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After years of neglect, should the Redskins draft a D-lineman early?

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After years of neglect, should the Redskins draft a D-lineman early?

In less than a year, the Redskins completed a stunning turnaround, ascending from a laughingstock in 2014 to a division champion in 2015. But now comes the difficult part: taking that all-important next step and improving from a franchise that was fortunate to get into the playoffs to one that can do some damage once it gets there. And that work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players.

In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine the 25 biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.

No. 25

Should the Redskins pick a defensive lineman early in the draft?

Tandler: Yes, early and perhaps even often.

It’s very fair to say that the Redskins have neglected the defensive line in the draft. Excluding college defensive ends drafted with the plan to convert them to outside linebackers the Redskins have drafted just one defensive lineman earlier than the sixth round since the year 2000. That was Jarvis Jenkins, taken in the second round in 2011. Other than that they have taken three defensive linemen in the seventh round and two in the sixth.

The last time the Redskins took a defensive lineman in the first round was 1997, when they took end Kenard Lang out of Miami.

The Redskins have had to rely on free agency to keep their defensive line stocked. In recent years they have spent big money on the likes of Jason Hatcher, Stephen Bowen, and Barry Cofield. With the latter two the cycle was predictable and almost the same. The team got a good year or two out of both of them and restructured their deals to create some cap room. Then both suffered injuries, lost a lot of their effectiveness and were cut, creating substantial dead cap hits.

It goes back further than that, to Andre Carter and Cornelius Griffin during Joe Gibbs’ second stint and the ultimate disaster free agent signing, Albert Haynesworth in 2009. Add them all up and it’s tens of millions of cap dollars spent with very little in return.

The Redskins don’t necessarily have to take a defensive lineman in the first round although at this early stage of the draft process it looks like there are a few players who could qualify as best available at No. 21 overall. Robert Nkemdiche of Ole Miss, Vernon Butler of Louisiana Tech, Sheldon Rankins of Louisville and Jarran Reed of Alabama are all potential picks at No. 21.

A D-lineman doesn’t have to be the first-round pick. There likely will be some solid options that Scot McCloughan can grab in the middle rounds. But if they get to the third day of the draft on Saturday and there isn’t a defensive lineman on the board we will be virtually assured that the Redskins will have to continue the cycle of expensive short-term rentals of older players.

El-Bashir: Tandler with the history lesson! I’d forgotten how badly the Redskins had neglected the D-line in recent years. 

Well, it’s time to put an end to that trend.  

Terrance Knighton is a free agent. Ditto for backups Kedric Golston and Frank Kearse. Meantime, Jason Hatcher, who turns 34 in July, is talking about retiring.

Depending on how things shake out with Knighton and Hatcher, the Redskins could find themselves in need of two starters up front. Stephen Paea, of course, could claim one of those jobs, but he didn't last year and is coming off a stint on IR. Whatever happens, the need for an infusion of young, top-tier talent along the D-line is both real and immediate.

And, fortunately for GM Scot McCloughan, this is a good year to be in need of a quality tackle or end. Or both, even.

Rotoworld’s Josh Norris has eight D-linemen—Sheldon Rankins (Louisville), Andrew Billings (Baylor), DeForest Buckner (Oregon), Robert Nkemdiche (Ole Miss), Vernon Butler (Louisiana Tech), Jonathan Bullard (Florida), Jarran Reed (Alabama) and Jihad Ward (Illinois)—among his top 32 prospects.

NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks adds A’Shawn Robinson (Alabama) and Kenny Clark (UCLA) to the list of top tackles available. In fact, Brooks writes, “The 2016 defensive tackle class is arguably the deepest position in the raft. There are not only several blue chip talents at the top of the board, but there are plenty of quality starters that can be found on Day 2.”

Which, of course, is very good news for a Redskins’ team that, after years of neglect, should absolutely consider investing in its D-line—with an early pick or maybe even two. 

25 Questions series

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Need to Know: The most underrated Redskins events of 2017

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Need to Know: The most underrated Redskins events of 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, February 22, 20 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

The underrated Redskin moments of 2017

Originally published 12/29/17

Sometimes in the NFL, something happens that grabs headlines and appears to be a momentous event that has ripple effects that will last all season and perhaps beyond. Other times something that is greeted with a yawn by fans and the media turns out to be something with lasting impact. Here, in no particular order, are three underrated events from 2017. Tomorrow we’ll look at three events that were overrated at the time they happened.  

