Since General Manager Scot McCloughan was hired in early January, he’s been busy retooling the Redskins’ roster via free agency and preparing for the 2015 draft. So far, he’s received mostly positive reviews. But his work is far from done. In the coming weeks, Redskins Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine 25 issues that must be addressed as the offseason kicks into high gear.
Should the Redskins focus on offense or defense in the draft?
Since 2010, the Redskins have drafted 42 players, and the overwhelming majority of them played on the offensive side of the ball. In fact, 25 were offensive players, 16 were defensive and there was one specialist. Will that balance change now that Scot McCloughan is in charge? History suggests it might. During McCloughan’s two-year stint as San Francisco’s general manager, the 49ers drafted 13 players—7 on defense, 6 on offense. Sure that’s a smaller sample size, but it could mean McCloughan will be less concerned about stacking the offensive cupboard and more focused on taking the best player, regardless of the side of the ball he lines up on.
El-Bashir: McCloughan has said over and again that he strongly believes in drafting the best player available with each pick. And I think he’ll adhere to that philosophy—to a certain extent. Need will play some role, particularly in the first round. To that end, I think the Redskins will draft a pass rusher with the No. 5 overall pick (as long as they don’t trade back, of course). I also think positional need will be used as a tiebreaker between two similarly ranked prospects in the later rounds. One thing I don’t think you’ll see is the Redskins loading up on offensive players as they did during the Shanahan-era and Jay Gruden’s first year. As I pointed out in the intro, during McCloughan’s tenure as the general manager in San Francisco, the 49ers picked only one more player on offense than on defense. I also went back a little further. During McCloughan’s stint as vice president of player personal in San Fran (2005-07), the 49ers drafted 29 players—15 played on offense, 14 on defense. When I look at the current Redskins roster, I see significant holes on offense and defense, both short and long term. If McCloughan stays true to his philosophy, I suspect he’ll trade back at least once and end up with pretty close to a 50-50 split in terms of offensive and defensive players.
Tandler: The conventional wisdom among fans and many in the media is that since the Redskins loaded up on the defensive side of the ball in free agency they will focus on the offensive side of the ball during the draft. And indeed, they did go exclusively on defense during free agency, signing three linemen, a cornerback, and two safeties while signing no offensive players. But it’s not as simple as that. As Tarik noted, McCloughan’s basic philosophy is to take the best player available. All indications are that the best on the board when pick No. 5 rolls around will be a defensive player, like an edge rusher like Dante Fowler or Vic Beasley. And, as Tarik also said, need will guide the picks to an extent. The Redskins need depth at safety and at inside linebacker. On offense, Washington probably would like to pick up a right tackle and a third-down running back at a minimum. The truth is, however, that he might not be able to fulfill his shopping list. The draft rarely goes as planned. Perhaps McCloughan would like to fill the needs listed above. But right before they plan to take, say, a tackle, there’s a run on them and nobody they want is left on the board. Or maybe there is a cornerback sitting there who is head and shoulders above not only the tackles but also everyone else available. The plan goes out the window and a new strategy is formulated while waiting for the next pick. So while McCloughan may be going in with a preference for taking players on offense, but only 1/32 of the process is under his control.
25 questions series
The Redskins will be taking visits from two former NFC East foes in the next few days.
Former Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick will visit Redskins Park on Monday. Scandrick, 31, has been with Dallas since them made him a fifth-round pick in the 2008 draft. He has eight career interceptions and seven forced fumbles.
The Cowboys released Scandrick on Friday in a salary cap move. The Redskins would be attracted to Scandrick’s versatility. He can play either side at corner and, of particular interest to the Redskins, in the slot. That is a position of concern for Washington since they traded Kendall Fuller to the Chiefs as part of the deal for quarterback Alex Smith.
The Redskins have been trying to get former Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to sign for the past several days, but they can’t come together on money. Scandrick could be a fallback if they need one.
The other visitor will be former Giants defensive lineman Jonathan Hankins, per John Keim of ESPN. Hankins, 25, was a second-round draft pick and played his first four years in New York. Last year he moved on to the Colts as a free agent. They are changing their defense and decided to release Hankins after paying him $10 million last year.
Hankins could bolster a defensive line that still needs young talent. It’s not known if he would be considered a nose tackle in the Redskins’ scheme. The Giants ran a 4-3 defense and in the Colts’ 3-4 he was used as an end.
The Redskins had former Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson in for a visit earlier this week, but he decided to sign with the Packers.
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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.
A whirlwind week in the NFL, but that's come to be the norm when free agency opens. Actually, not even when free agency opens, rather the legal tampering period opening two days before the actual start of the new league year.
A lot happened, and more to come, but let's try to make sense of it all.
- The worst keep secret ever finally got revealed when the Redskins held their press conference to announce Alex Smith as their new starting quarterback. Everybody knows about the trade, and losing Kendal Fuller, but this trade makes a ton of sense and Smith was a homerun at the presser. He doesn't care about image or perception, a refreshing angle from the passer, and seems quite prepared for his new role. Smith was great in Kansas City in 2017. If he can replicate that in 2018 for the Redskins, the move will be loudly applauded.
