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Need to Know: Which Redskins free agents will return?

Feb 25, 2015, 5:11 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, February 25, 13 days before the Washington Redskins and the rest of the NFL start free agency.

Question of the day

We’re going back to the NTK format we’ve been using since last month. Every day I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

Today’s question is from the Real Redskins Facebook page.


First, note that this question was submitted over a month ago. I do hold on to questions for a while, so if you put one in a while ago you never know when it could pop up.

I’m answering it now because the time is right. Free agency starts in less than two weeks and the Redskins are nailing down their free agent strategy. They were a little bit behind the curve since they didn’t hire Scot McCloughan until almost two weeks after the season ended. But let’s take a look at the big picture here; there will be plenty of posts with details coming between now and March 10.

Please note that this is reading the tea leaves and looking at what makes sense; it is not based on inside info from Redskins Park. They have managed to keep a very tight lid on what is going on there.

The Redskins have 11 unrestricted free agents, not counting Ryan Clark, who retired. I think they will let the following players walk without putting up much of a fight: WR Santana Moss, OT Tyler Polumbus, CB E.J. Biggers, S Brandon Meriweather and DL Chris Neild.

For the right deals, they might be willing to bring back DL Jarvis Jenkins, WR Leonard Hankerson, RB Roy Helu, and TE Niles Paul.

I’m not sure about what they will do with LB Brian Orakpo and QB Colt McCoy. Perhaps they will make a cursory attempt to keep Orakpo on some sort of an incentive-laden deal with they won’t lose sleep if they get outbid, which they probably will. And although it’s doubtful that McCoy is the prototype of the type of QB that McCloughan wants, options are very limited. Wait and see on Colt.

You will note the lack of any “must have” free agents. There are some they would like to have back but none are close to warranting the franchise tag or any super-aggressive efforts to lock them up before the hit the open market.

As far as letting players go, I think there will be less of that than many think. I can’t see G Chris Chester staying at age 32with a $4.8 million cap number. His job goes to a younger and cheaper Spencer Long.

There is plenty of chatter in the fan base about Stephen Bowen, Barry Cofield, Tracy Porter, and some others. But the approach with them could be to negotiate pay cuts rather than letting them go and then getting a short-term replacement in free agency. When younger players are acquired through the draft and developed, they would be able to take their places.


—It’s been 59 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 200 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL free agency starts 13; Redskins offseason workouts start 54; 2015 NFL Draft 64

If you have any questions about what’s going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I’m always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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In case you missed it

  1. MC12 - Feb 25, 2015 at 7:19 AM

    I think Neild could come back on a minimum contract. He is injury prone but could be a rotational nose tackle for them for another year. Especially if they can’t agree with Jenkins on a contract.

  2. skinsgame - Feb 25, 2015 at 7:31 AM

    I think Helu gets a surprise contract and leaves. He could be a Darren Sproles type guy elsewhere. Niles Paul should stay but the real focus should be on helping Chester empty his locker. This morning. Actually, yesterday morning. If Chester is not the 1st cut, we will have evidence that Scot has fallen off the wagon.

  3. troylok - Feb 25, 2015 at 7:43 AM

    I don’t think they keep Helu because he’s going to want more than they will be willing to spend and plus, Redd and Thompson give them a little insurance. I think Paul showed flash enough last season where his market price will go up, and, besides, I think the Redskins will want to get bigger at tight end (there’s a tight end out of Delaware that has “Redskins” written all over him). I think they bring Biggers back because of his ability to play corner and safety.

    Um, isn’t Duke Ihenacho a Redskins free agent?

    • Rich Tandler - Feb 25, 2015 at 9:04 AM

      He is an exclusive rights free agent, which is technically a FA but on technically. He can’t sign elsewhere if the Redskins want him. I don’t know if the Redskins want him.

      As noted in the post I kept the discussion to the unrestricted free agents.

