If I’m Mike Shanahan, my biggest priority entering unrestricted free agency (next week?) is the Redskins’ offensive line.
To refresh your memory: Washington ranked 23rd in sacks per pass attempt last season and 16th in rushing yards per attempt. We all saw how poor line play hindered a six-time Pro Bowl quarterback; imagine how tough that would make life for John Beck.
Reports from the ongoing labor negotiations between the NFL and the decertified players union are that a new collective bargaining agreement will allow players with at least four years of service to become unrestricted free agents. And if that is the case, the Redskins would have the opportunity to significantly upgrade their line in the biggest free agent pool ever.
One of the options in that scenario would be right tackle Ryan Harris. Shanahan drafted Harris, 26, in Denver in the third round (70th overall) in 2007 and promoted him to a full-time starter in 2008.
During an appearance Tuesday on Denver radio station 102.3 The Ticket, host Nate Kreckman asked Harris: “Would you go play for Mike Shanahan again?”
“Yeah,” Harris said. “I had a great experience with Mike Shanahan. [He] drafted me into the league, gave me my first opportunity. We had the No. 1 pass offensive line [in sacks per pass] and the No. 3 rushing offensive line [in yards per carry] so I know he’s got a system that works. He knows how to put players together.”
Harris, as you’d expect from a lineman that Shanahan hand-picked, is known for his above-average lateral quickness, agility and range.
His biggest problem is injuries. He has played only 19 games since playing all 16 in 2008. He dislocated the big toe on his right foot in Nov. 2009 and finished that season on injured reserve. He injured his left ankle in the 2010 preseason finale and started only 10 games. With that in mind, you couldn’t blame the Redskins for being cautious when considering the terms of a contract offer to him.
Harris, however, proclaimed his full health on the radio Tuesday. He said he is up to 315 pounds after playing at approximately 300 in the past. He said he has added “good weight” in order to address some teams’ concern about his size. He stands 6-feet-5.
Harris during his appearance seemed resigned to leaving Denver. The Broncos plan on playing second-round rookie Orlando Franklin at right tackle, according to ESPN.
Jammal Brown is the Redskins’ incumbent right tackle, but he, too, would be a free agent under the parameters discussed above. Brown, 30, struggled last season in transitioning from the left side. He was coming off hip surgery that cost him the 2009 season, and he battled the hip throughout 2010. His play improved late last year as the hip pain eased and he became more comfortable playing on the right.
“We definitely have our eye out for teams who we’ve identified are going to go after tackles in free agency,” Harris said. “We’re just going to weigh all our options. We’re going to have a lot of options coming out…and we’ll see where that takes us.”