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Thursday, March 13, 2014
Redskins' radar: Clark, Spencer, Sproles

By John Keim

The Redskins will host two players Thursday: safety Ryan Clark and linebacker/defensive lineman Anthony Spencer. But the interesting part of the day, or the next several, could be another player they’re targeting: running back Darren Sproles.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Thursday morning that the Redskins are among the teams interested in trading for the New Orleans running back. Apparently, the thinking now is that it would take a mid- to late-round draft pick.

Sproles would certainly add a good weapon for the Redskins. Though his production went down last season, he remains someone who can help an offense. Sproles can be lined up in many spots, creating mismatches. Also, even last season, there were times defenders would cheat toward him – taking two defenders. And that would leave a bigger window for quarterback Drew Brees to find another target. Sproles would give Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III an excellent option on checkdowns.

The drawback: Sproles turns 31 in June. He also has a hefty base salary for a part-time player; according to ESPN Stats & Info his base is $3.4 million with a $100,000 workout bonus and a Pro Bowl bonus of $100,000. (Note: An earlier version said it was listed as $2.4 million; but that was listed incorrectly in the system. It's definitely $3.4 million). Overthecap.com also has Sproles at a base of $3.4 million with a $100,000 workout bonus. The Redskins have all their picks in rounds two through seven.

But if they somehow did add Sproles, the Redskins' biggest acquisitions thus far would have come on offense. They’ve also signed receiver Andre Roberts and guard Shawn Lauvao. Meanwhile, a defense that struggled has received no help through the first two days of free agency. The Redskins hosted corner Corey Graham, but he signed a four-year deal with Buffalo. They also hosted defensive lineman Antonio Smith, but he left without a contract and now is scheduled to visit Tennessee and then Oakland.

Even some of the Redskins’ offensive players are waiting for them to add more help on defense.

They are hosting Clark, who played safety here from 2004-05, and Spencer, the former Cowboys linebacker/end, on Thursday. But Clark has drawn interest from many teams. His agent, Joel Turner, said numerous teams called about him during the legal tampering period. The Redskins did not call until early Wednesday morning – after losing out on safety Mike Mitchell, a player they had wanted for a while, the previous day.

But Turner said Clark’s interest in the Redskins is legitimate: “We’re not playing games. We’re coming down because we’re interested and they’re interested.”

Clark, who will turn 35 before the season, tweeted late Wednesday night:
 
If signed, he would give the Redskins a strong veteran leader in the secondary and someone to mentor their group of young safeties: Phillip Thomas, Bacarri Rambo, Trenton Robinson and Jose Gumbs. They could always draft a safety, too, though it’s a difficult spot for a rookie to play.

Clark obviously is not a long-term solution, but the hope would be that after a year someone else might be ready – or they can pursue this position again.

As for Spencer, he was an excellent linebacker with Dallas in its 3-4 front. The Cowboys moved him to end last season when they switched to a 4-3. But Spencer played just one game last season after having microfracture surgery on his knee. At 30, Spencer would be a guy who needs to prove he’s still healthy and can play. He would not be guaranteed help. The Redskins need guaranteed help.