Beating the Rams in Week 2—Nobody got particularly excited when the Redskins went to the LA Memorial Coliseum and beat a Rams team that had gone 4-12 in 2016. Sure, there was a belief that they were in good hands with Sean McVay but nobody saw them as anything better than a middle of the pack team. The win looks much more impressive now as the 11-4 Rams have locked up their division with a playoff game in their future.

Drafting safety Montae Nicholson—He was a fourth-round pick who had a shoulder injury and appeared to be a reach. But once he got on the field, the reasons the Redskins drafted him became apparent. His range and hard hitting had an immediate impact on the game. Nicholson had problems staying on the field and he will finish the year on IR, so his impact this year was diminished. Regardless, he has a good chance of being part of the solution to a position with which the Redskins have had issues for years.

Ty Nsekhe’s injury—Against the Raiders in Week 3, Shawn Lauvao’s facemask had an issue and he had to leave the game for a play. In came Nsekhe without an opportunity to warm up. He suffered a core muscle injury and had to undergo surgery. His absence didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, but Trent Williams suffered a knee injury the next week and other offensive linemen were sidelined with injuries over the next several weeks. Nsekhe was inactive until the Week 10 game against the Vikings and he didn’t start a game until the Thanksgiving game against the Giants. He sure would have been useful to have in the lineup instead of T.J. Clemmings or Tyler Catalina.

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.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 7
—NFL Draft (4/26) 63
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 199

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Miami tagged Jarvis Landry, but what does that mean for the Redskins?

Miami tagged Jarvis Landry, but what does that mean for the Redskins?

Everything in the NFL feels like a powder keg, but the reality of Tuesday's opening of the franchise and transition tag period will play out as much more of a slow burn.

Few teams ever actually make moves on the opening day of the tag period, though the Dolphins bucked that conventional wisdom and used the non-exclusive franchise designation on wide receiver Jarvis Landry. 

Astute Redskins fans know the tag system all too well. Landry can now sign a one-year, fully guaranteed contract with the Dolphins worth more than $16 million, the average of the top-five paid receivers in the NFL.

They can also trade Landry and the compensation discussion with a non-exclusive tag begins at two first-round draft picks, though it can eventually be settled for much less. 

RELATED: BEST AND WORST OF REDSKINS' FIRST-ROUND DRAFT HISTORY

What, if anything, does Miami's move mean for the Redskins? Let's take a look:

  1. Not gonna work here - Landry never really seemed like a great fit for the Redskins as a free agent, and that was before the franchise tag. He's a really good slot WR, but Washington already has that in Jamison Crowder. Whether or not Landry actually gets a deal done with the Dolphins or gets traded, it seems highly unlikely the Redskins are his next team. 
  2. "Spirit of the tag" - Miami putting the tag on Landry so early in the process signals that the team might be trying to trade him instead of actually trying to sign him. If that's the case, and plenty of people are suggesting just that, it would seem to be in contrast with the "spirit of the tag." The idea is that a franchise or transition tag is supposed to be used as a tool by an NFL franchise to get a long-term deal done with one of their own players facing free agency. Using the tag as a mechanism to pull of a trade seems very different. Why does any of this matter for Redskins fans? As reports emerged that Washington might look to use a tag on Kirk Cousins and work to trade him, the Cousins camp has made clear they would file a grievance against that technique. Why? Because it would violate the spirit of the tag. Well, it sure looks like Miami is doing the same thing, and as of now, nobody has complained. The situations aren't identical; few resemble the Redskins long, slow, awkward dance with Cousins. But it's certainly worth monitoring. 
  3. Wide Receiver$ - The Redskins could use a veteran wideout to help their young group of Crowder and Josh Doctson. Well, with Landry getting tagged, the price tag just went up. The player that seems to make the most sense in Washington would be Jaguars wideout Allen Robinson. Coming off a knee injury in 2017, some thought Robinson could be signed on a somewhat team-friendly deal. If Landry can get franchised after a season where he didn't even get to 1,000 yards receiving, any thought of a team-friendly deal for Robinson is dead. Make no mistake, Landry and Robinson are good players, but the ever-increasing NFL salary cap will make both young receivers very well paid. 

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