Entering the free-agent fray with more than $18.6 million to spend—according to Mike Jones of the Washington Post—and a reputation for going after headlining players, the Washington Redskins have been relatively quiet in free agency.
Over a week into free agency, Spotrac.com indicates that Washington has shelled out over $74 million in player contracts. This is a stark turn for a team that once handed out $100 million to one free agent—you know who.
The question is, though, will Washington get its money’s worth?
To answer that question, let’s first take a look at the Redskins’ free-agent haul.
Defensive lineman Jason Hatcher, linebacker Adam Hayward, receiver Andre Roberts, guard Shawn Lauvao, defensive lineman Clifton Geathers, linebacker Darryl Sharpton, cornerback Tracy Porter, kicker Jake Rogers and linebacker Akeem Jordan are the newest acquisitions Washington has brought into the fold.
Additionally, after testing the market, safety Brandon Meriweather and receiver Santana Moss re-signed with the team.
Certainly not the most inspiring list of free agents, but the Redskins did better their depth chart with these signings. What they didn’t do, though, is acquire enough impact players.
Of the 14 players they signed, a realistic view only paints Hatcher, Roberts, Lauvao and Meriweather—for now—as likely starters.
For a team with a glaring weakness on defense, this could prove to be problematic.
Furthermore, after taking a closer look at the contracts Hatcher and Roberts received—along with the possible alternatives—it appears that Washington may have overpaid for two of these starters.
In dire need of a No. 2 receiver to ward off coverage from Pierre Garcon, Roberts’ production history makes it questionable if he’s the player to fill this role for Washington.
Roberts’ career high for receptions is 64 and his high for receiving yardage is 759. Still, even with these middling numbers, Roberts netted a four-year, $16 million contract from the Redskins.
According to Ben Volin of The Boston Globe, Edelman signed a four-year $17 million deal. Jones received a three-year, $11.3 million deal from the Oakland Raiders while Nicks garnered a one-year, $3.5 million deal from the Indianapolis Colts.
Aside from making less money, both receivers had served as their respective teams’ No. 2 receiver in the past—a role Roberts has never held.
In regards to Hatcher, there’s no question that he was one of the best defensive linemen available. Where the problem lies is in the contract he was given.
Coming off a season in which he registered a career-high and league-leading—for interior linemen—11 sacks, the four-year, $27.5 million contract Hatcher received may seem justly due.
Factor in his age—he’ll be 32 in July—however, and red flags have to be raised.
Always wary of the career season in a contract year—Albert Haynesworth did it to me—a look at Hatcher‘s track record leaves one wondering where the 2013 version was in the previous seven years of his career.
Prior to last season, Hatcher had never tallied more than 5.5 sacks in a single year and had just 16 career sacks.
While Hatcher didn’t become a starter until the 2011 season, it’s unrealistic for Washington to expect Hatcher to continue on the upward trajectory he’s been on at his age.
With a secondary that has been maligned the past couple of seasons, it’s evident that Washington is trying to mask its deficiencies on the back end by signing a player like Hatcher to bolster its pass rush.
But why not, I don’t know, actually address the secondary—particularly at safety?
Even if Hatcher‘s play doesn’t level off in the upcoming seasons, it’s unlikely that he will be a high-level player when Washington is ready to contend.
Instead of shelling significant coin to a player like Hatcher, the ‘Skins could’ve went after a safety like T.J. Ward. A player in his prime, Ward could’ve been a foundational player that would be around for the next contending Redskins team.
Serving as the intimidator that Meriweather was supposed to be, Ward’s presence could’ve bolstered a secondary that was 20th in pass defense in 2013.
Signed to a four-year, $22.5 million contract, Ward certainly wasn’t out of Washington’s price range.
Factor in the contract that defensive lineman Henry Melton just received from the Dallas Cowboys, and the Skins could have improved their pass rush and secondary for the nearly the same cost as Hatcher‘s deal. According to The Dallas Morning News, Melton joined the Cowboys on a one-year, $5 million deal.
Prior to tearing his ACL in 2013, Melton had proven to be one of the NFL‘s best interior pass-rushers. In the two previous seasons, Melton registered 13 sacks.
Ultimately, while the Redskins were more cautious in free agency than in past seasons, their relative inactivity will put a lot of pressure on the front office to find the impact players they’re lacking in the NFL draft.
As loaded as this year’s draft is—especially on the defensive side of the ball—minus a first-round pick, the Redskins could again find themselves looking up at the Philadelphia Eagles on the NFC East throne because of a poor allocation of their cap space.