Redskins' free agents more praised than 2014 class

The Redskins’ free-agency period has yielded something unusual: positive reviews. The players they’ve signed have improved their defensive line and secondary, both areas where they needed big help. The contracts seem reasonable as well, adding to the belief that they’re off to a good start. Yes, they need more help at other areas. But they also knew they couldn’t solve every issue in the first week of free agency.

It’s not as if the Redskins were careless last season, but they did sign some player who drew more questions than any of the ones they’ve signed this offseason. It’s hard to consider nose tackle Terrance Knighton, end Stephen Paea and corner Chris Culliver as anything but upgrades. And safety Jeron Johnson should provide a steady presence.

This is not to look back on last season as some sort of warning it might not work out. But it’s just a look back at what the perception was when the player signed and what it is now. And just know that the perception of the players they signed this offseason is better. There might be questions about them after the season – every player has flaws – but the signings were greeted with more applause than those made last offseason.

Here are the five higher-priced free agents they signed last season:

Guard Shawn Lauvao

At the time: Why did the Redskins make him a Day 1 priority signing after lackluster seasons in Cleveland? But some Browns coaches felt he would be a good fit in a zone-based system because of his ability to move. However, he was an inconsistent starter in Cleveland.

Now: He’s an inconsistent starter in Washington. The coaches say he graded out OK and that he was an improvement at left guard in pass protection over Kory Lichtensteiger. His run-blocking improved later in the season, but he clearly needs to play better overall.

Receiver Andre Roberts

At the time: A versatile receiver whose role decreased in Arizona as the Cardinals used Michael Floyd more and opted for a more run-based offense. He was signed to be a No. 2 receiver opposite Pierre Garcon and he also had return experience, something else the Redskins needed.

Now: Just a guy. He caught just 36 of the 71 passes thrown his way, by far the worst target percentage among those on the team. He was an ordinary returner and did not show a lot of burst. He turned out to be the No. 3 receiver after DeSean Jackson was signed.

Defensive end Jason Hatcher

At the time: Hatcher was coming off his best season and some wondered if he was a one-hit wonder and simply the product of how Dallas used him in 2013. However, the Redskins planned to use him in similar fashion as a pass-rusher, moving him inside in nickel packages. So he did not have to match his total of 11 sacks with Dallas; he just had to collapse the pocket and help the edge-rushers. My big concern with him was his age (turned 32 before the season), but figured the contract was, in essence, for two years and he could help during that time.

Now: Hatcher was a force when healthy, but his knees bothered him almost all season. He’ll be 33 when the season begins and is coming off knee problems. Not a good combination. But the Redskins have improved their depth – it appears – so they should be able to reduce his snaps and increase his effectiveness. If healthy, he and Paea could be the pocket-collapsers they've wanted for a few years.

Cornerback Tracy Porter

At the time: He was an oft-injured player coming off the one season in which he stayed healthy. The Redskins needed a slot corner and tried to sign Corey Graham. But considering Porter’s resume and the fact that he was coming off shoulder surgery, it was a keep-your-fingers-crossed move.

Now: An oft-injured player was oft-injured. The Redskins wanted to sign two corners in free agency, but have thus far added one. You need good corner depth and if everyone’s healthy they will have it, but if they can add another slot corner, it would be beneficial.

Receiver DeSean Jackson

At the time: He was not an unrestricted free agent; he was cut by the Eagles (in late March by the way; in other words, more moves can happen). But with so much swirling around why Chip Kelly would cut his most productive receiver, he was viewed as a risk. A week or two before he was available, one Redskins official did not sound all that high on Jackson. But the contract wasn’t bad, and nobody doubted Jackson’s on-field ability.

Now: Jackson was the Redskins' best offensive threat and was not a distraction at all. It’s not as if everything was rosy, but he produced and was one of the few players who did exactly what was expected.