Washington Redskins officials this week have begun in earnest the process of evaluating their impending free agents. They’re sitting down, going over performances, salaries, roles and more.
The coaches and executives will decide which players they can’t live without, which players they would like to retain if the price is right, and which players they can move on from or find upgrades for.
So, let’s do a little evaluating ourselves, shall we? Here’s a rundown of the complete Redskins’ free agent list, and after that, we’ll prioritize these re-signings.
Unrestricted free agents and 2016 salary-cap hits:
QB Kirk Cousins ($19.95 million), WR Pierre Garcon ($10.2M), WR DeSean Jackson ($9.2M), DE Chris Baker ($4.28M), TE Vernon Davis ($2.38M), DL Kedric Golston ($625K), DE Cullen Jenkins ($927K), ILB Terence Garvin ($750K), C John Sullivan ($728K), CB Greg Toler ($680K), SS Duke Ihenacho ($675K), DE Ziggy Hood ($625K), SS Donte Whitner ($485K).
Restricted/Exclusive-rights free agents and cap hits:
RFAs: RB Chris Thompson ($675K), ILB Will Compton ($600K), T Ty Nsekhe ($600K), SS Josh Evans ($39.7K).
ERFAs: T Vinston Painter ($432K), DT Matt Ioannidis ($397K), WR Maurice Harris ($291K),CB Dashaun Phillips ($277K), OLB Lynden Trail ($52.9K).
Gotta have ’em
Cousins – The Redskins have made strides with Cousins under center, posting back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in 20 years. Losing him likely translates into a significant step backwards. Evaluators know that Colt McCoy knows the offense, but he doesn’t get rid of the ball nearly as quickly, and thus will take more sacks, and won’t move the ball quite as efficiently.
Market value calls for a salary of around $23.5 million per season on a four-year deal worth roughly $94 million to $95 million. Cousins’s agent will come to those figures after looking at Andrew Luck’s five-year, $122.9 million deal ($24.5 million per) signed last year, Matt Ryan’s $103.75 million ($20.75 million) signed in 2013, and Joe Flacco’s three-year, $66.4 million extension ($22.1 per) signed last year, among others, and will argue that his client is deserving of similar money. The Redskins could have saved some money by getting this done last year, but what’s done is done, and now they have more to go on, and should get this completed rather than go with the franchise tag, or parting with Cousins.
Garcon – Since signing a five-year, $42.5 million contract in 2012, Garcon has done nothing but deliver. You could argue that he’s one of the best – if not the best free-agent signings the Redskins have made in years. Coming off of a second 1,000-yard season with the team, Garcon has plenty left in the tank at the age of 30, and he’s a strong leader in the wide receiver room. Uncertainty over Josh Doctson’s health makes re-signing Garcon even more of a priority. Market value calls for a two- to three-year deal that pays Garcon around $9 million per year. But given his production and the Redskins’ shaky situation, and the interest he likely will generate on the market, it could wind up being in that $11 million-per-season range. Considering guys like A.J. Green, Alshon Jeffery, Julio Jones, Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, Doug Baldwin and Keenan Allen are making, on average, $11.2 million to $15 million, this is actually a solid deal for the Redskins.
Davis – The 11th-year veteran wound up being a great get for the Redskins, providing good depth behind Jordan Reed and valuable locker-room leadership. With 44 catches for 584 yards and two touchdowns in 16 games played, Davis earned his $2.4 million and could be in line for a multi-year deal that pays him $2.5 million to $3.5 million per season, and re-signing him is smart given his production and Reed’s durability issues.
Thompson – He has developed into a reliable and versatile threat for the offense, and coaches value Thompson’s leadership. As a restricted free agent who made just $675,000 last season, Thompson will come at an affordable rate as well.
Compton – Is he the fastest? Is he the most dominant? No. But he’s intelligent and is a great communicator. Thompson should continue to improve as he enters his second full season as a starter. The team probably should consider adding a more explosive, more athletic sidekick to help compensate for Compton’s deficiencies. But he’s worth keeping around, and like Thompson, won’t break the bank.
