Jay Gruden getting used to being in charge
When free agency opens March 11, the Redskins will have about $30 million in cap space and lots of holes to fill. Over the next few weeks, Redskins Insider Tarik El-Bashir will examine the field of potential free agents, by position, and evaluate who might be a fit in Washington.
Today, we’re looking at specialists.
Background: The Redskins struggled in most areas on special teams last season. So much so, the coordinator was canned after just one season on the job. Enter Ben Kotwica, formerly of the Jets. He’s now in charge of overhauling the units, and it’s expected that he’ll not only make significant changes to the schemes but also to the personnel. And, based on last year’s performances, only long snapper Nick Sundberg and kicker Kai Forbath should feel secure about their jobs entering the offseason. With that as a backdrop, let’s take a look at some free agents who could help the Redskins, shall we?
Best available: Devin Hester, Bears. He’s the NFL’s all-time leader in return touchdowns. And, yes, his only touchdown last season came against the Redskins, an electrifying 81-yard punt return at FedEx Field. Hester led the league in kickoff returns (52) and yardage (1,442 yards) and ranked seventh in yards per punt return (14.2). He’s a difference-maker. He’s also 31 and won’t come cheap.
Best fit: Brandon Tate, Bengals. The 26-year-old has size, speed, can return punts as well as kickoffs and, of course, knows the Redskins’ new head coach. Tate was the league’s fifth leading kickoff returner, averaging 26.1 yards per, and ranked 13th on punts, averaging 9.3 yards per. ProFootballFocus.com rates Tate as the third best all around returner, despite not scoring a touchdown. The Bengals will probably re-sign him, but if he does hit the open market …
Best of the rest: WR/PR Dexter McCluster (Chiefs) ranked seventh in punt return average (11.8 yards) and scored two touchdowns, including one against the Redskins; WR/PR Golden Tate (Seahawks) ranked nine in punt return average (11.5 yards) and could help the Redskins on offense, too; P Pat McAfee (Colts) is 26 years old and ranked 11th in average yards per punt (46) and 25th in net (38.5); P Donnie Jones (Eagles) is left-footed and ranked 20th in yards per punt (44.9) and ninth in net (40.4).