As free agency plods into its third week, most of the focus has been on the Redskins’ defensive backfield, the safety spot in particular. But there is another area on defense that will need to be shored up prior to the start of the season.
Outside linebacker is a vital position in the 3-4 defense and the Redskins find themselves a bit thin there at the moment. Starters Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are in place but the depth is lacking.
There were three backup OLB’s on the depth chart last year. Brandon Jenkins, last year’s fifth-round draft pick, is back. He played on defense in only four games last year, logging 41 snaps. The coaching staff talked him up all year as a player who would have been a first-round draft pick had he not missed his almost all of his senior season with a Lisfranc injury. He had eight sacks as a junior at Florida State.
Jenkins could be lining up with the starters when the offseason workouts start in two weeks. Orakpo hasn’t yet signed his franchise tag tender and he can’t participate until he does so. There has been no word on whether or not he plans to sign.
Chances are that Orakpo eventually will sign and when that happens Jenkins will remain somewhere on the depth chart. But it appears that the Redskins will have to replace the other two backups. Darryl Tapp, who played 86 snaps last year, has signed with the Lions. That’s a relatively minor loss.
The bigger departure would be that of Rob Jackson. He played 186 snaps last year and would have played a larger role had he not been suspended for a violation of the league’s PED policy for the first four games of the season. Although he hasn’t signed anywhere else yet, the word is that he won’t be back.
That leaves the Redskins in search of at least one backup outside linebacker. During the first week of free agency they had Anthony Spencer in for a visit and after some fairly extensive negotiations he left without a contract. He is still a free agent and he remains a possibility. But he is not yet fully recovered from microfracture surgery and the latest information is that he should be ready for training camp.
The Redskins were talking to Spencer in part because the pickings on the free agent market are quite slim. Shaun Phillips is the top 3-4 outside backer on the market and he’ll be 33 in May. Former Steeler and Bengal James Harrison is still a free agent but there hasn’t been any connecting of the dots between him and former Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden at this point.
The draft is another possibility. Since the starters are set they likely would shy away from taking an outside linebacker with their top pick. But if someone like Jeremiah Attaochu of Georgia Tech or Dee Ford of Auburn or Louisville’s Marcus Smith is there when their third-round pick rolls around it would not be surprising to see Bruce Allen nab him.