The Redskins intend to target a long list of free agents according to a report Tuesday morning by NFL Network’s Jason LaCanfora, who cited anonymous league and team sources familiar with the club’s plans.
Washington reportedly will pursue, among others, New York Jets receiver Santonio Holmes, Baltimore Ravens right guard/right tackle Marshal Yanda and defensive linemen Kris and Cullen Jenkins, brothers who play for the Jets and Green Bay Packers, respectively.
Disregarding the names for a moment, it’s clear why the Redskins would approach free agency much more aggressively than they did last season. Coach Mike Shanahan’s plan always has been to evaluate the team during its first season in his schemes and then address glaring personnel deficiencies through what the team hopes will be a glutted free-agent class in the coming weeks, pending a new collective bargaining agreement.
The Redskins have created financial flexibility to be aggressive, and we could see the next phase of their plan in action soon. Their roster needs a major influx of talent and personnel suited to the scheme—no one can argue that fact—so a free-agency binge makes sense in that regard, regardless of whether the Redskins end up signing the exact players the NFL Network reported.
The key, of course, is to sign players that fit at a suitable price. Find the London Fletchers and stay away from the Adam Archuletas. That’s where Shanahan will sink or swim, especially following his failed Donovan McNabb acquisition.
The offensive and defensive lines, as well as wide receiver, remain areas of major need.
Holmes (turned 27 in March) and Minnesota’s Sidney Rice (turns 25 in Sept.) figure to be two of the most coveted receivers on the market. Holmes (5-11, 192) has emerged as a consistent deep threat on the perimeter who is explosive out of his breaks and after the catch.
It’s interesting, though, that the Redskins would target Holmes over Rice. At 6-4 and 202 pounds, Rice has the size that Washington’s receiving corps lacks. His length helps him separate from defenders, and he, too, can stretch the field. Rice, however, missed 10 games last season following hip surgery. That’s a red flag, as is Holmes’ history as a violator of the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
Whatever the Redskins do at receiver, the extent of their immediate impact is in serious doubt given the loss of the offseason program. When it comes to learning Kyle Shanahan’s playbook, receivers have so much to learn about routes and different options against different coverages. That takes significant time. With that in mind, re-signing Santana Moss would boost Washington’s chances to start next season strong.
On the offensive line, Yanda (turns 27 in Sept.) played his rookie season in Baltimore in 2007 under current Redskins offensive line coach Chris Foerster. He has started at right guard and right tackle, and his versatility would be a major asset as the Redskins decide which holes up front to patch.
But if the Redskins plan to re-sign Jammal Brown to play right tackle and pursue Yanda as a guard, Yanda likely would find more lucrative offers from teams willing to pay him a tackle’s salary. It’s a puzzle, and the pieces have to fit. And consider today’s Baltimore Sun blog entry that lists Yanda as expected to re-sign with the Ravens.
And while we’re talking about the right guard position, I was shocked by the NFL Network’s report that the Redskins hope Artis Hicks can start at guard for them. They already abandoned that experiment when Shanahan benched him in favor of Will Montgomery in Week 12 last season.
Hicks, who battled a groin and thigh injury, struggled with his leverage at guard and was ineffective. I’m not sure what could have changed in Shanahan’s mind since then. Hicks didn’t attend any of the Redskins’ informal workouts this offseason, so we haven’t seen him since January.
Regarding the defensive line, NFL Network reported that the Redskins intend to pursue Kris Jenkins to start at nose tackle instead of San Francisco’s Aubrayo Franklin. Jenkins (turns 32 in Aug.) tore the ACL in his left knee in New York’s season opener and missed the rest of last year. Perhaps he could be acquired more cheaply than Franklin (turns 31 in Aug.), who is widely regarded as the best nose tackle expected to hit the free-agent market.
If the Redskins do sign Jenkins, they better be sure that he is back to full strength, especially considering he has torn his left ACL in each of the last two seasons. We all saw Ma’ake Kemoeatu struggle at nose tackle last season coming off a yearlong absence due to an Achilles’ tear. His strength was a major problem at the point of attack, and the Redskins can’t afford to go through that again.
Pursuing Jenkins’ brother, Cullen, seems a wise course of action, as he is open to leaving the Super Bowl champs. Who could forget how he absolutely dominated the Redskins up front in Week 5 last season, even with a club on his broken left hand? Cullen (turned 30 in Jan.) is an every down player whose quickness, strength and versatility would allow the Redskins to let second-round pick Jarvis Jenkins ease into his pro career.