For the next few weeks, I will be taking a look at the Cowboys' division rivals from an off-season prospective. I will look at their off-season additions, subtractions and needs in free agency and the draft. Up first will be the team who finished first in 2012, the hated Washington Redskins.
What a difference it can make for a team, a franchise, when it gets adequate quarterback play. A team that, at the beginning of the year, almost all of the “experts” picked to be at or near the bottom of the division, ended up winning it. It was essentially the same team as in 2011 with both the starting and backup QB's (Grossman and Beck) being swapped out (Griffin III and Cousins), and that made all the difference in the world. Despite their success last year, the ‘Skins certainly have some work to do in the draft and possibly free agency if they want to repeat as division champions.
As most of you know, the Redskins, along with the Cowboys, were penalized for some of the fiscal decisions they mad during the un-capped year in 2010. That leaves them, also like the Cowboys, with minimal cap room to go after free agents and/or re-sign some of their own players. They also gave up their first round picks for this year and next year in the Robert Griffin trade last year with St. Louis, so they will have to find some contributors outside the first round of the draft. Here are some positions of need for the team:
The Redskins had very poor safety play last year, as they were near the bottom in nearly every defensive passing category. Brandon Meriweather was supposed to come in and relieve some of the issues, but he was only active in one game last year. He has agreed to take a pay-cut to stay with the team, and following an ACL injury is on track to be ready for training camp. Regardless whether he stays, they still need to address that position and the draft is deep at that position. Some mock drafts have the ‘Skins taking Jonathan Cyprien out of Florida International.
The Redskins released veteran cornerback and ball-hawk DeAngelo Hall (some reports say that the Cowboys are interested in Hall playing safety) recently and as stated earlier, need to upgrade their pass defense significantly. They could go after a corner in the draft to develop if they don't get Hall back at a price they can work with. It also can be noted that secondary coach Raheem Morris (formerly head coach of Tampa Bay) has ties to troubled CB Aqib Talib, but it is unlikely they go after him with all the baggage that comes with it.
Another player that produced and provided playmaking ability for the Redskins is TE Fred Davis, who is currently a free agent. The Browns, who have an abundance of cap room, ($46 mil) have been reported to have interest in the 5 year veteran. If the Browns decide to throw a bunch of money at him, the ‘Skins will have to look elsewhere for a replacement. Their offensive scheme really values a duel threat tight end, and those aren't easy to find. They could look at a cheaper option such as the Titans free agent Jared Cook.
If Washington can sure up their secondary and get some of their injured players back and playing at a high level, they should be favored to finish first or second in the NFC east. Of course that is also assuming that all-world talent RGIII recovers from knee surgery and is still the same dynamic playmaker he was in 2012. Even if RG isn't ready week one, they have a more than capable backup in Kirk Cousins to hold down the fort. But coach Mike Shannahan and the front office have done a decent job building both the offensive and defensive lines, and despite what some franchises believe (eh-hem Jerry) that is how you build a winner in this league.
*Next week I will be taking a look at the New York Giants 2013 off-season