- The Washington Times - Monday, February 19, 2018

Zach Brown took a meeting with the Oakland Raiders last offseason, touring the team’s facilities in March 2017. A free agent, he left without a contract — and didn’t sign one until April.

The Redskins and Brown agreed to a one-year, $2.3 million deal, a bargain given the impact Brown had on the Redskins’ defense. In 13 games, he recorded 127 tackles and provided an element of speed the team’s linebackers lacked in previous years. Brown wasn’t perfect, but he turned out to be a great find in a period in which most of the NFL’s top free agents had already signed.

Brown will be a free agent again this offseason. And with the Redskins moving on from Kirk Cousins, he’s will likely Washington’s top priority to re-sign among their own free agents. 

The Redskins are projected to have $31 million in cap space, according to the website Spotrac, when NFL free agency opens March 14. 

Washington can use that money without having to worry about bidding against other teams to keep Cousins, who will likely become the highest-paid player in NFL history. The New York Jets, for instance, reportedly are willing to pay “whatever it takes” to land Cousins, according to ESPN. 

As long as the Redskins don’t use the franchise tag on him for the third straight year, Cousins is no longer their problem.

In addition to Brown and Cousins, Washington will have 16 unrestricted free agents to keep tabs on. The group carries plenty of notable names, too.

CB Bashaud Breeland

The odds of Breeland returning to the Redskins might be higher than they were when the season ended. Washington traded promising cornerback Kendall Fuller and the Redskins could use another corner among their current group.

The need to bring back Breeland also increases if the Redskins cut bait with cornerback Josh Norman. Over the weekend, CBS Sports reported there are “rumblings” about the team being interested in doing so. Cutting Norman, however, would bring a cap hit of $9 million in dead money, so such a move is unlikely for now. 

Still, Breeland, 26, is likely to get paid this offseason, with his starting salary projected to be $10 million annually by some reports. Washington already extended corner Quinton Dunbar (three-years, $10 million) and have third-round pick Fabian Moreau waiting in the wings. They could also draft another corner, or get a cheaper veteran on the market.

C Spencer Long and G Shawn Lauvao

Two fixtures of the Redskins’ offensive line since 2014, Long and Lauvao had the opposite of a “contract year” performance in 2017. They were both hampered throughout the year with injuries before being shut down. The Redskins like Long’s flexibility in being able to play multiple spots along the line, and so he could be Lauvao’s replacement at left guard if the Redskins choose to re-sign him. Long was a third-round pick by the Redskins, while Lauvao was acquired in a trade. Long played seven games in 2017, while Lauvao appeared in nine. Lauvao’s injury history makes his return more doubtful, given he’s 30 and also missed 13 games in 2015.

OLB Junior Galette

Junior Galette has openly campaigned for more playing time on social media, often using the hashtag, #Free58. Galette was effective at pressuring the quarterback at 2017, but finished the season with only three sacks. Galette has repeatedly said he’s grateful for Washington sticking with him after two season-ending Achilles injuries, though he’ll be eyeing an expanded role in free agency. He knows that could lead him elsewhere, considering Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan play ahead of him.

On Twitter, Galette said he doesn’t want to leave the Redskins, but “we can’t always get what we want.” He recently told Arrowhead Pride, a Chiefs blog, that he was looking to play in a full-time role rather than a rotation. He also told 106.7 The Fan that the Redskins are going to let him explore free agency.

OLB Trent Murphy

The forgotten man. Murphy, the Redskins’ 2014 second-round pick, suffered a torn ACL in training camp and missed the entire season. But before he went down, the Redskins were high on Murphy’s ability to contribute in the pass rush — he had nine sacks in 2016. It’s unclear what Murphy’s market will be after sitting out an entire year, but he would be worth taking a flyer on if the price is affordable. If Galette and Murphy both leave, Washington has linebacker Ryan Anderson waiting in the wings. Anderson, a 2017 second-round pick, rarely saw the field in 2017.

WR Ryan Grant

Get your “Ryan Gruden” jokes over with now. Grant developed into one of the Redskins’ most dependable receivers after former GM Scot McCloughan nicknamed him “Ryan Gruden” for coach Jay Gruden’s willingness to stick with him. Grant had a career-high 547 yards and four touchdowns last year. In January, Gruden said the Redskins were going to try and do “everything we can” to bring him back.

The other guys: Besides the names mentioned above, here’s who else among the Redskins is slated to be a UFA in March:

  • WR Terrelle Pryor (A splashy free agent signing, Pryor didn’t fit in Washington in his one season. He had just 240 yards in nine games before having foot surgery. The Browns, his prior team, is reportedly interested in a reunion.)
  • TE Niles Paul (Paul brought value as the team’s third tight end and on special teams. He wants to be back.)
  • ILB Will Compton (The Redskins had three pending UFAs at inside linebacker before extending Mason Foster, and Gruden said he wanted at least two of the three to return. An option to come back if Brown doesn’t return.)
  • K Dustin Hopkins (He had a trying season, but returned late in the year from a hip injury.)
  • S DeAngelo Hall (He’s likely to retire)
  • DT Phil Taylor (Slated to start at nose tackle before a season-ending quad injury cut his season short in Week 3 of the preseason.)
  • DT Arthur Jones
  • C Tony Bergstrom
  • LB Chris Carter
  • WR Brian Quick


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