As the league calendar flips, the Redskins will have many decisions to make about their free agents – who to keep, who to extend, who to let test the market.
Here’s a refresher on which players are eligible for free agency – unrestricted, restricted and exclusive rights – along with a summary of what each delineation means. This Washington Redskins 2016 Free Agency Outlook is presented by Cox Business.
Unrestricted Free Agents
Definition: A player whose contract has expired and has accrued four or more tenured years in the league. He may sign with any other team with no restrictions. If a team loses more UFAs than it signs, they will be awarded compensatory draft picks. Teams can begin negotiating with UFA players’ agents beginning March 7, but cannot sign anyone until 4 p.m. on March 9. The Redskins may re-sign their own UFA players at any time.
Will Blackmon, cornerback: Joined the Redskins after Week 2 of the regular season for needed depth in the secondary. Blackmon became one of the starting cornerbacks by season’s end and recorded two interceptions and two forced fumbles. Kirk Cousins, quarterback: After being named the starter before the regular season, Cousins took some time to get comfortable in the offense and came on strong in the second half. He broke tons of team records in the process – including most passing yards in a season (4,166) – and led the team to a division championship. [UPDATED, 3/1: The Redskins placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Cousins, officially keeping him with the team through the 2016 season] Mason Foster, linebacker: After signing midway through the season, and waiting patiently as a backup, Foster eventually took the other staring inside linebacker spot beside Will Compton. He finished his season with 38 tackles and a forced fumble, making a strong impression at the end of the season. [UPDATED, 3/9: Foster and the Redskins have agreed on a new contract, according to reports] Junior Galette, linebacker: Originally signed to a veteran’s minimum contract after he was cut from the Saints, Galette brought an impact-ready resume with him to training camp. But he tore his Achilles near the end of August and hit the IR list before he could play one game with his new team. Galette has expressed his strong desire to be back with the team. Kedric Golston, defensive lineman: The 10-year veteran totaled nine tackles on the defensive line this season to complement his leadership of a veteran position group. [UPDATED, 3/9: Reports say the Redskins have re-signed Golston to a one-year deal] Frank Kearse, defensive end: Kearse spent the first part of the season getting waived, signed and made inactive for games. He played in four games by the end of the season, though, and totaled five tackles and a sack. Terrance Knighton, nose tackle: The 354 pound nose tackle was a force on the defensive line and leader for the defense. He finished with 30 tackles and 1.5 sacks after signing a “prove-it” contract for one year. [UPDATED, 3/7: Knighton tweeted that he was informed by the Redskins that he will not be returning to the team in 2016] Josh LeRibeus, guard/center: LeRibeus stepped in well for center Kory Lichtensteiger, who missed the second half of the season with a neck injury. The backup center made the transition in training camp after primarily playing as a guard in his career. Colt McCoy, quarterback: McCoy sat the bench the entire year but finally got an opportunity to play the second half against the Cowboys in Dallas in Week 17. He went 7-of-11 passing for 128 yards and a touchdown. [UPDATED, 3/9: McCoy will be re-signed by the Redskins, according to reports] Alfred Morris, running back: Morris started and ended his season well, but for the majority of the season struggled to gain yards -- a problem he didn’t have in previous seasons. He totaled 751 yards and scored just one touchdown, often splitting carries with rookie Matt Jones. Logan Paulsen, tight end: Paulsen spent the year on injured/reserve after needing surgery to repair turf toe in training camp. He caught 13 passes for 78 yards and touchdown in 2014, and has always been looked upon as a strong blocker and sound special teams contributor. Keenan Robinson, linebacker: The linebacker battled through several injuries during the season and missed several games because of it, eventually taking a backup role. He still finished with 74 tackles and recorded an interception against Tom Brady. Alex Smith, tight end: Brought on near the end of the season to fill the void left by Derek Carrier, Smith played in three games and fit well into head coach Jay Gruden’s offensive scheme. His only catch of the season came in the playoffs, a 16-yard gain in the first half vs. the Packers. Pierre Thomas, running back: The longtime Saints running back provided leadership and another running threat out of the backfield in a pinch. He totaled 52 yards on the ground and caught nine passes for 84 yards in four games. His best performance came against the Eagles to help the team clinch the division. Cary Williams, cornerback: The veteran cornerback wasn’t with the Redskins for more than a week, brought in to provide more depth for the playoffs after Kyshoen Jarrettwas lost with a head and shoulder injury against Dallas. Like Thomas, and considering his experience, he could be an option to bring back for the spring. Darrel Young, fullback: After five years with the Redskins, Young’s role on the team diminished further in 2015. He ran the ball six times for 10 yards but still contributed as a blocker in a lot of formations. [UPDATED, 3/7: Young also tweeted that he was told by the organization that it will not bring him back for the 2016 season]
Restricted Free Agents
Definition: A player whose contract has expired and has accrued fewer than four tenured years in the league. The player may sign an offer sheet with any other team, but his original team has seven days to match any offer he receives. The deadline is also 4 p.m. on March 9. If the original team does not match the offer, it will receive compensatory draft picks based on the qualifying offer.
