Last week we looked at five questions heading into training camp for the Redskins’ offense. Today we’ll look at the defense:
1) The Skins paid a lot to retain London Fletcher. $10.75 million over the next 2 years, to be exact. Was he worth that price just to be a mentor?
I think the world of London Fletcher. London Fletcher is so much more than just a player. He’s a leader. And not just “a leader” that fans like to call a leader because we see him on TV doing one of those pre-game “fire up the troops” speeches. He’s a true leader, by nothing more than the example he sets. Fletcher hasn’t missed a single game in his entire 14 year career. Including the playoffs, that’s 232 games. Think about that. A few months ago, I put up the numbers for QB’s and how many games they’ve missed over their careers. Only one had over 100 consecutive starts at QB (Eli Manning with 119). And we’re talking about an inside linebacker here… a guy that’s taking on fullbacks in the hole, violently tackling running backs, and trying to avoid getting steamrolled by 320 lb. pulling guards. If you’re a 24 year old player and you’ve got a sore hammy, I’d have to imagine it would be pretty hard to look a guy like London Fletcher in the eye if you’re not doing everything you can to get back on the field.
Plus, (and of course this is kind of important too)… London Fletcher is still a good player.
But here’s the rub: Are the Redskins going to be realistic contenders to go to the Super Bowl this year? I mean… There’s a lot to be excited about with Robert Griffin III coming to town, but we can all probably agree that the Skins aren’t getting the faintest of whiffs of New Orleans in February, right? London Fletcher turns 37 in May. He has at least one year left of NFL service, maybe two, but almost certainly not 3 or more. I’ll allow you to connect the dots there.
Meanwhile, here is what some other ILB’s around the league signed for in free agency, with their contract details via NBC’s Rotoworld (in alphabetical order, with their respective ages when the season begins in parenthesis):
- Dan Connor (26): Signed a two-year, $6.5 million contract. The deal included a $2.7 million signing bonus. 2012: $800,000, 2013: $3 million, 2014: Free Agent
- David Hawthorne (27): Signed a five-year, $19 million contract. The deal included a $3.8 million signing bonus. 2012: $700,000, 2013: $1 million (+ $3 million roster bonus), 2014: $1 million (+ $1 million roster bonus), 2015: $2 million (+ $2.5 million roster bonus), 2016: $4 million, 2017: Free Agent
- Curtis Lofton (26): Signed a five-year, $27.5 million contract. The deal contains $7.8 million guaranteed — a $5 million signing bonus and each of Lofton’s first three base salaries. Another $6 million is available through escalators. Lofton is eligible for annual $100,000 workout bonuses in years four and five. 2012: $700,000, 2013: $1.1 million (+ $5 million roster bonus), 2014: $1 million (+ $2.2 million roster bonus), 2015: $2.4 million (+ $4.5 million roster bonus), 2016: $5.4 million, 2017: $6 million (Voidable Year), 2018: Free Agent
- Joe Mays (27): Signed a three-year, $12 million contract. The deal contains $4.5 million guaranteed, including a $500,000 signing bonus, all of Mays’ first-year salary, and $500,000 of his second-year salary. 2012: $3.5 million, 2013: $4 million, 2014: $3.5 million (+ $500,000 roster bonus), 2015: Free Agent
- Jameel McClain (27): Signed a three-year, $10.5 million contract. The deal included a $3.6 million signing bonus. 2012: $700,000, 2013: $3 million, 2014: $3.2 million, 2015: Free Agent
- Stephen Tulloch (27): Signed a five-year, $25.5 million contract. The deal contains $11.25 million guaranteed, including a $6.25 million signing bonus and all of Tulloch’s first two base salaries. 2012: $1.25 million, 2013: $3.5 million, 2014-2015: Under Contract, 2016: $5.5 million (+ $500,000 roster bonus), 2017: Free Agent
If you’ll notice, every LB on this list has a contract that is every bit as affordable as the contract London Fletcher just signed, and they’re all at least 10 years younger.
Would you rather be set up long term with a younger LB that can grow with the team and still be around when the team is ready to seriously compete, or are Fletcher’s short term leadership intangibles really that important?
Five years from now, if guys like Perry Riley and Keenan Robinson are productive pros and they make mention of Fletcher’s guidance when they were young and still trying to make it in the NFL, going with the grizzled vet will have been the right decision. But if their young linebackers flame out, the Skins will have missed out on one of the above other options.
2) How does Jarvis Jenkins look? Is Adam Carriker’s starting job safe?
