The Redskins are part of the way through the process of retooling their 2017 roster. While the major part of free agency is over, they still can add a few veterans all the way through training camp. They have 10 picks in the draft that starts April 27. In this series, we’re going to take a look at what has changed on the Redskins roster since the season ended and what they need to add to remain competitive in the revived NFC East.
We started with the defensive line. Today the focus turns to inside linebacker
2016 final game starters: Will Compton, Mason Foster
Compton was the Mike linebacker, calling the defensive signals.
Departures: Terence Garvin (UFA)
Garvin was primarily a special teams contributor, playing only 58 snaps on defense
Projected 2017 starters: Compton, Zach Brown
No coaches have spoken to the media since Brown was signed as a free agent last Monday so this is highly unofficial. Brown and Foster both have called defensive signals from time to time but the coaches are more likely to be comfortable with Compton calling the defense. That makes Brown the starter alongside Compton and Foster playing the nickel role.
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It should be noted that Compton is technically unsigned. He is a restricted free agent and the Redskins tendered him at $1.8 million. Compton hasn’t signed the tender yet and it’s still possible that another team can make him an offer sheet that the Redskins would have the option to match. But his return seems very likely.
2017 reserves: Foster, Martrell Spaight, Chris Carter, Zach Vigil, Steven Daniels
Spaight started one game when Compton was injured and did an adequate job. Vigil will get a shot at showing what he has after the Redskins claimed him on waivers in Week 16. Daniels suffered a shoulder injury in training camp and he spent the season on injured reserve. The Redskins will be Carter’s fifth team in seven NFL seasons; he will compete for Garvin’s reserve/special teams role.
Where can the inside LB’s find improvement?
The biggest boost here should be Brown. He brings speed to a defense that lacks it. In fact, if you go by combine 40 times, Brown is faster than any of the Redskins’ starting four defensive backs. Last year Brown’s playmaking ability helped him make his first Pro Bowl; he posted an interception, two forced fumbles, and 4.5 sacks.
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Brown is on a one-year contract, Foster is in the last season of his contract, and, as noted, Compton is on the one-year tender. The Redskins will not hesitate to consider drafting an inside linebacker such as Haason Reddick (who visited Redskins Park recently) or Zach Cunningham.
Compton won't get faster or more athletic but he does spend a lot of time in the film room. He is the kind of player who could improve as he accumulates more knowledge and makes up for his lack of sheer speed with better anticipation.
Locks and bubble players
Compton, Foster, and Brown are set. Spaight is likely to make the final 53 in September since he has game experience. A high draft pick would also be a lock, of course.
Last year, they kept five inside linebackers on the roster but it’s possible they will keep only four. That would leave Carter, Vigil, and Daniels either fighting for one spot or on the outside looking in.