The Redskins haven’t played for a week and a half and there are only three games left in this NFL season so it is time to start looking at the offseason. The two main ways for teams to improve themselves are free agency (starts March 12) and the draft (April 25) and the Redskins will have diminished resources to work with in both of those. They have an $18 million salary cap penalty to deal with in the free agent market and they do not have a first-round draft pick due to the trade for Robert Griffin III.
They will have some work to do to deal with the salary cap penalty; according to media reports they are about $4 million over the cap as of now. They will be able to maneuver to get under as required but they won’t have much to spend on any premium free agents. However, they should be able to find some productive players with their draft picks.
They have seven selections in the draft. The Rams own their first pick, the 22nd overall, due to the Griffin trade. The exact placement of their second-round pick remains to be determined. They would be slotted at 54th under normal circumstances. However, that will improve by at least one slot because the Browns picked wide receiver Josh Gordon in the second round in last year’s supplemental draft so their forfeit their second rounder in this year’s regular draft.
And, as of now, the Saints are supposed to lose their second-round pick as part of their penalties for the bounty scandal. However, that penalty could be reduced to a lower pick or picks. So as of right now the Redskins have the 52nd pick but that would be bumped up to the 53rd if the Saints get their second-round pick back.
The Redskins also have picks in the third round (about 32 picks after their second-round pick), the fourth, two in the fifth, the sixth, and seventh. The extra fifth is from the Patriots as a result of the Albert Haynesworth trade.
Many have asked if the Redskins will receive a pick from the Lions for sending them cornerback Kevin Barnes in August. Barnes did make Detroit’s 53-man roster going into the season but he was released after two games. It appears that the condition of the trade was not met and the Lions owe the Redskins nothing. However, this is not certain and more will come out on this later.
There are also compensatory draft picks to be awarded but it does not appear that the Redskins are in line to get any of those. They did lose LaRon Landry to the Jets but the secret formula used to calculate compensatory picks will offset that with the Redskins’ signing of Pierre Garçon and Josh Morgan.
Mike Shanahan has said that he drafts the best available player but it is apparent that needs come into play, especially early in the draft. Although needs could change during free agency, you have to think that they will be looking at a safety. Madieu Williams, who started all 16 games at free safety, is unlikely to be back. The Redskins did strong safety by committee with Reed Doughty, DeJon Gomes, and Jordan Pugh all seeing significant snaps there. On a few occasions, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said that this is not how he would prefer to handle the position, and that he would rather have one player handle the vast majority of the snaps.
The Redskins do have two veteran safeties under contract for 2013 but both of them carry significant question marks. Brandon Meriweather only played in one game due to knee injuries, missing the last six games after tearing his right ACL. Tanard Jackson was set to be the starting free safety but he was hit with a drug-related suspension just before the season started. Even if all goes well and will not be able to communicate with the Redskins or set foot in Redskins Park until August 30 at the earliest.
So the Redskins would be well advised to have solid alternatives in place. A good safety who could step right in and contribute early if not start from day one should be available when their second-round pick comes around. The best of the bunch appears to be Kenny Vaccaro of Texas but it is likely that he will be gone when the Redskins are on the clock. But others, like Baccari Rambo of Georgia, Eric Reid of LSU and D. J. Swearinger of South Carolina should be there.
Beyond that, the draft is likely to center on the best available players. The Redskins might like to find a cornerback, right tackle, and someone who can rush the passer either from a two-point stance or with his hand in the dirt as the best available when their pick comes up but they have shown that they will reach only so far to fill needs.