With significant financial resources to work with for the first time in three seasons, the Washington Redskins opened the NFL free agency period Tuesday with modest moves, re-signing inside linebacker Perry Riley Jr. and wide receiver Santana Moss, and adding three lesser-known players.
The team met a pressing need by bringing back Riley, but holes in the secondary went unfilled in the initial hours of the league’s spending period. Despite expressing interest in the past four days in cornerback Aqib Talib and safeties Jairus Byrd and Mike Mitchell — some of the top defensive backs available — the Redskins didn’t make strong pushes to sign any of them on Tuesday.
People with knowledge of the situation said team officials had engaged the representatives of those players in talks, but ultimately had reluctance over meeting those players’ hefty asking prices. The hesitance came despite the fact that Washington entered Tuesday with $18.58 million in cap space.
After bowing out of the running for Byrd, Mitchell and Talib, who eventually secured long-term deals with the New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos, respectively, the Redskins shifted their immediate attention to helping the offense and special teams units.
Washington signed former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Andre Roberts, who could take over as the lead slot receiver, added a potential starter in former Cleveland Browns right guard Shawn Lauvao, and also agreed to terms with inside linebacker Adam Hayward — a special teams standout for Tampa Bay the past eight years.
Roberts, who spent his first four seasons with Arizona, has experience returning kicks, as well. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound wide receiver, a 2010 third-round pick, has 182 catches for 2,123 yards and 11 touchdowns in his career. Roberts, who clocked a 4.36-second 40-yard dash out of college, recorded 43 catches last season, for 471 yards and two touchdowns.
The Redskins sought additional weapons for an offense that outside of top wide receiver Pierre Garcon and tight end Jordan Reed lacked explosiveness. Roberts, whose contract is worth $16 million over four years, potentially could help fill that need.
He agreed to terms with Washington late Tuesday morning, but couldn’t sign his contract until 4 p.m. In the evening, he tweeted, “I’m elated to be a part of the Redskins nation and to play with [Robert Griffin III] and alongside [Garcon] etc. … Time to be great! #HTTR”
Neil Schwartz, the agent for the 6-3, 315-pound Lauvao, a 2010 third-round pick out of Arizona State, announced the signing on Twitter. A person with knowledge of the situation confirmed it soon after. Lauvao started 11 games at right guard for Cleveland after missing the first four with a knee injury. He missed the final game of the season as well.
Lauvao started all 16 games both in 2011 and 2012 and appeared in 10 in 2010. He signed a four-year contract. ESPN reported its worth at $17 million. Chris Chester has started the past two seasons at right guard and remains under contract. But he struggled with consistency last season and faces an uncertain future.
More shuffling also is expected along Washington’s line. The Redskins had interest in Bengals right tackle Anthony Collins. But the Redskins learned Tuesday evening they had lost out in their pursuit of him, and Collins is expected to wind up with Tampa Bay.
Moss, entering his 14th NFL season and turning 35 in June, signed a one-year deal. His role, unclear considering the addition of Roberts, has decreased in each of the past two seasons. In 2013, he recorded 42 catches for 452 yards and two touchdowns.
Meanwhile on defense, Washington retained Riley, who led the Redskins with 115 tackles last season. The team spent the last three seasons grooming him to take over a leadership role from London Fletcher, who plans to retire.
The Redskins didn’t release the terms of Riley’s deal, but it’s believed to be a total of around $13 million over three years. Washington coaches and officials had maintained that re-signing Riley, a fourth-round pick in 2010, ranked high on their list of offseason priorities. The sides remained far apart on a deal as recently as last week, and the linebacker tested the waters of free agency during this weekend’s negotiation period. The Redskins and Riley came to an agreement Monday evening.
In a move that could bolster both the depth at inside linebacker and on special teams units, the Redskins agreed to terms with former Buccaneer Adam Hayward, his agent, Derrick Fox, said.
Hayward’s deal is for three years. He is scheduled to visit Redskins Park on Wednesday, take a physical, and if he passes, sign his contract.
The 6-1, 240-pounder has played primarily on special teams in his seven seasons in the NFL. Hayward has made 13 starts on defense, recording 128 tackles and a sack. He played for Redskins secondary coach Raheem Morris in Tampa Bay.
More signings are expected to follow in the coming days. Washington still must find two starting safeties, another starting inside linebacker, another cornerback and possibly more help on the offensive and defensive lines.
The team on Tuesday afternoon scheduled visits with free agent cornerback Corey Graham, who spent the past two seasons with Baltimore, and defensive end Antonio Smith — a 10th-year veteran who played for the Houston Texans the past five seasons. The two players are expected to arrive at Redskins Park on Wednesday.