      • troylok - Feb 25, 2015 at 10:43 AM

        Thanks. I wasn’t sure. I don’t think we saw enough of Ihenacho to have a good assessment of his ability. Obviously, the Broncos didn’t think he was worth keeping and they’ve proven to be decent evaluators of talent…

    • abanig - Feb 25, 2015 at 9:05 AM

      Yes and they should re-sign Ihenacho to compete with and maybe start over Phillip Thomas but I’d hope that Thomas would beat him out

      • bangkokben - Feb 25, 2015 at 9:21 AM

        Maybe Leigh Torrence is available as a slot corner….In other words, Ihenacho is just a guy. I doubt there would be this much love for a previously cut safety coming off major injury if his name didn’t make so many get the munchies.

        • ET - Feb 25, 2015 at 3:23 PM

          At both safety positions, “just a guy” is still a step up from last season, when we arguably had the worst tandem of starting safeties in the NFL.

  4. renhoekk2 - Feb 25, 2015 at 8:53 AM

    Unless McCloughan is worried about Dan Snyder’s bank account there is no reason to cut some big contract guys unless you have someone younger and cheaper who can play at least as well or close enough to them. Long may be that guy for Chester. Not sure there are any DL ready to replace Bowen or Cofield. Unless of course you plan on spending a lot in FA and want to free up space to make a few big signings, then you might cut some guys lose. But McCloughan insists that is not the game plan. So wait until you have quality replacements before you start kicking guys out the door. It’s only Snyder’s money that is being wasted. Why should we care?

    • bangkokben - Feb 25, 2015 at 9:36 AM

      You save money by cutting Bowen. Cofield should have at another year before you consider cutting him. Bowen has been undependable. I’m all for getting him at a reduced rate and I totally agree that most of the time there is a knee jerk reaction to let’s get rid of so-and-so because he doesn’t meet our expectations when there are no replacements in the barn. Laron Landry. Orakpo last year. This isn’t that case. Can Frank Kearse replace Bowen? He did last year. Bowen’s cap number is $8,020,000; Kearse’s is $660,000. If you cut Bowen you add $5,500,000 to this year’s cap – eliminating his salary and $100,000 workout bonus. He is then off the books. His prorated bonus of $2,520,000 has already been paid but counts on this year’s cap whether he’s on the roster or not.

  5. abanig - Feb 25, 2015 at 8:59 AM

    Frankly, if the $ makes sense, the Redskins should sign all their free agents except for guys like Biggers & Meriweather. There’s nothing wrong with having their competiton around while brining in new draft picks and other free agents to compete with them for their jobs.

    My proposal for cutting Bowen & Cofield is this:

    @CSNRavens: Ngata’s cap hit could force tough decision for #Ravens despite ‘iconic’ status #RavensTalk

    If the Ravens cut Ngata, I think the Redskins should signing him.

    If the Redskins did sign Ngata, I would still draft Danny Shelton in round 1.

    If the Redskins put Ngata at LDE, Shelton at NT and Hatcher at RDE they’d have one heck of a dominant defensive line.

    If the Redskins cut both Bowen & Cofield they’d save $9.6 million and they can use that $ to sign Ngata to a Hatcher type deal – a four year, $27.5 million contract with a $9 million signing bonus.

    Ngata’s 2015 cap hit would be around $4 million. So, we’d actually save $5 million in cap space when signing Ngata for 2015 after we cut Bowen & Cofield.

    • boysheadcoach - Feb 25, 2015 at 10:23 AM

      this is not that far fetched…………………..

  6. bowlregard - Feb 25, 2015 at 9:19 AM

    I’m hoping they re-sign McCoy. He reminds me of Russell Wilson. He is the only one I know who slides as well as Wilson.

    • Rich Tandler - Feb 25, 2015 at 9:39 AM


      The only thing that Wilson and McCoy have in common is, well, I’ll get back to you when I figure out something they have in common.

      > > >

      • ET - Feb 25, 2015 at 3:25 PM

        They’re both fairly polite.

  7. sidepull - Feb 25, 2015 at 9:39 AM

    Patriots will look at Helu if Vareen does not resign and for that matter they also would probably look at Paul as well.. Paul would flourish in that offense with Brady at QB. From the basement to the Supebowl. If the Pats came calling they would be nuts to resign here unless it is for more money.