● Harris, Evans, Painter, Ioannidis, Phillips and Trail all are young players (and exclusive rights free agents) who are worth bringing back to further develop in hopes that they earn larger roles down the line.
Should bring back, but …
Baker – The Redskins seem kind of lukewarm on Baker, and wanted more from him than he offered last year. His numbers dipped from six sacks and 53 tackles in 2015 to 3.5 sacks and 47 tackles in 2016. But the lack of a consistently impactful linemate had something to do with that.
The Redskins probably should sign and draft two other starters and bring Baker back. He just fulfilled a three-year, $9 million deal, but will they sign him? The market calls for a four-year, $29 million deal that would pay him around $7.4 million annually. Team officials might view that as a bit too rich for their tastes, and so Baker could command more on the market than the Redskins are willing to pay him.
Ihenacho – Finally able to make it through a full season after missing the past two because of injury, Ihenacho showed some encouraging signs, but also has limitations. He’s been in the league four years, but because of his limited playing time, is still developing. The big question is with plans to move Su’a Cravens to safety, where does Ihenacho, also a strong safety, fit? He’d be good for depth, particularly with Cravens learning. In the past, the team has viewed free and strong safety as interchangeable. But until the team has a secondary coach in place, it’s hard to say how things will work back there. Jay Gruden did say that how the team does things on the back end will change. So, we’ll see.
Nsekhe – He proved himself to be reliable, particularly when Trent Williams was on his four-game suspension. But Nsekhe also could draw outside attention, and a team could offer him more than the Redskins are willing to pay him as a backup. The good thing for Washington is that he’s a restricted free agent. However, they’re not going to want to pay him the low-level starter money that another team could offer.
Garvin – Valuable on special teams, and capable of helping out on defense in a larger role, Garvin makes a lot of sense to bring back. The question, is he happy returning in a similar role to last season, or will he want to go somewhere that he has a chance to play more?
Likely to go
Jackson – Yes, he’s got game-changing speed, and yes, he’s coming off of a second 1,000-yard season with the team. But Jackson just isn’t reliable and consistent enough for the Redskins’ liking. They don’t seem to see him as versatile enough to justify giving him the kind of payday he’s likely seeking. Market value calls for a two-year contract that would pay Jackson around $7.6 million per year. But the Redskins don’t feel like they can afford to pay both Garcon and Jackson, so No. 88 is likely the guy to get the contract from the team.
With Jamison Crowder such a threat, and the potential that Doctson seems to offer, if he is healthy), and the explosiveness of the tight end position, the offense will remain productive even without Jackson. But look for the team to use a draft pick on another speedster. Jackson, meanwhile, is said to want to get back to the West coast where he’s from, and he wants to play in an offense that goes deep more often than Jay Gruden does.
Hood, Jenkins, Golston, Toler, Whitner and others – Guys like Hood and Jenkins and Toler proved serviceable when called upon, but age has diminished the impacts of Hood and Jenkins in particular. Whitner definitely has seen his game decline. Toler wasn’t used enough, but he has something left in the tank. Coaches preferred the youth of Quinton Dunbar and Kendall Fuller, however. Golston missed the year with injury and it’ll be interesting to see if the long-time Redskin retires.
If they can lock up Cousins, Garcon, Davis and Thompson, the offense is close to set. A few younger, promising pieces will help, but they don’t need to spend big on them. The big moves both in the draft and free agency need to come on defense. This unit could feature three new starters on the line, and will likely have two new starters at safety. Inside linebacker could use some youth and explosiveness, and the team could possibly use another edge rusher.
A healthy Junior Galette could help here. He posted on Instagram Tuesday that he was signing a new deal on Wednesday. But according to sources, he’s not actually a free agent. Instead, his one-year deal that he signed last year, but never fulfilled because he got hurt before camp and without having practiced, is classified as a non-football injury and rolls over to this year. If Galette can return to his 2014 form, he helps the defense. But the Redskins need more help than that.
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