You always have to remember when people start ranking free agents that it's just one opinion. It can be informed, but it’s still just that: one opinion. But it’s also interesting to see how others view the free agents of the team you cover. I rely more on people who have coached, are in a front office or used to be when evaluating free agents -- or my own eyes.
But rank them? No time for that. So it’s good when others do it and one free agent guide I’ve always found useful is Evan Silva’s on rotoworld.com. He puts a lot of work into his rankings, thereby making them a useful tool.
Among the interesting parts of his rankings as it relates to the Redskins:
• Brian Orakpo is the top free-agent outside linebacker and No. 5 overall. Here's what Silva wrote: “At least 8.5 sacks in each of four healthy seasons, including 10.0 in 2013. Has torn left pectoral twice in NFL. Not quite "elite" outside rusher, but close. In negotiations with Redskins, who need him. Could be franchise tagged before March 3 deadline."
• The next outside linebacker is Jason Worilds at No. 18. Of course, he'll be cheaper to sign than Orakpo. This one could be interesting to watch: The Steelers would be silly to let him get away, but can they afford to keep him? LaMarr Woodley's play has declined and he's expensive. But he would have to agree to restructure his contract because he would count more against the cap if released this offseason (unless they can split it over two years). Still, that's an expensive move. The benefit of signing Worilds? He's not yet 26.
• There are two defensive ends in his top 10, with Carolina’s Greg Hardy No. 2 behind Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (great pass catcher/horrible blocker). Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson is No. 7; I would not sign him as a replacement for Orakpo. Just not a big fan; felt he got upright too often and was then handled by tight ends.
• Linebacker Perry Riley is the only other Redskin player on the list at 103. A year ago he might have been higher because he was more productive. But I agree with Silva who questions his consistency. At this point, Riley has established himself as a player: he makes mistakes in coverage and is not strong enough against the run to compensate.
• It’s rather telling that he listed no other Redskins player, including safety Brandon Meriweather or corner Josh Wilson. But that’s also part of the reason this defense struggled poorly. You can’t always count on creating turnovers so when you're not, how do you play. We know the answer to that question. But I wouldn't re-sign either player.
• Inside linebacker is an area of obvious need. Silva listed San Diego inside linebacker Donald Butler ahead of Arizona’s Karlos Dansby; I would not have ranked them the same. After watching Butler, I didn't see him doing a whole lot and rarely saw an impact against the run. I'd take Dansby, who is older. But the Cards likely will keep him anyway.
• If you're looking at defensive ends, Baltimore's Arthur Jones is listed at No. 26; he's solid. Another possibility: Houston's Antonio Smith, listed at 46. The problem with Smith, a consistent player, is that he'll be 33 next season.
• One safety I've heard they like is Carolina's Mike Mitchell, listed at 92 after his best season.
• An intriguing receiver is the Giants' Hakeem Nicks, listed at 37. But I'd be wary of him and would only want to sign him to a lesser prove-it deal. Saw little separation from him last season in the games I watched him play.