By Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir
Free agency starts on Tuesday and there are some Redskins who will be hitting the market. While the team might be inclined to keep all of them, salary cap issues are likely to prevent them from doing so.
So who will stay and who will go? Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir give their predictions on four key free agents in this week’s edition of Point-Counterpoint.
Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander
Rich Tandler—Stay: Even with an $18 million cap penalty you have to be able to figure out a way to keep your special teams captain and “One Man Gang” on the team. There was a report last week that he did not take the team’s initial contract offer but we should expect some negotiation. The bottom line is that Alexander has said that he would give the Redskins a hometown discount and they should take advantage of that offer. He’s worth more to the Redskins than he is to any other team.
Tarik El-Bashir—Gone: Alexander wants to stay and has deep ties to the community (co-owns a Pilates studio in Ashburn, daughter in high school, etc.), but he’s a businessman. And unless the Redskins can make a competitive bid for his services, the first-time Pro Bowler knows this is his best/last chance to secure a contract that will set him up for life. It’s going to be a tough decision, but I ultimately think he’ll get an offer (for more money and term as well as promises of an increased role on defense) from another team that he won't be able to refuse.
Tight end Fred Davis
El-Bashir—Gone: I have no doubt that the Redskins want to retain his services. What team wouldn’t? I just don’t see how it’s possible if they cannot recoup some of that $18 million cap penalty. Despite an Achilles’ tendon injury and a drug suspension in 2011, the 27-year-old is a potential star in a league where pass-catching tight ends are valuable commodities. In the end, I suspect a team with more available cap space will offer Davis a lucrative, long-term deal that the Redskins won’t be able to match.
Tandler—Stay: The Redskins can’t break the bank for their tight end and their deal needs to protect the team against injury and drug-related suspensions but they need to figure out how to get a deal done. Whether the offense is trying to take RG3’s game to the next level or trying to help Kirk Cousins win games while Griffin’s knee rehabs, Davis will help. He’s not at the level of Gronk or Jimmy Graham but his combination of speed and athletic ability puts him just a notch below the elites at the position. And Davis won’t command elite money. There is a deal to be made here and the Redskins can’t let a one-year bump in the salary cap road cost them an offensive weapon who is just entering his prime seasons.
Punter Sav Rocca
Tandler—Gone: Yes, we love the fact that Rocca is a football player in addition to being a punter. He also had a solid average of 43.9 yards per punt and he did a great job as the holder despite dealing with multiple snappers and kickers. But his net average of 38.1 yards was 29th in the league and he nearly missed a couple of games with a torn meniscus. He will be in his seventh NFL season so his minimum salary will be $840,000. Younger and cheaper players who are nearly as effective are preferable options.
El-Bashir—Stay: When Rocca suffered a knee injury last season, Mike Shanahan brought in potential replacements for a tryout. But the team ultimately decided to stick with the 39-year-old Aussie, who is a Shanahan favorite. Let's also not forget that Rocca was also Kai Forbath's holder during the kicker's record breaking run. Money is tight, but I suspect there's a deal to be made. I would be surprised if he’s not on the opening day roster in 2013 – assuming, of course, he returns from offseason knee surgery 100-percent healthy.
Guard Kory Lichtensteiger
El-Bashir—Stay: One of the factors that helped the offensive line overachieve last season was continuity. And with Tyler Polumbus’ also set to become a free agent, the Redskins need to do what they can to keep as much of that unit together as possible. Lichtensteiger took too many penalties in 2012 (a team-worst 12) but he was otherwise a valued contributor to a line that paved the way for the NFL's No. 1 rushing offense. If the team does not have any long-term concerns about the 27-year-old’s surgically repaired knee and his contract demands are reasonable, the Redskins would be wise to re-sign him to a multi year deal.
Tandler—Gone: At some point, you have to say goodbye to a veteran and let your draft picks play. Josh LeRibeus was the second player the Redskins took in last year’s draft and he played well when Lichtensteiger went out with an ankle injury late in the season. He just needs some polish and he won’t get that sitting on the bench. Lichtensteiger won’t get a huge contract but the couple of million a year he’s in line for is better spent elsewhere.