Wide receiver Santana Moss, who will turn 34 in June, is owed $6.16 million in the final year of his deal. Other players Washington could look to extend and in the process lower cap figures may include cornerback Josh Wilson and linebacker Brian Orakpo. Wilson, who is in the final year of his deal, carries a cap figure of $5.3 million. Orakpo’s contract, which carries a cap hit of $5.1 million, is voidable after this season.
Once they create cap space, Washington has pressing needs to meet on both sides of the ball.
The Redskins’ priority unrestricted free agents include linebacker and special teams captain Lorenzo Alexander, who just made his first Pro Bowl, and tight end Fred Davis, who had a career year in 2011 but missed much of last season with a torn Achilles’ tendon.
Lichtensteiger, the starting left guard, and right tackle Tyler Polumbus also have expiring deals. But it remains to be seen if Washington will allow them to walk and promote 2012 third-round pick Josh LeRibeus to the starter at left guard and pursue another right tackle in free agency.
Maintaining a strong offensive front is crucial considering Washington must protect franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III, who is coming off torn knee ligaments suffered in the team’s playoff loss to Seattle. The offensive line, expected to be an area of weakness at the start of last season, boasted great continuity as the same five players started for 16 of the 17 games and paved the way for an offense that ranked fifth in the league with 383.2 yards per game and fourth in scoring at 27.3 points.
But Washington’s most glaring weakness lies in its secondary, particularly at safety. Meriweather missed the first 10 games of last season with knee injuries and played only one half before suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in Week 11. The team was forced to use a rotation of players in his place, and free safety Madieu Williams, who is now a free agent, underperformed. As a result, Washington’s defense ranked 30th in the league against the pass.
The Redskins still have Meriweather and talented but troubled free safety Tanard Jackson under contract, but there’s no certainty to what kind of recovery Meriweather can make, and when precisely Jackson will be reinstated after serving a year-long drug suspension.
Washington also needs a third cornerback.
The free agent market offers a number of quality defensive backs with Charles Woodson, Brent Grimes, Aqib Talib and Dashon Goldson ranking among them. But it remains to be seen if the Redskins can afford any of them.