Redskins FA watch – defensive line

I’m going to start taking a look at areas of the team and what options the Redskins have in Free Agency. Today, defensive line.

Let’s start off with this – the Redskins HAVE to spend money in free agency on the defensive line. Full stop, period. I’m not a draftnik, I won’t be adding any thoughts on potential rookies, but I do know that the talk is this years class is loaded with defensive line talent. Fine, and I fully expect the team to take advantage of this, but rookies alone aren’t going to get it done here.

Ricky Jean-Francois
Matt Ioannidis
Anthony Lanier
Phil Taylor

Those are the guys you have on the roster at the moment. See what I mean now? And for the record, I love Jean-Francois. He’s a tremendous rotation guy and I’d be in favor of him seeing an expanded role. That said, this group is desperate for an injection of quality veteran help.

So what options do the team have? I’ll give a brief breakdown of the three names that I’ve seen the most buzz and speculation for. There are other options, but for now let’s focus on these guys.

Calais Campbell


Age: 30 (31 in September)
Expected contract length: 4 years
Expected contract value: $38-44m
Expected contract guarantees: $16-20m

Pros: I like Campbell as a player, a lot in fact. In an era where the undoubted king of his position – JJ Watt – has taken all the plaudits, I have to say I don’t think it’s all that outlandish to suggest Campbell hasn’t been that far behind. He’s unbelievably athletic and a complete mismatch for most offensive linemen. He’d give the Redskins an immediate and massive upgrade in their ability to get after the QB with inside pressure, something they’ve lacked for a long time.

Cons: However, he turns 31 in September. That doesn’t immediately set of any major alarm bells for me – I think he’s proven over the course of his career he’s an elite athlete and his production hasn’t yet shown any signs of slowing. But the key word is “yet”. As each year passes into the 30’s, the risk that the drop-off is coming gets larger. That’s not to say I expect it soon, but do the Redskins want to invest upwards in $10m per season in that risk?

Dontari Poe


Age: 26 (27 in August)
Expected contract length: 5 years
Expected contract value: $55-60m
Expected contract guarantees: $22-26m

Pros: Poe has a few years on Campbell, so substantially less risk in that regard. He has undoubted talent – after a difficult rookie start he had a fantastic sophomore season, and looked at the time to have brought a bit of glamour back to a nose tackle position that was beginning to look a little antiquated. I haven’t yet seen him repeat that season, but there’s no doubt his boom is booming.

Cons: But, there’s also a bust element to the boom. Poe isn’t a maximum-effort on every play kind of player. That’s not necessarily all on him though – last season he played 876 snaps, far too many for a nose tackle. In fact, only six defensive linemen in total played more. That over-usage led to a down year, where at times he looked slow, ineffective and easily moved around by his opposite numbers.

Chris Baker


Age: 29 (30 in October)
Expected contract length: 4 years
Expected contract value: $28-32m
Expected contract guarantees: $14-18m

Pros: It’s Big Swaggy! What other pros do you need? After being seen mostly as a rotational guy, Baker exploded onto the scene in 2015 and showed real quality. His short stint in the mainstream eye will work in favor of signing teams as his reputation is a little lower than that of Campbell and Poe. But let’s not forget they were 2nd and 1st round draft picks respectively, while Baker went undrafted, so this is to be expected. It means his value is going to be less, even though his ability is at least on par. Plus, he’s become a real fan favorite in DC. Will that count for anything? Doubtful unfortunately – turning 30 this year, this is Baker’s first and likely only shot at a big pay day. I wouldn’t hold out for a hometown discount, but you never know.

Cons: His probable lower price tag means he’ll garner plenty of interest. That in turn could end up artificially raising his price. On the field, he can be guilty of taking the ocassional play off and watching the rest of the action.

As I alluded to earlier, there are plenty of other options. But for now with these three guys taking up most of the column inches, I’ll hold out on any further breakdown.

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