How Redskins' 2018 Free Agents Could Impact Their 2017 Draft

The Redskins have some roster concerns entering the 2017 season, but 2018 could be worse. One way to address both is with the upcoming NFL Draft.

There are reasons why many project the Washington Redskins selecting defensive players early and often during the three days of this week's NFL Draft. Basically, last year's group wasn't that good, as evidenced by ranking 28th overall in the league. Yet last year isn't the only consideration. Don't sleep on what's coming up in 2018.

Defensive tackle, inside linebacker, running back and safety are four positions many have speculated the Redskins could consider priorities. However, with potentially 11 starters becoming free agents in 2018 and 25-30 players finishing their contract, Washington could take a proactive approach to this draft rather than a reactionary one.

Here are five Redskins that are unrestricted free agents in 2018 and could put the Redskins “war room” in a frenzy this weekend. The first round of the draft begins Thursday night. Rounds 2-3 will be completed Friday with 4-7 on Saturday.

1) Bashaud Breeland

Although he can sometimes be overshadowed by fellow cornerback and NFL-wide star Josh Norman, Breeland still finished tied for second on the team in tackles last season (60) and had just as many interceptions (3) and forced fumbles (2) as Norman. Breeland also registered one sack and 11 passes defended. Kendall Fuller struggled in some key games in 2016 against, allowing big plays from the slot against the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers. At the moment he or former receiver-turned-corner Quinton Dunbar might be next line.

2) Chris Thompson

Washington was able to keep restricted free agent Thompson this off-season. In a passing dominant league, a quick and versatile running back like Thompson will be tough to win over in an open market. Rob Kelley was able to take over the first and second down running back duties after Matt Jones was benched early in the season due to a case of the fumbles, but a slow finish to this season could mean a desired upgrade at running back. Kelley averaged 4.00 yards per carry or less in five of the Redskins last six games.

3.) Terrelle Pryor

Duh, right? They just signed the 6-foot-4 receiver to a one-year contract last month. However, if Pryor has a monster season as Kirk Cousins' No. 1 target, Washington would have to pay a pretty penny to keep their best receiver, something they didn’t do this offseason with DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garcon. Jamison Crowder is locked in at slot and the hope is Josh Doctson shines after an injury-riddled rookie season. Crowder has potential to be one of the NFL’s top slot receivers (847 reception yards in 2016), but lacks the height to be a prototypical No. 1 receiver. Doctson is more of a wait-and-see case, as he was injured for most of his rookie season last year. From there deep reserves Maurice Harris or Ryan Grant would need to show significant growth for anyone to think the Redskins are set at receiver should Pryor exit.

4) Shawn Lauvao and Spencer Long

The Redskins offensive line led the way for the NFL’s second-best passing offense and allowed the fourth-fewest sacks, but Lauvao has been behind as far as pass protection goes. It was most evident in December when Calais Campbell ran over him to force a Cousins fumble, essentially sealing the game for the Arizona Cardinals. Considering his play, the Redskins could cut Lauvao before the season to create cap space. Long, part of the 2014 draft class with Breeland, right tackle Morgan Moses and linebacker Trent Murphy, more than held his own in his first season as a starting center. There is no clear long-term backup plan on the roster.

5) Zach Brown, Mason Foster and Will Compton

Inside linebacker was already mentioned in our needs list above, but it is important to note that all three of these players will become free agents in 2018. Having two new, entirely different guys anchor the middle of your 3-4 defense doesn’t sound like a project any defensive coordinator wants to take on. Foster led the team in tackles with 88 in 2016, while Compton tied for second with 60. Washington signed Brown, a 2016 Pro Bowl selection, to a 1-year contract this off-season.

And in case you haven’t heard about it enough quarterback Kirk Cousins is playing on another one-year deal. Drafting a quarterback would be the first true sign that team president Bruce Allen does not feel comfortable about inking Cousins to a long-term deal.

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