks to me as “a guy that takes plays off; only plays when he wants.” Nicks had only three touchdowns in 2012, and no touchdowns despite 56 catches for 896 yards in 2013. A lot of rankings have Nicks rated as the No. 2 wideout behind Eric Decker. But if I’m the Redskins, I pass and use the draft to find an athletic, big target to go opposite Pierre Garcon.

SS T.J. Ward, Cleveland

Ward is coming off of a breakout season, in which the fourth-year pro recorded 112 tackles and two interceptions and earned Pro Bowl honors. But he wants a big pay day. The Redskins certainly need a big-play strong safety, but they also need a ball-hawking free safety. Jairus Byrd leads the free agent class at free safety, and pursuing him would be wise. But it’s hard to imagine Washington being able to afford both. Ward also has some questions about his game. He’s great in the box, but doesn’t rank among the most versatile safeties, which is a must in Jim Haslett’s defense. Pass coverage isn’t Ward’s strength. He has only four interceptions for his career. James Ihedigbo, who had a breakout year in 2013 for Baltimore (101 tackles, two forced fumbles, three interceptions), could prove to be a more affordable option with decent versatility.

Brandon Spikes and Julian Edelman are both free agents Washington should avoid. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Brandon Spikes and Julian Edelman are both free agents Washington should avoid. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

WR Julian Edelman, New England

The sixth-year veteran had a big year as he took over for Wes Welker as Tom Brady’s go-to slot receiver. Edelman had 105 catches for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns. Edelman will look to capitalize financially on that big year, and Washington certainly needs a trusty slot receiver. But how likely is it that Edelman, who hadn’t had more than 37 catches in a single season, will repeat that type of production? And how much of his production was of his own doing, or how much of it stemmed from the fact that he caught passes from a future Hall of Fame quarterback? Too many questions there. A smart pick: Arizona’s Andre Roberts – a speedy, steady, young player with the ability to play a significant role both in the slot and as a special teams contributor.

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesdays.

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