The Washington Redskins quietly added another solid player this week in inside linebacker Zach Brown.
The Washington Redskins made another good move in 2017 NFL free agency when the team agreed to terms with Zach Brown on a one-year deal worth up to $4.65 million and just a $500,000 signing bonus. Brown, just 27 years old, is entering his sixth season in the NFL and is coming off a Pro Bowl year in Buffalo where he recorded 149 tackles and four sacks.
The Redskins, who would’ve entered 2017 with the same projected starters at inside linebacker in Mason Foster and Will Compton, needed to upgrade this position. Washington has struggled mightily in recent years to get off the field on third down. Opposing tight ends gashed the Redskins back-seven far too often.
Brown should fix that, or at least help doing so. At 6-1 and 248 pounds, Brown ran the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds when he came out of North Carolina in 2012. His speed shows on the field, too. While there are some questions about his ability to defend the run, Brown is extremely active in the passing game. He is a true three-down linebacker.
So, if Brown was so good why was his market so tepid?
A big part of the problem is he has just one year of strong production. After four years with the Tennessee Titans, Brown signed a one-year, prove-it deal with the Bills last season and thrived under Rex Ryan. The UNC product was solid in his first two seasons, but missed most of his third year and started only fives games in his final season with the Titans.
Redskins head coach Jay Gruden and new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky stressed the need for speed at the linebacker position this offseason, and Brown addresses that. He will also bring more competition to the position as Foster and Compton will presumably battle it out for the other starting position. Compton calls the Redskins plays on defense, a job Foster could do, too. Of the two, Foster is probably more athletic and a more complete player. However, coaches love what Compton brings to the table and he’ll firmly be in the mix.
Will this stop the Redskins from drafting Alabama’s Reuben Foster if he falls to them at No. 17 in the 2017 NFL Draft? It shouldn’t. Foster is an elite talent and would give this team something they’ve clearly lacked for many years. In the short term, though, Brown gives the Redskins the type of inside linebacker you need to compete in today’s NFL. Brown is a true sideline-to-sideline defender and can also give Washington some options in sub-packages as he’s proven to be a capable blitzer when called upon.
Signing any player to a one-year deal is smart business, especially those with some questions surrounding them. With players like Brown and Terrelle Pryor, you could possibly get elite production with no commitment beyond one year. And who knows, perhaps Brown will want to stick around for a few years beyond 2017.