Tom Compton, tackle: Compton played a mixture of offensive line and tight end when the offense needed him for certain personnel packages. He’s mostly a tackle, but showed some of his versatility this season. Duke Ihenacho, safety: For the second straight year, Ihenacho hit the injured/reserve list at the beginning of the season. He entered the 2015 campaign as the starting strong safety before injuring his wrist in the opener. He could still be important for depth in 2016. [UPDATED, 3/7: Multiple reports indicated the Redskins had tendered an offer to Ihenacho to stay with the team in 2016]
Exclusive Rights Free Agents
Definition: A player whose contract has expired and has accrued three or fewer tenured years in the league. The player’s original team must make a contract offer by the league imposed deadline (4 p.m. on March 9) or the player becomes an unrestricted free agent.
- Will Compton, linebacker: The inside linebacker took over the starting the job near the end of the season. He was the team’s second-leading tackler with 122 and recorded an interception and sack in the team’s final two games.
Chris Thompson, running back: Missing three games due to various injuries, Thompson made the most of his third down opportunities, though they were limited with the emergence of Matt Jones and the addition of veteran Pierre Thomas at the end of the year. Tress Way, punter: Way totaled 70 punts for 3,224 yards, averaging 46.1 yards per attempt, good for 12th in the league. Twenty-one of his punts landed inside the 20-yard line and opponents averaged 8.6 yards per return.
[UPDATE, 3/4: Reports indicated the Redskins had extended tender offers to all three exclusive rights free agents: Compton, Thompson and Way]
Definition: A player who wasn’t on an active roster at the end of the outgoing regular season may sign an active roster contract, which doesn’t take effect until the new league year begins (March 9). There is no limit to how many future contracts can be signed, as long as the team stays under the 90-man roster cap at the beginning of the season. These are often used for practice squad players.
Christo Bilukidi, defensive end: Signed contract on Jan. 4 Desmond Bishop, linebacker: Signed contract on Jan. 4 Mack Brown, running back: Spent two stints on the Redskins practice squad this season LaRon Byrd, wide receiver: Spent time on Redskins practice squad this season Takoby Cofield, tackle: 2015 Undrafted free agent; spent entire season on Redskins practice squad Corey Crawford, defensive end: 2015 undrafted free agent; spent entire season on Redskins practice squad Ziggy Hood, defensive lineman: Signed contract Feb. 2; spent the 2015 season with the Jaguars and Bears, appearing in two games with Chicago. Willie Jefferson, linebacker: Signed contract Jan. 14,. Anthony Johnson, defensive lineman: Spent time on Redskins practice squad this season Kamal Johnson, defensive tackle: Signed contract on Jan. 12 Al Louis-Jean, cornerback: Signed contract on Jan. 11 Derrick Mathews, linebacker: Spent time on Redskins practice squad this season Jerrell Powe, nose tackle: Spent parts of the season on the Redskins practice squad Austin Reiter, center: 2015 seventh-round draft pick; spent entire season on Redskins practice squad Lynden Trail, linebacker: Spent two stints on Redskins practice squad this season