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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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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

For years, the Redskins struggle with their home field as the fall turns to winter. It's been happening so long it's become an expected passing of the seasons, like the transition from Halloween jack-o-lanterns to Christmas lights dotting people's front yards. 

Well, on Thanksgiving night, the turf at FedEx Field again showed how bad it can be. On a second half interception returned for a New York Giants touchdown, replay showed that Kirk Cousins' foot got stuck on the dirt, and it played a role in his sailing a ball to the sideline. The bad turf was not the only reason for the interception, but it was definitely a reason. 

Beyond the pick, the field was just ugly. Twitter blew up making fun of the Redskins home grass, and the national broadcast showed just how unsightly the long brown patch between the hash marks looked. 

On Friday, the normally diplomatic Cousins opened up about the grass.

"It probably doesn't look like a professional NFL field should," the quarterback said on 106.7 the Fan (full audio here). "If you think the field is rough now on Thanksgiving, we've got two more home games in mid-to-late December. That's probably going to be a bigger challenge."

Asked about the field's impact on the interception on Thursday night, Cousins ignored it. But plenty of other players have suggested the field is a known problem in the second half, and something they just must deal with. 

"I don't know why it is that way or what causes it," Cousins said. "I've kind of learned to accept it and understand it's part of the deal. Playing here on the field has never been that great in the second half of the season for whatever the reason."

[h/t @BenStandig for the Cousins quotes]

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When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

At halftime of the Redskins’ Thanksgiving night game against the Giants, Samaje Perine had three yards rushing and his team had three points. Washington had racked up all of 113 yards.

Coincidence? Not entirely. Although the Redskins are primarily a passing team they need to run the ball to pass effectively.

“We had to get the running game going,” said Jay Gruden after the game.

In the second half, Perine and the offense did get it going. Perine ran for 97 yards and Redskins put up 210 yards and 17 points. It’s safe to say that it wasn’t a coincidence.

The Redskins didn’t make any halftime adjustments to get the ground game in gear.

“We just had to stay the course,” said Perine. “We knew they were going to come out fired up, they just came off a big win. We just had to stay the course and then things started going our way.”

MORE REDSKINS: MUST-SEE PHOTOS OF THE WIN

Perine was more steady than spectacular. His longest run was 16 yards. He came out of the locker room and ran for six and 10 yards on his first two carries. Later in the third quarter the Redskins were backed up at their own 10. Perine ran four straight plays for 39 yards and the Redskins were near midfield.

Although they didn’t score on that drive they did change field position. That was part of the Redskins’ strategy playing with an injury-depleted offense.

“If you had to punt in a game like this and play field position, it’s not the end of the world because our defense was playing so good,” said Gruden.

Not only did the running game flip the field, it flipped the time of possession. In the first half, the Giants had the ball for 17:40 compared to 12:20 for the Redskins.

“We had to get on the field and control some of the clock,” said tackle Morgan Moses. “We had to give our defense a rest. Samaje put his foot in the ground and got extra yards when needed and we were able to move the chains.”

Moses wasn’t the only one enjoying seeing Perine pile up some yards.

“As a defensive player, you want to see that,” said safety D.J. Swearinger. “We say, keep running it. Keep running him. Let him keep getting those carries, put a dent in the defense. It was a good sight to see.”

RELATED: FIVE KEY MOMENTS IN RESKINS VS GIANTS

Swearinger got to watch a lot of Perine. The Redskins piled up 22:17 in possession in the second half, while Swearinger and his defensive mates had to defend for just 7:43.

Last night was the second time in four days that Perine has rushed for 100 yards or more; he had 117 in New Orleans on Sunday. No Redskin has rushed for 100 yards in consecutive games since Alfred Morris did it in November of 2013.

He will have a chance to extend that streak to three on Thursday against the Cowboys, who are ranked 17th in rushing defense. That would put him in some elite company in Redskins history, including Larry Brown (twice) and Stephen Davis.  A steak of three straight 100-yard games was last done by Morris in 2012.

It may be a little early to look forward, but the Redskins record is five straight 100-yard games, held by Clinton Portis (twice) and Ladell Betts.  

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.