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Need to Know: Redskins can't count on free agency to improve

Need to Know: Redskins can't count on free agency to improve

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, February 13, 24 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.  

Timeline

Days until:

NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 16
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 63
—NFL Draft (4/27) 73
First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 209

Free agency not a cure for what ails Redskins

Many fans are looking at the March 9 start of free agency as the day the Redskins will begin to transform themselves into a Super Bowl contender. Armed with about $65 million in cap space, many are expecting a big-time shopping spree to fill all of those holes and add some depth. Others are expecting to at least add a few starters and some solid depth.

The truth is, however, that you should probably cancel any plans you have to celebrate any big haul by the Redskins. It appears that this year’s free agent class will be much more of a bust than a boom for the Redskins.

The reason why is simple—supply and demand. Let’s look at the supply first. Our friends at Rotoworld have a list of pending free agents ranked in order of quality. With the defensive line being an area in need of a serious upgrade, let’s look at who’s available. At the top of the list is Calais Campbell, who will turn 31 before the season starts. Next is Kawaan Short, who is likely to be tagged by the Panthers. A few names down is Chris Baker, perhaps a hint that they should focus on re-signing their own.

You get past Bennie Logan, a possible target for the Redskins who is eighth on the list, and you start to run into a bunch of players who are aging and/or ineffective. Nick Farley was a high draft pick who will be looking for his third team. Alan Branch is 32 and he likely will play for the Patriots or nobody. You’re getting into territory where you might as well re-sign Ziggy Hood.

The pending free agents at safety seems to have a little more youth and ability available. But many teams need safeties and the quality players there will be gone quickly.

OK, you say, there are 10 D-linemen and some safeties there that may be upgrades for the Redskins. They can just pick a few and sign them, right?

Wrong. This is where the demand side comes in. To put it simply, there are a lot of teams out there with a lot of cap space that the CBA says they must spend. A lot of dollars will be getting thrown at a very limited number of quality options. There will be bidding wars and the Redskins don’t like to get involved in those. And even if they do, they will lose far more of them than they win.

Yes, at the moment the Redskins have more cap space than all but four other teams. But in a way, the cap space is an illusion. Many teams with comparable amounts of cap space already either have their 2017 starting quarterbacks under contract or another quarterback who is taking up substantial cap space (think the 49ers and Kaepernick or the Bears and Cutler). The Redskins will have $24 million whacked off the top of their available space if they do that they will have about $40 million in cap space, a number that will put them in the middle of the pack.

Suppose the Redskins do what a certain faction of the fan base thinks they should do and they let Cousins walk. That would save a chunk of cap space. This strategy calls for the organization to spread the money around to upgrade the rest of the team. But, where to they spend it? Should they just sign guys for the sake of signing guys? Look at the Rotoworld list again and identify which players the Redskins can sign that will have the impact that a quality starting quarterback will. Then eliminate all but a handful of them because they are going to be tagged or re-signed by their own teams or sign with other teams. Then subtract most of that pool because other teams will be after them. What do you have left? Not enough to get you more than five or six wins.

The point here is not to make the case that Cousins needs to be brought back. It’s that solutions to what ails the Redskins, with or without Cousins, is not out there waiting to be bought. The Redskins’ best course of action would be to try to get Logan or Johnathan Hankins of the Giants even if they have to overpay a bit and then re-sign their own including Cousins, Baker, Pierre Garçon and/or DeSean Jackson. Then they should work on extensions for Spencer Long and Morgan Moses and maybe for Trent Murphy and Bashaud Breeland.

Free agency is worth paying attention to. The Redskins will add some players and it will be interesting to see who they get. But unless you like huge disappointments don’t set your hopes too high for the Redskins to exit March with the makings of a perennial Super Bowl team in place. Over the years Redskins fans have learned that free agency is fool's gold and this year is no different and given the circumstances probably worse. 

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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/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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In talking 2018 NFL draft, Doug Williams actually explained Redskins' free agency

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USA TODAY Sports

In talking 2018 NFL draft, Doug Williams actually explained Redskins' free agency

The Redskins spent modestly in 2018 free agency, and plenty of fans thought the team should have shelled out much bigger bucks. Talking with sources around the Ashburn facility, a prevaling notion became clear that the Washington brass believed they had a strong team in 2017, but they lost their chance to compete because of injuries. 