Carriker started 2011 off well, collecting 4.5 sacks in the first 6 games. Sacks aren’t the end-all be-all by any stretch, but Carriker’s play fell off noticeably in the last 4 or 5 games. In late August last year, Jenkins, the Skins’ 2nd round pick, suffered a torn ACL and was done for the season. It was a very disappointing end to his first NFL season. He’ll be back this year, and will have plenty of eyes on him in camp. Jenkins has a great chance to become a starter over Carriker if he plays well.
3) How good can Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan be?
Orakpo should be right around that point in a young impact player’s career where they hit their prime. I don’t think we think of players like Orakpo as guys that can have a “breakout season,” since Orakpo already has 2 Pro Bowls to his credit. But I think he’s a guy that can be a lot better than how he played last season. It’ll be interesting to see if he can ever make that leap from “best player on the defense” to “one of the best defenders in the league.” Kerrigan, meanwhile, had a great rookie season.
There are a lot of really good 3-4 OLB tandems in the NFL.
|Redskins||Brian Orakpo||Ryan Kerrigan|
|Jets||Calvin Pace||Bryan Thomas|
|Ravens||Paul Kruger||Courtney Upshaw|
|Steelers||James Harrison||Lamarr Woodley|
|Texans||Brooks Reed||Connor Barwin|
|Colts||Dwight Freeney||Robert Mathis|
|Chiefs||Tamba Hali||Justin Houston|
|Chargers||Jarret Johnson||Shaun Phillips|
|Cowboys||DeMarcus Ware||Anthony Spencer|
|Packers||Nick Perry||Clay Matthews|
|Cardinals||Sam Acho||O’Brien Schofield|
|49ers||Aldon Smith||Ahmad Brooks|
In you factor in age considerations, I’d put Orakpo and Kerrigan near the top of my wish list.
4) Who will emerge from the misfit island of throwaway safeties?
The six contestants (in no particular order):
- Brandon Meriweather – In the last year, Meriweather has been cut from one team (the Pats) and had another team (the Bears) show zero interest in bringing him back for a second season. Although physically talented, Meriweather has red flags galore, running the gamut from a shooting, to kicking opposing players in an onfield brawl at Miami, to repeated fines for helmet-to-helmet hits, and most recently, a 3am traffic stop in which Meriweather refused a breathalyzer. Not sure if a meeting with Roger Goodell could be on the horizon.
- Madieu Williams – Williams was a good player in the early part of his career with the Bengals, and he parlayed his play into a 6 year deal with the Vikings for $33 million in 2008. After three disappointing seasons in Minnesota, Williams was released. He landed in San Francisco, when he played the first four games while Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner were out with injuries (Goldson missed the first 2 weeks of the season, while Whitner missed parts of Week 3 and all of Week 4). Once Goldson and Whitner were healthy, Williams never saw the field again. In his 8-year career, Williams has 12 INT’s (1.5/season) and 4 FF (0.5/season). Big plays should not be expected.
- Reed Doughty – Doughty was with the team last season, and he was attacked/exposed regularly when he had to fill in for LaRon Landry. Doughty is not a viable starting NFL safety.
- Tanard Jackson – The Redskins added Tanard Jackson after the Buccaneers cut him. The Bucs had arguably the worst defense in the NFL last season, and still decided he wasn’t worthy of sticking around on their roster. According to Pro Football Focus, Jackson had 57 tackle attempts. He missed 24 of them. That’s mind-blowingly bad.
- DeJon Gomes – Gomes is a 2nd year player that impressed me during the preseason last year, but struggled when he got his chances in the real games. Above, in the projected starters section, I have Gomes listed as a starting safety for no other reason than the notion that he’s still at least somewhat of a mystery, while the others are pretty much locks not to be legitimate starters.
- Jordan Bernstein – 7th round draft pick out of Iowa.
5) Is Graham Gano’s job safe?
If you were new to football and watched every Redskins game this season, you would probably think that blocked FG’s are common. They are not. In 2011, there were 35 blocked FG’s or PAT’s. The Redskins accounted for 6 of them (they also had 5 FGs a PAT blocked). In other words, they were on the wrong end of 17% of the NFL’s blocked FG’s/PAT’s last year. In fact, one in every 8.2 FG attempts were blocked! That is absolutely embarrassing.
I can’t help but feel bad for Graham Gano. If you were to look up his stats out of context, they’d say he was 31 of 41, or a paltry 75.6%, when in reality, it was more like 31 of 36, for a much more respectable 86.1%. And now he has competition in camp this year.