The Washington Redskins still need a defensive lineman, after yet another one who visited their facility signed elsewhere Wednesday. That could mean it’s Johnathan Hankins or bust, as far as free agency is concerned.
Hankins might be the biggest name remaining on the market. Others linked to the Redskins signed elsewhere. Muhammad Wilkerson met with the organization during the two-day negotiation period, but signed with the Green Bay Packers for one year and $5 million. Sylvester Williams met with the Redskins this week, but signed with the Detroit Lions on Wednesday. Sheldon Richardson signed with the Vikings for one year at $8 million, and Dontari Poe inked a three-year, $28 million deal with the Panthers. DaQuan Jones reached three-year, $21 million agreement with the Titans.
The Redskins also met with Pernell McPhee this week, but he left without a deal and visited the Falcons on Wednesday. He remains in the mix.
Former Philadelphia Eagles run-stopper Bennie Logan is still available and would help a defense that ranked last against the run in 2017, allowing 134.1 rushing yards per game.
Washington could draft a defensive lineman, and is reportedly interested in University of Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea. But they have other positions of need they also could fill in the first round, and might be attracted to a player such as Florida State safety Derwin James, if he’s still on the board.
Judging by the free agent visits, the organization would like to lock up a defensive lineman before the draft. Both Coach Jay Gruden and Doug Williams, senior vice president of player personnel, have said the preference is to fill holes in free agency and be able to take the best player available in the draft.
Hankins (6-foot-3, 320 pounds) seems like the best defensive tackle still available for the Redskins in free agency. Five-time Pro Bowl player Ndamukong Suh has yet to sign, but he will likely be too pricey for the Redskins.
Hankins started 15 games for the Colts last season and posted 44 tackles and two sacks. He started 41 games for the Giants between 2014-16, every game he played, and had a career-high seven sacks in 2014. The Colts released Hankins after Frank Reich and a new coaching staff took over and switched from a 3-4 to a 4-3 base defense. He was one of their big free agent signings in 2017 with a three-year, $30 million deal.
Addressing a porous run defense is more than a defensive line issue, according to Gruden. He expects all three levels of the defense to be involved.
The Redskins avoided having another hole in the defense by re-signing middle linebacker Zach Brown to a three-year deal worth up to $24 million. Outside linebacker Trent Murphy signed a three-year deal with the Buffalo Bills and linebacker Junior Galette remains on the market.
The Redskins signed former Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick, but safety is still a position of need.
Defensive tackle Jonathan Allen was the Redskins’ No. 17 overall pick in the 2017 draft, but a foot injury ended his season after five games.
“There’s a lot of reasons for the downfall of the run,” Gruden said at the NFL Combine. “At the end of the day, we have guys that should be able to step in here and play the run better. Safeties, linebackers, corners might have to … make tackles, which we didn’t do a great job of from time to time.
“So, it’s not just on Jonathan Allen’s position. It’s on the entire defense to stop the run. [Defensive coordinator] Greg Manusky is well aware of that. He’s been told many, many times by many, many people that we’re going to have to get better stopping the run. Having Jonathan Allen back will be a huge plus for us. Adding another piece in there will be very beneficial.”
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