NFL News & Analysis

2017 Free Agency Preview: Washington Redskins

LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 02: Chris Baker #92 of the Washington Redskins celebrates a play during a football game against the Cleveland Browns at FedEx Field on October 2, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. The Redskins won 31-20. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

[Editor’s note: This preview was originally published on Feb. 23, 2017, and updated on March 6 to reflect changes in the market do to franchise tags, re-signings, cuts, etc.]

What you need to know

On paper, the Washington Redskins entered free agency with ample cap room to make a splash, but franchise tagging Kirk Cousins used up a considerable chunk of that. Moreover, the team has numerous players currently set to be unrestricted free agents, seven of whom played at least 500 snaps in 2016, so that cap space may be spread thin once the team has re-signed those they want to keep, and lined up replacements for the rest.

Salary cap room

$34,600,921 (16th in NFL; as of 3/6/17)

Biggest needs

  • Nose tackle
  • Defensive end
  • Linebacker
  • Left guard

Notable free agents

  • Chris Baker, DI, 82.2 overall grade in 2016
  • DeSean Jackson, WR, 77.0
  • Pierre Garçon, WR, 85.8

Must re-sign

Kirk Cousins, QB, 85.9 overall grade in 2016 (franchise tagged)

The most important deal that the team can sign this offseason is one that keep Cousins in Washington long-term. Cousins posted an 85.9 overall grade in 2016, eighth-best among QBs in only his second full season as starter. The team used the franchise tag to keep Cousins after he posted an 81.0 grade in 2015, and again after 2016, but his improved play has surely earned a long-term deal, whether in Washington or elsewhere. A multi-year contract won’t come cheap, but Washington can ill-afford to let Cousins go.

Dream splash signing

Calais Campbell, DI, Arizona Cardinals, 90.4

With the team’s best defensive lineman, Chris Baker, set to hit free agency, signing a player of Campbell’s caliber would provide quite a boost to the position group. Campbell has posted grades of 88.0 or above in four of the last five seasons — the best of them was the 90.4 overall grade he earned in 2016, second to only Aaron Donald among interior defenders.

Top 2017 free agency prospects

Johnathan Hankins, DI, New York Giant, 47.1

In 2016, Ziggy Hood struggled when miscast as a nose tackle in Washington, so finding a more suitable option at the position should be a priority. While the Ravens Brandon Williams is the premier nose tackle on the market, Hankins should be a more affordable alternative, and one the team is familiar with. Hankins had a down year in 2016, having been tasked with playing as more of a 3-technique to accommodate NT Damon Harrison with the Giants. Moving back to play nose should allow Hankins to return to the form that saw him post run-defense grades of 85.1 and 83.8 in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Ronald Leary, LG, Dallas Cowboy, 80.4

Washington returns starters at all five positions along the offensive line, and appears to be set at four of them, but the left guard spot has been problematic. The incumbent, Shawn Lauvao, finished 2016 with a 54.1 overall grade, giving up three sacks, 39 total pressures and earning a 68.7 run-defense grade. Leary earned a career-best 80.4 overall grade in 2016, allowed zero sacks, 25 total pressures and posted an 82.5 run-defense grade. He would offer a clear upgrade, and round out an impressive unit.

Gerald Hodges, LB, San Francisco 49ers, 82.4

With Su’a Cravens (79.3 overall) moving to safety full-time, and Will Compton (46.2) a free agent, there is an opening for another inside linebacker to pair with Mason Foster. Hodges was a bright spot on a struggling 49ers defense in 2016, finishing tied for second on the team with 35 defensive stops, earning an 82.4 overall grade, and an 80.8 run-defense grade.

2017 Free Agency Rankings
Top 50 free agents
Every 2017 free agent ranked by 2016 overall grade
10 free agents who can make an immediate impact
10 veteran free agents worth a one-year contract
10 sleeper free agents who could bring surprise upside
10 splash free-agent signings we’d like to see
Quarterback rankings
Running back rankings
Wide receiver rankings
Tight end rankings
Offensive linemen rankings
Edge defender rankings
Interior defender rankings
Cornerback rankings
Safety rankings
Linebacker rankings

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