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Thursday, February 6, 2014
Positional outlook: linebackers

By John Keim

The Redskins have a lot of questions to answer here in the offseason, with six players who will be free agents in March. Some can still fit into their plans, but certainly not all.

Ryan Kerrigan
The only starter signed for next season. Kerrigan played much of last year with a damaged knee, though he said it did not impact his performance. It’s hard to believe there was no impact, however. Kerrigan made fewer impact plays in the second half of the season and was not as effective rushing the passer. But there’s no reason to believe he won’t flirt with double-digit sack totals again next season.
2014: Starter
Contract status: Signed through 2014

Perry Riley
There was a belief or an assumption that Riley would elevate his play to a Pro Bowl level in 2013. That did not happen. Riley remained a fine player, but he was not near a Pro Bowl player. He needs to get better in coverage, particularly in zones. But Riley still gets downhill fast and blitzes well, both of which are useful. He’s grown smarter, but the Redskins still could use a strong presence next to him.
2014: Starter
Contract status: Free agent as of March 11

Brian Orakpo
He finished strong this past season and you can’t just attribute it to a contract drive. Maybe that was part of the motivation, but his strong kick started with at least half a season left. And if it was that easy to play for a contract others would have done the same. Orakpo has developed more of an all-around game, though his strengths remain rushing the passer and defending the run. With Orakpo, it’s all about expectations: If you want him to be a 15-sack guy, that’s not him. He’ll cost around $10 million a year to re-sign, most likely. He’ll be around double digits, but can help set up others. The Redskins clearly value him because they consider re-signing him a priority.
2014: Starter
Contract status: Free agent as of March 11

Brandon Jenkins
He didn’t get to play a whole lot, but that was to be expected – and it was due as much to an inability to help on special teams as anything. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett would have preferred to use him more, but Jenkins was often inactive. He showed flashes of what he might be able to be as a rusher, mostly on inside rushes when he could cross the blocker’s face. But on speed rushes to the outside, Jenkins needs to improve (and get stronger).
2014: Backup
Contract status: Signed through 2017

Rob Jackson
Jackson returned to being a backup after starting most of 2012 for the injured Orakpo. He is not as good a pass-rusher nor is he as good against the run, but he is capable of starting, as he showed a year ago. And there’s little doubt Jackson will want to go where he can start. If Orakpo returns, Washington won’t be that place.
2014: Elsewhere.
Contract status: Free agent as of March 11

Darryl Tapp
He did not have a tremendous role in 2013, his first as an outside linebacker in a 3-4. Tapp is not an explosive rusher, but he is strong and does a real nice job against the run. Tapp is not an all-around linebacker, but he can help.
2014: Backup
Contract status: Free agent as of March 11

Nick Barnett
With London Fletcher retiring, if Barnett had anything left he would be viewed as his replacement. Barnett can still play a little bit, but he’s not a three-down linebacker anymore and that’s what the Redskins need. Their special teams needs a younger backup who can play special teams. Barnett was a guy trying to hang on; makes for ineffective special teams (as 2013 proved).
2014: Elsewhere
Contract status: Free agent as of March 11

Keenan Robinson
It’s a shame what happened to him in the preseason when he tore his pectoral muscle for a second time. Had he stayed healthy he would have been groomed to start in place of Fletcher in 2014. But that’s not what happened. Robinson runs well and when he played as a rookie he improved. If nothing else he’d be a good special-teams player. Now there are questions about his durability.
2014: Backup
Contract status: Signed through 2016

Bryan Kehl
He’s not going to be anything other than a backup from scrimmage. His value comes on special teams. He’s not a Lorenzo Alexander clone; he’s a step below. But he can help on special teams and provide an emergency backup, though I don’t think you’d want him to start more than a couple games.
2014: Backup/bubble
Contract status: Free agent as of March 11