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Countdown To Free Agency: Defense

Posted Mar 11, 2014

With the new league year and free agency set to start today at 4 p.m., here is a look at where the Washington Redskins stand on defense.

With the new league year and free agency set to start today at 4 p.m., here is a look at where the Washington Redskins stand on defense.

All reports, rumors and conjecture are a reflection of the media conversation and are not endorsed or confirmed by the Washington Redskins.

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Brace yourself, Redskins fan. The new league year is coming.

At 4 p.m. today, the Redskins will hit free agency with money to spend, but a number of glaring holes on defense. Unlike offense, most of the same leadership remains in place on the defensive side of the ball, and a number of key free agents have been retained.

Not wanting his top players to test the open market, Jim Haslett worked with Bruce Allen and the front office to bring back Chris Baker, DeAngelo Hall and Perry Riley Jr. on reportedly multi-year contracts. The kingpin, Brian Orakpo, has been retained for the time being, using the franchise tag.

The unit still must fill the void left by departing linebacker London Fletcher, as well as address concerns in the secondary and possibly the defensive line.

With a deep free agent class, most of these concerns could be addressed before the 2014 NFL Draft.

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Redskins Free Agents:

Linebackers: Nick Barnett, London Fletcher, Rob Jackson, Bryan Kehl, Darryl Tapp

Cornerbacks: E.J. Biggers, Josh Wilson

Safeties: Reed Doughty, Brandon Meriweather

Through three games in 2013, the Washington Redskins were on track to yield the highest number of yards and points in NFL history. That can't happen again.

Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett will be given a chance to right the ship in 2014, and will likely need several fresh faces in order to accomplish that.

Veterans like Barnett, Tapp, Jackson and Kehl were brought in as quality depth, but do not likely factor into the team's long-term plans. Therefore, their asking price and 2013 grades may factor heavily into whether or not they are retained.

Fletcher, while technically a free agent, is expected to retire. Even if he changes his mind, it is unclear if the Redskins would have room for the 17-year veteran as an every-down investment.

Doughty and Meriweather are decent candidates to return, with both players likely to test free agency, but find comfort in Washington. Unless the team wants to move in another direction, both players could be a good fit. That does not necessarily mean either will be starters.

Biggers played cornerback and safety last season, while Wilson covered both wideouts and slot receivers. That versatility is certainly appealing, but don't be surprised to see the team make a splash at cornerback in an effort to improve one of the leagues worst pass defenses.

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Free Agents To Watch:

While this is far from an exhaustive list, here are one or two candidates to keep an eye on at each position.

Cornerback Aqib Talib: Any former pupil of player' coach Raheem Morris is a good bet to have interest in the Redskins, and Talib would fill a critical need. If there is a splash to be made, Talib is a good candidate to fill the role.

At 6-2, 202 pounds, he packs a serious punch, and would form an impressive tandem with freshly retained veteran DeAngelo Hall. Like Hall, he is a fierce ballhawk, hauling in 23 interceptions in 77 career games. He also hits hard, jarring two forced fumbles, three fumble recovers and four defensive touchdowns.

Cornerback Corey Graham: A career special-teamer with the Chicago Bears, Graham took off on defense for the Baltimore Ravens, playing a critical role in their 2012 Super Bowl run.

Graham has the ability to play inside and out, brings size (6-1, 187 pounds), durability (no missed games since 2007) and plays his best games on the biggest stage. In five starts last season, he had four interceptions, a forced fumble and a sack.

Safety Mike Mitchell: For better or for worse, when a defense needs to improve quickly, they are more likely to target players from other good defenses. Carolina free safety Mike Mitchell fits that mold.

At 26 years old, Mitchell is a proven commodity just hitting his prime. At 6-1, 216 pounds, he brings good size to a secondary that has been diminutive in recent years. And with four sacks and four interceptions last season, he brings the all-around talent and versatility that Haslett so fervently desires.

Safety Malcolm Jenkins: This is a deep safety class and Jenkins is unlikely to get the attention that other targets will. Jenkins is part of the Jimmy Graham diaspora of the New Orleans Saints, as a number of talented players are leaving as the team attempts to pay for the talented tight end.

At 6-0, 200 pounds and 26 years old, he sports similar numbers to Mitchell. With six interceptions, six forced fumbles, 38 passes defensed and 4.5 sacks in five professional seasons.

Linebacker Brandon Spikes: A former rising star with the Patriots, Spikes recently classified his exit from New England as a necessary "fresh start for all." That fresh start could easily be found in Washington.

A ferociously hard hitter, Spikes would be a young (26), able-bodied replacement for Fletcher to play alongside Riley Jr. Should he have any questions, he could always call up his older cousin, longtime NFL linebacker Takeo Spikes.

Linebacker Jon Beason: Hardly in the market for reclamation projects, Beason might be the type of player worth consideration by the Washington Redskins.

A three-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro, Beason compares favorably to some of the best of all-time through his first seven seasons. At 29 years of age, he brings a veteran presence to the position with a few good years left in the tank.

Defensive End Arthur Jones: As brother to UFC Champion Jon "Bones" Jones and Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones, Arthur Jones occasionally gets outshined in his own family. But he shouldn't be.

A former fifth-round pick, Jones has developed into a rising star in the Baltimore defense, and will attract attention from a number of teams this offseason. At age 27, he marks a younger option along the defensive line and could be the face of a revamped unit.

Defensive End Tyson Jackson: Another ideal 3-4 defensive end, Jackson's addition could shake things up for the Redskins, if they choose to invest resources there.

Jackson was a big-money draft pick in 2009, but could be looking for a change of scenery after starting just nine of 15 games last season. Regardless, he collected a career-high four sacks in the process, forming one of the most formidable 3-4 fronts in the NFL.

Nose Tackle Paul Soliai: If the Redskins look to mix things up at nose tackle, it should be done with the intent to get bigger at the point of attack. At 6-4, 345 pounds, Soliai fits that description.

A former Pro Bowler, Soliai has big-time talent to plug up holes for his linebackers to work.

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