The Washington Redskins have $23 million in cap space this offseason, according to the sports salary-tracking database Spotrac.com, and plenty of holes to fill before the NFL draft in April. How the team intends to use that space, however, is a bit of a mystery.
There are needs at running back, receiver, defensive line, linebacker and in the secondary. Doug Williams, the team’s senior vice president of player personnel, and Coach Jay Gruden both said the goal is to plug holes through free agency so the team has the luxury of taking the best player available during the draft. That’s a scenario every team would love, but is often easier said than done.
“[Spending] big might not be better,” Williams said at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. “At the end of the day it’s about the team and the people around you. I think we’ve got a pretty good team. I don’t know whether we’ve got to go out and spend big just to say we spent big.”
It’s unlikely the team would spend significant money on a running back considering the draft holds plenty of options.
There are at least 10 backs that could go in the first three rounds. Penn State’s Saquon Barkley is at the top of the class and is even in the conversation at No. 1 overall after a spectacular showing at the combine. Runners like Derrius Guice (LSU), Ronald Jones (Soutern California), Sony Michel (Georgia), Rashaad Penny (San Diego State) Kerryon Johnson (Auburn) and Nick Chubb (Georgia) are all early-round prospects that could contribute quickly.
There are several options at receiver with Allen Robinson, Paul Richardson, Sammy Watkins, Mike Wallace, Donte Moncrief and others set to hit the market. The Redskins are looking for outside help to go along with Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson. The team likes Ryan Grant, but he could leave in free agency. A healthy Jordan Reed at tight end would be a featured target for the incoming Alex Smith.
Another pass rusher on the defensive line would be nice, too, but stopping the run is a bigger priority after the team gave up a league-high 2,146 rushing yards in 2017. Jonathan Allen will return for his second year after suffering a season-ending Lisfranc sprain, but the Redskins are in the market for another defensive tackle. Sheldon Richardson and Dontari Poe are the top to names expected to be available, along with DaQuan Jones and Dominique Easley.
The likelihood of the Redskins re-signing leading tackler Zach Brown seems unlikely considering the team hadn’t spoken to the linebacker since making an initial offer, according to Williams last week. The six-year veteran is looking for a payday higher than the Redskins are looking to offer. That leaves a need in the middle.
Nigel Bradham, NaVorro Bowman, Avery Williamson, Preston Brown, Jon Bostic, Paul Posluszny, Demario Davis, Anthony Hitchens and Todd Davis are all slated to hit the market.
Finally, there’s the depleted Redskins secondary. They remain thin at safety and cornerback despite re-signing Deshazor Everett. Bashaud Breeland is expected to be gone, and it’s still unclear what will happen with Su’a Cravens after he abruptly left the team last season and was eventually placed on the reserved/left squad list.
“Every team tries to have at least five decent corners,” Williams said.
Malcolm Butler, Trumaine Johnson, Prince Amukamara, Morris Claiborne, Brent Grimes, Nevin Lawson, Patrick Robinson and T.J. Carrie are all set to be unrestricted cornerbacks.
Morgan Burnett, Eric Reid, Kenny Vaccaro, Tre Boston, Tyvon Branch, Bradley McDougald, Reggie Nelson and Quintin Demps will be options at safety.
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