    • ET - Feb 25, 2015 at 4:49 PM

      I could see a scenario where Vareen and Helu flip-flop teams. In that kind of situation, it’d be interesting to see who has the more productive season.

  8. shermanp79 - Feb 25, 2015 at 10:15 AM

    I would be fine with them all going. I would be OK with them bringing Helu back but I think he goes elsewhere. I think he wants a bigger role. I believe Gruden should play Helu more on early downs. Let him run more, be less predictable. They basically ran with Morris then threw with Helu in game. They could be more flexible. I think it would help the running game. I look for Redd and Thompson to get more touches next year. I also think they Draft a guy at some point in the Draft. Especially if they end up with more picks..
    I think they should replace Paul and Paulsen. They could bring in a FA or Draft another TE. They need to upgrade and get a guy that can block and catch the ball. With those 2 guys one blocks OK but couldn’t catch last year and the other can’t block at all. They can find another guy to play ST.
    The rest of the guys can go, maybe because Jenkins is young, you try to find a cheap deal. He does play the run well but lacks making impact plays. If they think he has maxed out, let him go.

  9. bangkokben - Feb 25, 2015 at 10:16 AM

    As much as folks here fear spending too much on free agents. Look here:

    A head scratcher for sure.

    • abanig - Feb 25, 2015 at 11:34 AM

      I saw that and agree with it

  10. bangkokben - Feb 25, 2015 at 11:16 AM

    As the general consensus is, “let them walk;” it is important to realize what roles need to then be replaced and determine what realistic options are under contract for the coming season. As for the 11 guys all but Hankerson and Neild had roles with the team last year. Neild was on IR and Hankerson was on the PUP list for most of the season and then blew his opportunity when he came back. You could argue that you still need depth at nose and receiver as each were presumably filling that role last year. Additionally, the retirement of Ryan Clark means we’re looking for a starting free safety.

    As for the other nine, let’s start with the two Rich was least sure about – Orakpo and McCoy. Pass rusher and backup quarterback. The remaining “if the deal is right crowd:” Jarvis Jenkins, Roy Helu, and Niles Paul. Starting defensive end, 3rd down back, and back up tight end. Lastly, the remaining “thanks for your service” crowd: Santana Moss, Tyler Polumbus, E.J. Biggers, and Brandon Meriweather. Fourth receiver, starting right tackle, dime corner, and starting strong safety.

    So what do we have on the roster to possibly address these holes?

    Starting roles:
    FS – none
    SS – Philip Thomas
    LDE – Stephen Bowen, Barry Cofield, Frank Kearse, or Kedric Golston
    RT – Morgan Moses or Tom Compton
    Pass rusher – none (Murphy is starting OLB but doesn’t replace the role the Orakpo failed last year)
    Are any of these solutions adequate?

    Back up roles:
    QB – depend if you want a veteran and if you want a 3rd – if then, no.
    WR – Ryan Grant as 4th, no 5th
    RB – Silas Redd and/or Chris Thompson (exclusive rights free agent)
    TE – none (Reed is your pass catching and Paulsen is your blocking)
    CB – Tracy Porter is 3rd
    Obviously, a big need for depth. This where the draft and undrafted free agents can help. Likely the first two picks will start right away, perhaps the 3rd as well.

    Bottom line, the ‘skins will be signing some free agents next month. Hopefully, they are young, durable, hungry, and don’t jeopardize the cap in coming seasons.

    • abanig - Feb 25, 2015 at 11:36 AM

      100% agree

  11. 214hof - Feb 25, 2015 at 3:59 PM

    I understand that the contract needs to be right for the team to bring him back, but why isn’t Paul getting more love? Since being drafted ( and changing positions ) I’ve seen a huge improvement in this game. He is a standout ST player ( which Washington is in short supply of ) and a more the capable fill-in for when the far to often Reed is out of the line-up. Yes he is a poor run blocker, more so last year then in previous years for some reason. But why bring him back if the money is right?

  12. murphsman - Feb 25, 2015 at 5:43 PM

    Two questions Rich. First of all, do you think Moss retires if we don’t resign him? Secondly, this may be out there, but do you think there’s any chance they cut Roberts and go after the newly released Jacoby Jones? Archives

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