The Washington Redskins' quest to improve their defensive line continues. Now they just need to find pieces to make it work, something they have yet to do less than a week into free agency.
The Redskins already have hosted Muhammad Wilkerson (signed with Green Bay instead) and Johnathan Hankins (left without a deal). They will host nose tackle Sylvester Williams on Tuesday. There's still interest in free agent Bennie Logan, though no visit is planned.
It’s been no surprise that Washington wants to improve its defensive line, as much to generate more consistent push from the interior as to stop the run. They're telling those who are visiting how much they want help up front. But stopping the run also must be done with other spots so just signing one good defensive lineman won’t matter if the corners don’t support it the right way or if the linebackers fill the wrong gaps.
The Miami Dolphins were never a top-10 run defense even after adding Ndamukong Suh, the top free agent in 2015. The Dolphins went from 24th in rushing yards per game before his arrival to 28th; and from 21st to 14th in yards per carry. It takes more than adding one player.
However, it’s a necessary part and if they can sign a guy like Hankins, it affords them flexibility. If they added Williams, I’d still look at drafting another lineman -- Vita Vea (who belongs in the top 10) or Da’Ron Payne.
They could then cut Terrell McClain, thanks to a recent move that makes it affordable. His base salary of $3.25 million was set to become guaranteed on the fifth day of the league year. It had only been guaranteed for injury only. But the language of the contract was changed to keep it as guaranteed for injury only.
That means Washington could release McClain and, thanks to the prorated signing bonus, be on the hook for “only” $3.75 million in dead cap space. Releasing him after June 1 would spread that out over two years. Otherwise, if he’s kept, he’ll have a cap hit of $4.67 million this season and $5.75 million next season. His play needs to improve in order to justify those numbers.
Adding Hankins would be a terrific move, if the Redskins eventually get it done (the price is high right now). Last offseason, Hankins didn’t sign with the Colts until April 13 so he’s used to taking his time to get what he wants. Of course, what it got him was a deal in which he could be cut after one season (but with $10.5 million).
Still, he’s a legitimate starting defensive lineman who would pair well with Jonathan Allen and Matthew Ioannidis as young building blocks. Imagine that; of course, the Redskins could do that through the draft, too.
But getting Hankins would provide them flexibility in the draft with the first pick.
Williams was coming off ankle surgery when he signed with Tennessee and, the word from there was that he struggled to anchor and initially adapt to a different scheme. He had been in a one-gap 3-4 front in Denver. By season’s end, the staff was more pleased with his showing. He’d be a part of a rotation, but certainly not the answer.
The Redskins clearly want more line help. The search continues.