We are a week in to free agency and the Redskins’ two biggest signees will probably play a few yards apart from each other and will have the same primary responsibility much of the time.
Before free agency started they retained right outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, who had 10 sacks in 2013, via using the franchise tag on him. And a couple of days in they brought in Jason Hatcher, the former Cowboys who is likely to be lining up in front of Orakpo at right defensive end on most snaps. He had 11 sacks last year playing tackle in Dallas’ 4-3 scheme.
When you want to know what a team’s priorities are you follow the money. With the Redskins paying Orakpo $11.5 million this year and giving Hatcher a deal with $10.5 million guaranteed and $17 million over the first two years, you see that they are putting their money into the pass rush.
And they may not be done collecting guys who can get after the quarterback. They are still in pursuit of Anthony Spencer, another former Cowboy who had 11 sacks in 2012 but missed most of last year with a knee injury that required microfracture surgery. That injury has him shopping his services for pennies on the dollar compared to what he would get if he was healthy and making him a possibility for the Redskins.
The flip side of the follow the money coin is that if they don’t put many cap dollars into a particular position they don’t value it all that much. All you have to do here is look at the safety position. In need of two starters, they skipped the high-priced talent like Jairus Byrd and didn’t even get into much serious bidding for the mid-level players like Mike Mitchell and Malcolm Jenkins. They brought back Brandon Meriweather for around a million dollars for one year. The Redskins are in negotiations to bring back Ryan Clark, who they released in 2006. But things are hung up over what is likely a few hundred thousand dollars.
Bet if Clark had four sacks last year instead of one they would have found that extra money no problem.
And it’s not just the allocation of money that tells you where the priorities are. The other safeties on the roster are Phillip Thomas, Bacarri Rambo, and Jose Gumbs, who were a fourth-round pick, a sixth-round pick, and a street free agent respectively. The other primary pass rusher is Ryan Kerrigan, a first-round pick.
The strategy is simple—get to the quarterback before he can expose your lackluster safeties. Will it work? The Giants won two Super Bowls utilizing that strategy. That doesn’t mean it will work for the Redskins but it appears that we will find out starting in September.