When free agency opens March 9, the Redskins will have some holes to fill on both side of the ball. In the coming days, Redskins Insider Tarik El-Bashir will examine the expected field of free agents, position-by-position, and evaluate who might be a fit in Washington. Today, we’re looking at inside linebackers.
Current situation: Few positions endured as much change in 2015 as inside linebacker. By midseason, the depth chart had been flipped: Keenan Robinson and Perry Riley were battling injury and backups Will Compton and Mason Foster were the starters. And as free agency opens, the picture remains a bit muddled. Robinson is a free agent and unlikely to return, according to Coach Jay Gruden. Riley is vulnerable due to a $5 million cap hit. Meantime, Compton has agreed to a one-year extension, while Foster remains unsigned. What does it all mean? It means that it’s possible, if not likely, even more change will be coming to the position over the next few weeks as GM Scot McCloughan seeks to bolster the Redskins’ 28th-ranked defense.
Best available: Danny Trevathan (Broncos) turns 26 later this month and figures to be among the most sought after players on the market. He’s a three-down linebacker who is solid in coverage and just entering his prime. He also led the Super Bowl champion Broncos with 109 tackles while intercepting a pair of passes and batting down six others. Even if he leaves Denver—and that appears likely at this point—Trevathan might cost more than McCloughan intends to invest in the position.
Two more options: Jerrell Freeman (Colts) turns 30 in May, is coming off a strong season and, according to ProFootballFocus.com, would be a good, cost-effective solution for the Redskins. He racked up 112 tackles last season, is outstanding against the run and ranked second only to Carolina’s Luke Kuechly among inside linebackers in overall effectiveness in '15, according to PFF. Of course, the Redskins could also stick with what they know and re-sign Foster, a former third-round pick by the Bucs whom they signed off the street in Week 4. The 27-year-old improved week-by-week as he grew more comfortable in the defense and was arguably the Redskins’ best player in the playoff loss to the Packers, racking up eight tackles, including two for loss, to go along with a tackle on special teams. Foster also would not break the bank, and considering the Redskins' proximity to the cap, that's important.
Bottom line: McCloughan has some options here. Does he believe some combination of Riley, Compton and Foster is enough to get the job done? Will he wait until the draft and select Alabama’s Reggie Ragland if he’s still on the board at No. 21? Or will McCloughan choose door No. 3 and sign an impactful free agent this week? That remains to be seen. Here’s Rotorworld’s list of players expected to hit free agency on Wednesday.
Previous free agent fits: