- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Washington Redskins started the same five offensive lineman in 16 of their 17 games this past season. This is a big part of the reason why they were able to win 10 of them. But change could be coming to the Redskins' line, at right tackle where they have an opening and at left guard where Kory Lichtensteiger is a free agent. Per Mike Jones:
Lichtensteiger has said he would like to return to Washington. But the problem is the Redskins have a total of 19 players with expiring deals, they have needs in their secondary and they are roughly $4 million over the salary cap because of the $18 million NFL penalty they must absorb this year ($36 million total over two years).
Can the Redskins afford to bring back Lichtensteiger, who last season played on a one-year, $1.26 million contract and likely will seek an increase and a longer-term deal?
The other part of the question concerns Josh LeRibeus’ development. How far along is he, and what kind of strides can he make in his second NFL season?
The cap realities mean the Redskins must at least ponder a potential life without Lichtensteiger, which means they must ask themselves whether LeRibeus is ready to take over or whether they need to find another solution at left guard for 2013. They'll also need to figure out right tackle, where it seems more than past time to move on from Jammal Brown and Tyler Polumbus likely isn't the long-term answer.
The Redskins have a couple of things going for them here. First, they're in good shape at the other three line positions. Trent Williams played at a Pro Bowl level in 2012, living up to his lofty draft status and looking like the franchise left tackle they need him to be. Center Will Montgomery and right guard Chris Chester also played well and showed signs that they can be counted on moving forward. The Redskins' line issues aren't as pervasive or extensive as those of some other teams.
Second, because of their zone-blocking run schemes, the Redskins look for offensive linemen that are a little bit different than those many of the other teams look for. It may be that a Mike Shanahan-type guard or tackle can be found in the middle rounds and can start either right away or very soon, and that such a player would have fallen through the cracks because not every team's run game looks like Washington's or requires the same kind of linemen Shanahan needs to run it. Lichtensteiger obviously fits the scheme very well, but if they can't afford to keep him, it's possible LeRibeus or someone from the third round of this year's draft could slot in without too much of a hiccup. Not certain, but possible.
The line is probably the second most significant area of offseason concern for the Redskins after the defensive secondary. But fortunately for them, it's one area in which cheap solutions might turn out to be good enough.