Washington has 15 unrestricted free agents on the roster right now. I divide them into three categories — MUST HAVE, IF THE PRICE IS RIGHT and BEEN NICE KNOWING YOU.
TE Vernon Davis — This is a complete no-brainer and the Skins have already begun discussing a new contract with him. He will be 33 at the end of January, but he showed he has plenty left in the tank after catching 44 passes on 59 targets for 583 yards (13.2) and 2 TD. Davis was also the team’s best blocking tight end. As a number 2 tight end on Washington, Davis works very well. Due to his age, he would not be expensive.
WR Pierre Garcon or WR DeSean Jackson — With Josh Doctson’s rookie season basically destroyed by a balky hamstring, the Skins really have no idea what they’ve got in the young wideout. They do know what they’ve had the last 3 years with Garcon and Jackson as a tandem and it has been pretty good. There is no way the team will keep both, but they could keep one. But which one? While many want Jackson because of his deep threat speed, I’d prefer Garcon, whose game I believe will age better. Garcon is healthier than Jackson, actually blocks well and tries to break tackles and will show up for offseason workouts and work hard in practice. Because of his size and work habits, the minute DJax’s speed declines, he becomes much less valuable as a player. Washington will miss Jackson, but they’ll miss Garcon even more. If you’re not keeping both (and they’re not), try to keep Garcon. In addition to everything I mentioned above, he will also be cheaper than Jackson. Just pray DJax does not return to Philly.
LS Nick Sundberg — Seven years of getting it right pretty much every time. Don’t fix what isn’t broken.
IF THE PRICE IS RIGHT
DE Chris Baker — Had a pretty good season, but not his best. Usually plays hard, but not on every down. Baker is a versatile lineman and easily the best on the team from 2014-2016. He wants to stay in DC and he would not be prohibitively expensive. I would keep him, but I won’t be shocked if the Skins do not. In any case, they won’t break the bank for Baker.
QB Kirk Cousins — This one is pretty tricky, eh? For many fans and in the media, this is the only important decision the Skins have to make in free agency in 2016. Certainly, it will be the most hotly-debated. Cousins will demand at least $26 million a year to sign in Washington or anywhere else. Obviously, the Skins will not want to pay him that, nor should they. That’s just a bargaining position, though and how far off that position Cousins is willing to move would determine my next step. If he won’t move far enough, I’d slap the franchise tag on him for one more season and then pick at least one QB in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft May. He should definitely not be allowed to walk away, as the team has no replacement in place for him.
OLB Junior Galette — Sure, why not? Just don’t count on him. Ever.
ILB Terence Garvin — He’s the right age and performs reasonably well on special teams. Played fewer than 60 snaps from scrimmage in 2016. A limited player, but he works hard. If he can be re-signed for about $1 million a year, that’s fine. Otherwise, draft his replacement in the 5th round.
DL Ziggy Hood — I would try to retain Hood, as I thought he was a pleasant surprise in 2016. Not a great player or even particularly good, but he was good value for the money and actually played hard on most downs. Played out of position at nose tackle, but if you moved him to DE in a 3-4, where he belongs, he would be a solid rotational player who you can sign for a reasonable price.
BEEN NICE KNOWING YOU
DL Kedric Golston — Will turn 34 in May. He’s the longest-tenured Redskin and has been a good leader in the locker room. Does not appear to have much left for the field, though, and the defensive line needs a massive infusion of talent and youth. It would be better to give his roster spot to a young player.
DL Cullen Jenkins — Played better than I expected, but he turns 36 this month and the defensive line needs to get younger, not older. Replacement by a younger body with more upside is the obvious and correct solution.
C John Sullivan — Stepped in and did a solid job in place of Spencer Long, but he’s 32 years old and the team needs to find a younger, cheaper alternative.
CB Greg Toler — Seemed like good veteran depth when he was signed, but it turns out he was available on the cheap for a very good reason — he’s pretty bad. Was beaten routinely in coverage, often looking worse than the rookies in the process.
S Donte Whitner — He turns 32 in July and he has not been a good player in at least three years. He was pretty bad for the Redskins, but the team still viewed him as their best option, which tells you something. He was terrible in coverage and a mediocre tackler. Whitner should retire.