- We still haven't gotten total clarity on Smith's contract. My intel says three years are really guaranteed, so Smith will be on the payroll through 2020 at least. Doug Williams joked at the presser that Smith could maybe play until he's 40, and since he's 33 right now, that would be a long time from now.
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- Smith was the headline, but the Redskins also held a press conference with new WR Paul Richardson. He was possibly more impressive than Smith, just because the young speedster was more of an unknown. Smith has talked at a ton of podiums and faced a ton of reporters. I don't know, but that might have been Richardson's first ever press conference with a room that had probably 100 or more people in it. Check out the video above.
- Richardson had a great line when asked about the dangers of big hits on passes over the middle: "They gotta catch me." He's right. He will get a lot of opportunities for the Redskins, and he should make things better for Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder. The Redskins wideouts did not get great separation in 2017, there are Pro Football Focus stats to back that up, and the offense got bogged down because of that. In 2018, with Richardson in place as a deep threat, defenses will need to react.
- The key to the Redskins offense truly succeeding in 2018: Jordan Reed. If he can stay healthy, the Washington air attack looks dangerous.
- Smart contract structure for the Redskins with Richardson.
- Zach Brown's contract is a 10/10 for the Redskins. A tackling machine that can actually improve from a strong 2017 season. Getting him back changed the entire tenor of Redskins free agency, as the team went from quietly sitting out the spending sprees (minus the Richardson move) to locking up their most important defensive player.
- Brown back, along with Mason Foster, gives the Redskins two strong inside linebackers. It's hard to remember now, but last September, that Redskins defense looked fierce. Injuries robbed the unit of a chance to completely gel and improve, but 2018 brings a new opportunity for that.
- Offensively, the Redskins had to invest at wide receiver in free agency. The money for Allen Robinson got crazy and the team was smart to move forward with Richardson. He fits their desired profile: Young player coming off a rookie contract on a career upswing.
- The Redskins did not invest at running back, despite Jay Gruden and Doug Williams saying the team must improve at the position. Frankly, the Isaiah Crowell contract with the Jets was quite affordable, and he's a player some team sources had interest in. The Redskins do not have the luxury of taking a running back early in the draft, and I'd argue they shouldn't even look at RB in the second round. The Redskins should be focused up front on the offensive and defensive lines. A dream scenario: A player like Vita Vea or Da'Ron Payne at 13, and then Ohio State interior offensive lineman Billy Price at 44. Price would have been a first-round lock but for a pectoral injury at the Scouting Combine. Medicals say he should be fine for training camp. Washington has shown a proclivity to draft players that slip due to injury concerns (Kendall Fuller in 2016, Fabian Moreau in 2017) and Price could fit the same mold.
- The vacancy at left guard has not been addressed, and wasn't going to be addressed in free agency, or at least not in the early days where the big money gets paid out. Washington has more than $26 million invested this season in just three players on their offensive line (Trent Williams at $14M, Morgan Moses at $5M, Brandon Scherff at almost $7M) and the team knows Scherff will cost more money soon. The Jaguars just gave Andrew Norwell $30 million guaranteed; the guard market has arrived. The 'Skins will want to keep Scherff, and to do it, they need to keep some cash on hand. That means the new left guard will either be a budget free agent find, or come from the draft.
- To that point, the team viewed Spencer Long expendable. He was well liked by players and coaches, but has never played a full 16-game season and missed half the year in 2017. Also, the emergence of Chase Roullier helped the team move forward without Long.
MORE: THE BIZARRE SITUATION BETWEEN THE RAVENS AND RYAN GRANT
- A bit of a surprise to see Trent Murphy leave, but he got good money from the Bills. Washington liked Murphy, and wanted to keep him, but not at the price Buffalo paid.
- What happened to Ryan Grant is complete junk. The Ravens are a first-class organization, but that was a bush league move. The guy has never missed a game in four years and now he can't pass a physical?!? C'mon man. Hoping the best for Ryan and will be interested to see if his represenatives seek retribution from Baltimore.
- Bashaud Breeland sure likes to keep it interesting. Why sign a contract if you know you have a hurt foot and can't pass a physical? Why would the agent not disclose that? Maybe it was disclosed, but that situation just seems so weird. The Redskins were never bringing Breeland back, something I reported as far back as December, but now it seems Breeland's next NFL team will have to wait to see when his foot can pass a physical. Bree is a good and funny dude, hope he heals up.
- Two crazy things from one draft class: The 'Skins NAILED their 2014 draft haul. Without a first round pick, they got five solid contributors in Murphy, Moses, Long, Breeland and Grant. But now, after their rookie contracts have all expired, only Moses remains with the team. Bizarre.
- Credit where it's due: The 2014 Draft belonged to a certain Bruce Allen. That was the year after the Shanahan crew was fired and the year before Scot McCloughan was hired. Credit where it's due.
- I think a Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie deal gets done. I think a Junior Galette deal might get done.
- Ndamukong Suh is still out there. Just saying.
- So is Bennie Logan. Just saying.
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