The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Redskins should consider these six free agents to address need positions

New York Giants safety Landon Collins won't come cheap, but could be a free-agent target of the Redskins. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Placeholder while article actions load

With Thursday’s trade for Denver Broncos Case Keenum, it appears unlikely that the Washington Redskins will be adding a quarterback in free agency this offseason — even if drafting one, or trading for the Arizona Cardinals’ Josh Rosen, remains a possibility.

But the team still has several roster holes to address in free agency, with three standing out in particular. The safety position is once again a huge question mark after the team elected to sever ties with D.J. Swearinger. At left guard, Shawn Lauvao is unlikely to return following an injury-riddled campaign that saw him earn a Pro Football Focus grade lower than 60 (on a 0 to 100 scale), making him one of only three offensive linemen to do so in four consecutive seasons. And no wide receiving corps in the league saw fewer targets than the Redskins’ 236, while only the Bills, Cardinals and Jets had units generate a lower passer rating.

With limited salary cap space, the Redskins will have to weigh potential costs of adding players at all three of the positions. Here are some options they should consider, including one expensive and one bargain possibility at each spot.

Left guard

Pricier option: Rodger Saffold

Saffold has developed into one of the league’s most consistent guards. He has earned a grade above 70 in five of his nine years, and his latest effort — a 72.8 during the Rams’s NFC title-winning season — was good enough to rank ninth at the position. Over the past three seasons, he has allowed pressure on just 4.4 percent of his pass-blocking snaps, which is a better mark than Brandon Scherff (4.5 percent), let alone Lauvao (8.0 percent), while his zone run-blocking grade of 77.1 ranks fifth among guards in that three-year span. The learning curve is steep for college guards transitioning to the NFL, so the stability Saffold would provide might be worth the extra money.

Case Keenum won’t save the Redskins, but he gives them freedom to fill a thin roster

Low-budget option: Ty Nsekhe

One problem with this suggestion is that while the Redskins would seemingly like to re-sign Nsekhe, it’d likely be in the backup swing tackle role he’s excelled at in recent seasons. But hear us out. Nsekhe will not command anywhere near the type of money that players like Saffold will, and while he’s played more than 1,000 combined career snaps at left and right tackle, he’s also fared well during his 203 snaps at left guard. He has yet to allow a sack from the position, and given up just eight total pressures. The switch to full-time guard isn’t guaranteed to be a success, but it represents a reasonable risk given the likely cost involved, particularly if the team drafts an offensive lineman to provide depth behind him.

Wide receiver

Pricier option: Tyrell Williams

The Redskins are three seasons and 1,629 snaps into the Josh Doctson Experiment, and it’s still not clear how he fits into their offense. He definitely hasn’t proven himself as a reliable deep threat, having caught just eight of 39 career deep targets (passes thrown 20 or more yards downfield). In an attempt to ignite the downfield passing attack, the Redskins could look to Williams, the former Charger, who was thrust into a primary role in the wake of Keenan Allen’s season-ending injury in 2016 and caught 69 of 111 targets for 1,059 yards and seven touchdowns, earning a 75.6 overall grade. Allen’s return from injury and the ascension of Mike Williams pushed Williams down the pecking order the last two seasons, but he still managed to lead the league in deep receiving yards (291) through the first seven weeks last year.

Low-budget option: John Brown

Brown would fill the same role as Williams, but his hefty injury history means he could come at a fraction of the cost. After succumbing to injuries in 2016 and 2017, Brown was finally able to stay on the field last season, playing 729 snaps and seeing 94 targets. His ability as a deep threat was still there, too, as over the first month of the season Brown lit up opposing defenses for 243 deep receiving yards.


Pricier option: Landon Collins

Over the last 13 seasons, 33 different safeties have logged at least 50 snaps at the free safety position for the Redskins, and D.J. Swearinger and Sean Taylor are the only two who managed to grade above 80. The team attempted to remedy this problem at midseason by trading for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, but his struggles down the stretch could leave the Redskins to look elsewhere (although they should at least consider bringing him back, seeing as how his passer rating allowed of 52.9 since 2014 is the best mark among all safeties).

Why would the Giants let Landon Collins get away?

Enter Collins, who figures to command significant interest from several teams after being allowed by the New York Giants to hit free agency. His Alabama pedigree could appeal to a Washington team that has collected Crimson Tide players, particularly on defense, and Collins has produced a grade above 70 in each of the past three seasons (and grades above 80 in 2016 and 2017). His run-stop percentage was the best of any NFL safety last year.

Low-budget option: Tre Boston

The Redskins could choose to sign a lower-profile, less expensive safety, in the hope that they can also add one in the draft — or as a pairing with a more expensive signing like Collins. Boston fits this mold perfectly. He has played over 800 snaps in each of the last three years, and graded above 70 in four of his five NFL seasons. He’ll come at a much lower price tag than the best safeties in this year’s class, but his numbers are just as impressive. Over the last four years, Boston has allowed just 49 receptions on 94 targets, for 617 yards and six touchdowns, while recording 13 interceptions and allowing a passer rating of just 54.6.

More NFL coverage:

Kyler Murray goes No. 1 overall in updated 2019 NFL mock draft

After Jason Witten’s departure from ESPN, speculation again turns to Peyton Manning

Why the Atlanta Falcons are selling $1.50 hot dogs