Redskins needs analysis: Inside linebacker

Redskins needs analysis: Inside linebacker
March 6, 2014, 4:30 pm
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If you’ve read any Redskins related articles lately, you’ve no doubt encountered the phrase “lots of needs to address.” Indeed, the team has many holes, ranging from wide receiver to punter, that it must fill between the start of free agency on March 11 and Week 1 in September.

In the coming days, Redskins Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will indentify those needs and present various ways the team can fill them.

Position: Inside linebacker

On the roster: Keenan Robinson, Will Compton, Josh Hull and Jeremy Kimbrough. Of this group, only Robinson has seen significant playing time with the Redskins but he’ll be coming off a lost 2013 season and nursing a twice torn pectoral muscle. Late in the 2012, Robinson was seen as a potential successor to London Fletcher but he’ll have to prove he can remain healthy in order to regain that status. The good news? The former fourth round pick turns 25 in July.

Pending free agents: Perry Riley Jr., Fletcher, Nick Barnett and Bryan Kehl. Riley is reportedly not close to re-signing and Fletcher is set to retire. If Riley signs elsewhere, the Redskins could be in need of two new starters in the middle of the defense. Barnett, meantime, turns 33 in May and played a total of 70 snaps last season. Kehl is a special teams standout who sees limited duty on defense and will be coming off a torn ACL.

Free agent possibilities: As we mentioned in our Free Agent Fits series, Arizona’s Karlos Dansby is the best inside linebacker expected to hit the open market. The 32-year-old recorded 122 combined tackles, 6.5 sacks and four sacks last season. But his age and asking price make him an unlikely fit in Washington. Still, there are some quality options after him. Among them: Buffalo’s Arthur Moats, Baltimore’s Daryl Smith, New England’s Brandon Spikes, Denver’s Wesley Woodyard and Houston’s Joe Mays. If you’re looking for the most productive and consistent every-down linebacker in that group, Smith is your guy. Last season, he recorded 123 tackles, five sacks and three interceptions. But he’ll be 32 in a week and the recent reports suggest the Ravens hope to re-sign him.

Draft possibilities: Alabama’s C.J. Mosley is the best available but will likely be a first round pick. And, of course, the Redskins don’t have one. Wisconsin’s Chris Borland, Connecticut’s Yawin Smallwood, Florida State’s Christian Jones, Stanford’s Shayne Skov and LSU’s Lamin Barrow are all projected to be second-fourth round picks by NFLdraftscout.com. Borland was a standout at the Senior Bowl and told CSNWashington.com that he was interviewed by the Redskins.

Prediction: Riley is re-signed and GM Bruce Allen adds a top-tier free agent to play alongside of him. It also wouldn't be a surprise if the team invested of one of its top picks in an inside linebacker like Borland to groom as an eventual starter.