The Washington Redskins have their quarterback in place for next season. This week, they will attempt to address other needs while working within a tight budget.
Free agency begins on Wednesday at 4 p.m., signalling the start of a new league year. NFL clubs can legally contact representatives of unrestricted free agents and enter contract negotiations on Monday. The Redskins are nearly $6 million over the cap after placing the non-exclusive franchise tag on Kirk Cousins, who will receive $19.9 million if the two sides can’t agree on a long-term deal by July 15.
Washington will be in the black once it releases quarterback Robert Griffin III, which will clear $16.155 million off the salary cap. But the Redskins are projected to have between $8 million and $11 million in cap space after that transaction, not a lot of money in NFL terms.
The Redskins aren’t expected to be major players in free agency as General Manager Scot McCloughan again aims to build through the draft, but they will try to create more cap space by either restructuring or releasing players to acquire complementary roster pieces.
“It’s going to be similar [to 2015],” McCloughan said at the Senior Bowl in January. “We’re not going to be big players. You know, I don’t believe in that. I think we just need to add legit football guys that understand it’s about the Redskins and it’s not about themselves. That you’re going to come in here, ‘This is what we’re going to be.’ And you’re going to be in or out — one or the other.”
While there are some needs offensively, the Redskins will need to improve defensively at just about every position. Both nose tackles — Terrance Knighton and Kedric Golston — are scheduled to become free agents, and they could also use another rotational defensive end to go with Chris Baker, Stephen Paea, Ricky Jean Francois and possibly Jason Hatcher.
Will Compton is expected to sign a one-year contract tender that was offered by the team as an exclusive rights free agent, but Washington could use another inside linebacker with Mason Foster and Keenan Robinson slated to become unrestricted free agents. Robinson is not expected to return.
“I think when he hurt his shoulder initially it hindered his performance,” Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said of Robinson during the NFL Scouting Combine last week. “Then we kept him out, let him rehab it, let him get better. And when he did come back that’s when Compton was playing very well and we didn’t want to take Compton [out]. Keenan finished off strong for us, was good in the locker room. But I think he’s going to hit free agency and probably land somewhere else.”
Junior Galette will become an unrestricted free agent, but he’s expected to return next season after tearing his Achilles’ tendon during training camp. While he recently fired his agent, Galette has strongly expressed his interest to re-sign and has gone as far as getting a Redskins tattoo. The Redskins have the right of first refusal, giving them the opportunity to match any offer Galette receives.
“I feel good about getting Junior back. I really do,” Gruden said. “We didn’t have him very long on the field, unfortunately, but he showed enough on the field that he can be a force for us when he’s right. He’s doing everything he can to get his body right, and now it’s a matter of getting him signed to our football team. I feel good about our chances in doing that, but you never know.”
In the secondary, the Redskins could look for upgrades at both cornerback and safety. Chris Culliver continues to recover from torn ligaments in his right knee, but they’ll need depth behind Bashaud Breeland. Washington received solid play from Will Blackmon, who will become an unrestricted free agent. They could use some corners to compete with Quinton Dunbar and Deshazor Everett.
Washington plans to stay with veteran safeties DeAngelo Hall and Dashon Goldson, but it lacks competition at both positions. Duke Ihenacho, who played one game because of a dislocated left wrist, will become an unrestricted free agent, and the Redskins haven’t defined what role Kyshoen Jarrett will play once he recovers from a shoulder injury. Some of the top safety free agents, such as Eric Weddle or George Iloka, will likely be out of their price range, but they could use an experienced backup in free agency to back up Hall, 32, and Goldson, 31.
“We need help everywhere,” McCloughan said last week at the combine. “We really do, and not just as a straight line starter or front line starter, but even as a solid two, solid three, a really good teams guy. That’s the one thing right now, hopefully we get to the point where we can identify certain positions where we feel really strong at, but we need football players. It’s plain and simple.”