- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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It happens quite often: Well-known Player gets released and within seconds the question is asked. Will the Redskins pursue Well-known Player? It’s a, uh, fun game. But it’s also understandable, especially when the team involved (the Redskins) has many spots to fill.
So I thought I’d take a look at four players who have been in the news lately, which prompted a round of questions:
CB Champ Bailey: Loved covering him early in his career in Washington and also watching him play. But what does he have left? The assumption is he could move to safety. However, in doing that he’d have to learn a new defense and a new position. That’s a lot to ask. Denver’s decision to release him is not about money, it’s about where his game stands. Perhaps if that Lisfranc injury heals well this offseason he’ll regain some of that lost explosiveness. But the team that knows him best did not think that would happen. It’s a tricky injury. He liked playing in Washington. He definitely tired of the organization so it’s debatable if he’d even want to return.
CB Cortland Finnegan: The Redskins likely would have pursued him in 2012 had the salary-cap penalty not been applied. This is why free agency is dangerous: Finnegan never came close to living up to his five-year, $50 million contract in St. Louis. Just remember that next week. Injuries cost him nine games this past season – three because of a hamstring issue; he was then placed on injured reserve because he fractured an orbital bone behind his left eye. But he was playing poorly before the injury. Last year, he had a nagging hamstring injury that left him mostly as a nickel corner (though he played in every game). He’s considered good in the locker room. At 30, once corners start breaking down it’s hard to trust them. And, at 5-foot-10, 180 pounds a move to safety is probably not the best idea. St. Louis apparently wants him back. If I’m the Redskins, I stay away from an aging corner coming off injuries who is smaller and doesn’t know my defense.
CB Brandon Browner: Unlike the other two, he already was an unrestricted free agent. But I’m including him here because of his recent reinstatement, so he became a popular one to ask about. But as part of his return to the NFL, he’ll have to sit out the first four games of 2014. At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, he’s big and physical. That style works great – when you have a pass rush like Seattle to match. But he’ll also turn 30 before the season and he’s limited as to his style of play. What they don’t need are more aging defensive players. And when physical corners age, if they can’t get their hands on a receiver, they struggle. However, Browner was well-liked in the Seattle locker room. I’d consider him more for safety than corner at this point.
KR/PR Devin Hester: Another player who already was a free agent. But, like Browner, Hester was in the news when the Bears confirmed they would not be re-signing him So ... there were questions. I would definitely consider him because it’s clear he’s still good. Hester averaged 27.6 yards on 52 kickoff returns last season (with four fumbles) and 14.2 on punt returns. He returned a punt 81 yards for a score against the Redskins. Shocker there, I know. Of his 18 punt returns, four went for at least 20 yards -- that’s three more than the Redskins had in 35 returns.
Hester counted $2.98 million against the salary cap in 2013. The Bears do not want to pay a return specialist that kind of money and it’s hard to blame them when they have other areas to fill. His lack of versatility hurts – he was tried at other spots and never produced. Do not fool yourself into thinking it would be different elsewhere. He’s a bit of a luxury and for a team with bigger holes, should he be signed even for, say, $2 million a year? But he has averaged at least 14.2 yards per punt return in three of the past four years.