- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Redskins need to get more of a pass rush and that's not just from the outside linebackers. In the past two years the front three have produced little in this area. That's not their primary responsibility. In their 3-4 system, the ends must stop the run first and foremost. But a little help in the pass game would be nice. Here's a stat for you: The line combined for 5.5 sacks in 2013. You can't expect the linebackers to provide all the pressure.
Why it's a need: The Redskins need to generate more push out of their nickel pass rush, which means finding a lineman who likely can play end and then shift inside in passing situations. The Redskins need more depth here, with Adam Carriker cut and Stephen Bowen uncertain after microfracture surgery. It's hard to imagine Bowen sticking around at his current cap number ($7.02 million). Even if one or both come back later (Carriker said he'll have a shot in June to prove if he's healthy), the Redskins need more help.
In-house options: Chris Baker just re-signed, but his contract does not guarantee that he'll start. (It averages $3 million per year; a good sum, but also reflective of his versatility.) Baker will be in the rotation regardless. Kedric Golston is a run-stopper; they need someone who can push the pocket more. Doug Worthington is better against the run.
Free agency: There are some good options available and my hunch is that the Redskins will sign someone up front. The New York Giants' Linval Joseph is a candidate and could make the switch from a 4-3 tackle to a 3-4 end. He often left the field in rush situations, but that's partly because the Giants liked to add speed in the middle and would drop their ends inside. But Joseph has a good reputation in New York as a hard worker and likable kid. The Giants feel they have some depth up front so might be willing to let him walk. I've liked him for a couple of years. If the Redskins just wanted to find someone to help in nickel situations, they could pursue Houston's Antonio Smith. He's small for a 3-4 defensive end, but he can help as a rusher. He's a good locker room presence, too. But he's also 32 and should only be signed to a small deal. Here's what ESPN scout Matt Williamson told our Titans reporter, Paul Kuharsky, about Smith: "Smith is a penetrating 3-4 end that is one of the better interior pass-rushers in the league. However, he is up in age and his best football might be behind him."
Baltimore's Arthur Jones plays with power, using good leverage and long arms to be effective. He can play end in a base package and inside in a nickel. He's played both end spots -- he also had a sack last season against Cincinnati. Jones has a combined 8.5 sacks the past two years, but pass rushing is not his strength. Seattle's Red Bryant could probably play a 3-4 end, but he's a run-stuffer so if they want a pass-rusher, he's not the one.
The draft: I don’t like this for the Redskins. Notre Dame's Stephon Tuitt could go somewhere in the 20s or fall to the early part of the second round, so he might be available at 34. That's tough to see. Minnesota’s Ra'Shede Hageman is another who could go late in the first round. South Carolina’s Kelcy Quarles is a possibility in the third round. There are a couple other options in that third to fourth round range, but I really think free agency is the option this offseason.