Will Compton Is A Rare Restricted Free Agent Worth Considering

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Could The Lions Pull A Player From The Redskins?

While restricted free agents are typically not considered very interesting targets on the open market, there is one in particular that could generate big returns for Detroit. Will Compton was a starter and defensive captain for Washington last season, offering elite coverage ability while commanding the defensive unit. The undrafted free agent out of the University of Nebraska worked his way up the depth chart quickly, going from a primarily practice squad player his rookie year, to a primary backup role year two, and finally a starting position year three before becoming a captain year four. With over 200 total tackles over the last two years, he has proven himself to be a player that is capable of starting at the NFL level as a workhorse linebacker. He now faces an off-season in Washington where there could be a lot of turnover and he may wish to look for a more solid landing spot with a clearer view at future success then his current home.

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What Does Will Compton Bring To The Table?

Compton is a very one dimensional player at this point in his career, great pass coverage, poor run stopping. He can take on almost anyone you put up against him in man coverage within reason, has great vision to track the QB’s eyes when spying, and the positional awareness to stay in zone and identify nearby targets. He’s also a phenomenal vocal leader, calling out the plays for his defense, getting guys psyched up, and ensuring that everyone is set up properly, something the Lions’ defense hasn’t had since Stephen Tulloch’s departure. The flip side of that though is that you’re getting a bit of a liability in the run game. Compton is generally a fairly sure tackler against most players however bigger power running backs give him trouble. He hasn’t developed enough functional strength to bring down heavier guys if they get through the defensive line and if he does manage to get them down on his own he’s going to get dragged a little or at least will let them fall forward for a couple extra yards. While he can continue to develop against that issue as he has done with some of his other flaws in the past, there are concerns he might be maxed out athletically in that regard which would be a major limiting factor for him going forward.

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Why Could Will Compton Be Available?

The Redskins made a significant investment at the inside linebacker position when they drafted Sua Cravens last season and Mason Foster still has one more year left on his deal. While Compton is important to them, Washington could see it as more important to get Cravens onto the field and draft a more dynamic option that’s a better thumper in the run game. On top of this they may not end up protecting him with a strong enough tender thinking he will fly under other teams radar. Because Compton was undrafted Washington cannot place an original round tender on him, forcing the team to either offer a right of first refusal or a first/second round tender.

If they placed a first or second round tender on him they would be forced to pay Compton $3.7 or $2.6 million respectively next season which may be more then they would be willing to pay for him, however if they only put a right of first refusal tender on him there’s no protection there to stop other teams from making him offers. Add in a change at defensive coordinator that can stir the pot just a little bit more and it puts Washington in a very difficult situation that they could very easily mishandle making Compton a more accessible option then once thought.

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Bottom Line On Will Compton

The key with Compton will be his tender designation. If the Redskins give him a second round tag and commit to trying to keep him around then he’s not a guy worthy of that kind of battle over. If however Washington decides to leave him a little exposed he’s certainly a player worth inquiring about. If he does continue to develop his run defense abilities you can plug him in as a three down middle linebacker and help cover him up with other more strong run defenders already on the team around him. As pass defense is a far more pressing need at this point it’s definitely something that Austin could work on scheme wise and get away with. Even if he never proves to be a stalwart middle linebacker that holds down the fort all game long though, he could be a relatively cheap and flexible piece that can be added to the current rotation and make for a better overall linebacker unit. Compton would be a day one upgrade in two linebacker looks like nickel dime and dollar packages as well as an insurance piece at the weak side linebacker position should DeAndre Levy go down for another extended period in the future.

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Chris is the founder of everything you see here. A former radio presenter and Detroit native, he now resides in sunny California – and like so many of us, he found himself marooned on an island devoid of other Lions fans. After spending a few years in the Detroit Lions Reddit community he decided to start the Detroit Lions Podcast. Its become the #1 Detroit Lions podcast, and regularly ranks with the top podcasts in Detroit. With a mixture of pre-recorded shows, live & recorded phone-ins, and live post-game broadcasts - this is his slice of Honolulu Blue heaven.