In less than a year, the Redskins completed a stunning turnaround, ascending from a laughingstock in 2014 to a division champion in 2015. But now comes the difficult part: taking that all-important next step and improving from a franchise that was fortunate to get into the playoffs to one that can do some damage once it gets there. And that work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players.
In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine the 25 biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.
What should the Redskins do at tight end?
El-Bashir: All teams plan for injuries. But I’m not sure any team could have anticipated losing three players to significant injuries…at the same position…in the span of about four months.
But that’s exactly what happened to the Redskins in 2015. Logan Paulsen went down with a toe injury. Niles Paul was lost to an ankle injury. Then Derek Carrier, the player brought in to replace Paul, was lost in Week 14 after tearing the ACL and MCL in his right knee.
As a result, the tight end situation became problematic late in the season and remains mixed bag entering the offseason. You’ve got Jordan Reed, who should have been a Pro Bowler. And you’ve got Paul, who enjoyed a breakout season in 2014, and says he expects to be back in time for OTAs. After that, though, you’ve got question marks with Paulsen due to become an unrestricted free agent and Carrier requiring a long-term recovery.
So it’s safe to say there’s work to do at tight end. The biggest question facing GM Scot McCloughan and Co. is whether to extend Reed or let the 25-year-old play out the final year on his contract. Once there’s some clarity resolution there, McCloughan still needs to bring in at least one more tight end capable of contributing right away. Which probably means signing a young(ish) backup in free agency and/or investing a draft pick in the position. But I’d also say this: with Paul, 26, expected to be ready this summer and Carrier, 25, expected to return at some point in ’16, I’d skew toward signing a No. 3 and using my picks to bolster other, more pressing needs.
Tandler: The picture Tarik paints here makes it very clear that the Redskins are in need to a tight end. And while the solution of getting in someone’s young, discarded player or finding one in the draft sounds appealing I’m not sure how practical it is.
Larger tight ends who can block are becoming very rare in the college ranks as spread offenses, which don’t utilize them, become more prevalent. The draft class is very thin at tight end and the ones that analysts say might be able to contribute immediately, players like Hunter Henry of Alabama and Austin Hooper of Stanford, don’t have the size and skills to be effective blockers in the NFL, at least not right away.
The Redskins looked for tight ends on the street all last year. They ended up promoting Je’Ron Hamm from their practice squad in November but they jettisoned him in favor of veteran Alex Smith in December. Like in the draft, the demand exceeds the supply.
The Redskins weren’t very high on Paulsen and there was a chance he might not have make the 53-man roster if he had not been injured. But the need to have somebody to fill in while Carrier is out and the shortage of blocking tight ends might lead to a Paulsen return.
The alternative is to re-sign tackle Tom Compton and continue to line him up at tight end. That is not ideal but it may be the only solution available.
25 Questions series
- Is McCoy the answer at backup QB for the Redskins?
- Should the Redskins try to keep Alfred Morris?
- Should the Redskins cut Andre Roberts?
- Will there be a surprise cap casualty?
- Will DeAngelo Hall return?
- Should the Redskins draft a quarterback?
- Are the Redskins set at outside linebacker?
- Should the Redskins make changes on the offensive line?
- Should Pierre Garçon return?
- Today: What should the Redskins do at tight end?
- Tomorrow: Is Matt Jones ready to assume the Redskins' No. 1 running back job?