Although the fan and media conversation about the NFL draft focuses on needs for the coming season, the draft is more about the long-term future than the short-term outlook. Between now and the draft we’re looking at how the Redskins are set up for the long haul at each position on the field. Today, we look at the defensive line.
When Mike Shanahan and Jim Haslett came to the Redskins in 2010 they decided to convert from a 4-3 defensive scheme to a 3-4. They had to remake the defensive line in order to do so and they were able to accomplish the changeover very quickly.
Among the first acquisitions was end Adam Carriker, who came from the Rams in a swap of draft picks. He was a first-round pick for St. Louis but he was a disappointment due to injuries and not having a true position fit in a 4-3 defense. Haslett, his defensive coordinator with the Rams, saw that he could be a fit with the Redskins and was quite pleased when the Redskins traded for him.
The Redskins added more to the line in 2011. In the draft they took end Jarvis Jenkins in the second round. When free agency opened up after the lockout they signed Barry Cofield from the Giants to play nose tackle and Stephen Bowen from the Cowboys to play right defensive end.
Carriker, Bowen, Jenkins, and Cofield form the core of the defensive line. Jenkins missed all of 2011 with a torn ACL suffered in the preseason and Carriker suffered a season-ending injury in the second game last year. They are all back and signed for at least this year and next.
Cofield, 29, is signed through 2016 with cap hits ranging from $6.3 million this year to $6.8 million in 2014 and 2015. Bowen, also 29, is in the fold through 2015 with cap numbers of $5.5 million this year up to $7 million in 2015.
Jenkins is on the last two years of his rookie deal. Carriker, who turns 29 next month, took a pay cut to stay this year. Although he is signed through 2015 his cap number jumps from $6.75 million for each of the next two seasons, setting up the possibility that he could be in line for another reduction to his salary or perhaps a release if Jenkins ends up taking the majority of the snaps at left end.
The Redskins also brought back Kedric Golston, who will be 30 before the season starts, on a two-year contract to serve as depth in the rotation. Other possibilities at end are Doug Worthington, who saw limited action last year, and castoffs Ron Brace and Phillip Merling, both of whom are in for looks on one-year, veteran minimum deals.
Behind Cofield at nose tackle they have Chris Baker, who is on a one-year restricted free agent tender this year, and Chris Neild, a seventh-round pick in 2011 who has two years left on his rookie deal. In camp last year those two were in a battle for the backup nose tackle spot but a torn ACL ended Neild’s season during training camp and the spot went to Baker by default. Although Baker can also play end, it looks like it will be the two players going for one job in training camp.
With the top five defensive linemen (the core identified above plus Golston) all under contract through at least 2014 plus the reserves in place, the position appears to be an area that the Redskins could safely bypass in the draft. Even with the status of Carriker after this year perhaps up in the air, it seems that they have sufficient depth to handle anything that comes along. Although you can never discount a scenario where a defensive lineman is by far the best player on the board when the Redskins are on the clock, it seems unlikely that they will be drafting a D-lineman this year.