Well, the secret is out. Doug Williams said as much on Tuesday. 

"Coming out of Richmond last year, I liked this football team. I think we’ve got a tough football team, a smart football team. Some things you can’t control," Williams said Tuesday in a pre-draft media session. "We were very competitive up to a certain point, and when you have the injuries that we have, at a certain point, that competitive edge, you lose it because your best players are not playing."

Williams' words were true, and telling. 

First the true part:

  • In Washington's first five games of 2017, the team went 3-2. The Redskins only lost to eventual the Super Bowl champs Philadelphia and AFC West champs Kansas City. Washington only gave up more than 100 yards rushing once in those first five games, before rookie Jonathan Allen got hurt and the defense began to look much different. After Week 5, the Redskins only held one team under 100 yards rushing and finished the year dead last in rush defense.

Now the telling part:

  • The Redskins signed free agent WR Paul Richardson, and kept free agent LB Zach Brown. Beyond that, the team added inexpensive veterans in OLB Pernell McPhee and CB Orlando Scandrick. No splash moves, and recurring speculation that Washington was not offering top dollar to free agents. Bruce Allen acknowledged as much during NFL League Meetings when he explained that his team identified exactly how much they would offer free agents, their own and otherwise, and wouldn't go beyond that dollar figure. 

That means the focus of the offseason, at this point, is about this weekend's NFL Draft.

That also means the focus of the offseason, at this point, is not about Johnathan Hankins or any other free agent. 

"We’re going to deal with the draft now, and the second wave of free agents, if it’s somebody out there we feel like can help the Redskins,that’s what we’re going to do," Williams said. 

Throughout the offseason, Redskins fans wanted more action from their front office. It didn't happen, and Williams' basically explained why on Tuesday. The brass likes their team, and by default, expects better health and luck in 2018. 

When Williams talks about drafting the best player available, it's not just the typical NFL front office tripe. Right or wrong, the Redskins believe they have a team ready to compete in 2018, and any rookies that come in will only supplement that position.

"At the end of the day, I like this football team we’ve got. Like, last year when I walked out of camp, I thought we had a pretty good football team and I still feel the same way today," Williams said.

"At the end of the day, you get the best football player, and if that best football player is the guy that you want to plug and play, that’s all right. But if that’s the best football player that’s going to help your team overall, I think that’s the route you have to go."

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Doug Williams says Redskins will listen to draft trade offers but a trade up is unlikely

Doug Williams says Redskins will listen to draft trade offers but a trade up is unlikely

The Redskins aren’t in the quarterback business, so it’s highly unlikely that they will look to trade up in the first round of the draft on Thursday. But their phones will be open for business to move down. 

Speaking at the team’s pre-draft press conference, Doug Williams didn’t rule out trading up from the team’s first-round spot at 13thoverall but he doesn’t think it’s likely. 

“The chances of trading up might be a little slimmer than trading down,” he said. 

Williams said that the phones in the room will be ringing and that they will listen to any offers. But usually the team that wants to move up initiates the call and because the Redskins are set at one particular position they probably won’t pick up the phone. 

“If we were in the quarterback business, which is what this league is about, if we were in the heavy quarterback business we’d talk about moving up,” he said. “At this time, we can sit back and see what comes up if we stay at 13.”

The Redskins are set at quarterback after they traded their third-round pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller for veteran Alex Smith to replace the departed Kirk Cousins. Williams thinks that the Redskins already got good value from the pick. 

“When I think about Alex Smith, I say we got the best third-round pick in the draft,” he said. “I don't care what nobody says. You can't get a better third-round pick.”

Because they think they got a good player, albeit an older one, with that pick, the Redskins are not necessarily looking to make a deal to move back and recoup that pick on draft day. 

Williams emphasized that in order to move back, you have to have a team that wants to trade up. Often that is easier said than done. 

“They don’t just call you to ask you, they have to get a player that they want,” said Williams. “At that particular time, they’re afraid that somebody else might pick him. They might call you to ask you if you want to move back . . . If we move back, that’s because somebody called us to see if we want to move back.”

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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/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.