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Need to Know: How will Redskins' GM McCloughan handle free agency?

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Need to Know: How will Redskins' GM McCloughan handle free agency?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, February 3, 15 days before the Washington Redskins and the rest of the NFL assemble in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine.

Question of the day

We’re changing up the format of Need to Know for the offseason. Every day I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

Today's question is from Twitter:

https://twitter.com/Redskinsmeme/status/562349107088355328

Let’s approach this question from two angles. First, let’s look at what Scot McCloughan said.

“I honestly think the draft is the lifeline of your organization, but also you’ve got to understand with free agency that’s a tool that you can use and you can use it in a positive manner,” he said at his introductory press conference. “You know, you start dabbling too much in free agency sometimes, you’re getting older guys; you’re getting medical history . . . “

“See, in Washington, we’re going to draft these guys and we are going to draft them and mold them as Redskins. We’re not going to have to go out to other organizations and bring in 32 and 33 year olds who have different plans. I think the best-case scenario is you draft and mold your own and re-sign your own. But free agency is still there to be used to make your roster stronger too. You can’t lose sight of that.”

He specifically mentioned Ron Wolf, who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, and Ted Thompson, his mentors when he was a scout with the Packers. They are purists when it comes to free agency, rarely bringing in talent from outside of the oranization. It doesn’t sound like McCloughan plans to have a roster almost completely stocked with home-grown talent like the Packers do but his vision is to have a team that is built mostly through the draft.

But you should watch what he does and not what he says. In order to get an idea of what he might do, let’s take a look back at 2005, when he took over personnel decisions for the 49ers as their vice president of player personnel. San Francisco had gone 2-14 the previous year so it obviously was a roster that was in just as bad a shape as is the current Redskins’ roster.

McCloughan, however, did not go on a spending spree to pump up the Niners’ roster. He brought in two free agents who found their way into the starting lineup. Johnny Morton, a 35-year-old receiver, was signed away from the Loins and defensive end Marques Douglas, 28, came from the Ravens. Neither was a big splash signing. That was it. All of the other starters were either holdovers or McCloughan draft picks from 2005.

One other note here: McCloughan had come to the 49ers from the Seahawks and, as noted, started with the Packers. He did not sign any players who had been with his previous employers. So those of you trying to connect the dots and bring Frank Gore or Vernon Davis to Washington should think twice.

Putting what McCloughan said and what he has done together it looks like the Redskins will not be big players in the free agent market but they won’t be sitting on the sidelines either. Look for them to plug a few holes with some younger players who won’t break the bank or perhaps with an older player on a one-year deal.

Free agency starts five weeks from today so we will see what he does starting then.

Timeline

—It’s been 37 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 222 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL free agency starts 35; Redskins offseason workouts start 76; 2015 NFL Draft 87

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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In case you missed it

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No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

MOBILE -- Jay Gruden is making jokes about Kirk Cousins again, and that's good news for Redskins fans that worried about a fracture between coach and quarterback. 

It all started in the weeks following the Redskins dreadful Week 17 loss to the Giants as Gruden and Cousins seemed to be throwing slight jabs at one another.

Gruden, in his end of year press conference, explained that while Cousins "showed flashes" in 2017, when the team goes 7-9, the coach can't say any player was outstanding: 

You know when you’re 7-9, you know it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding.’ You know there’s a few guys obviously that jump out, Pro Bowlers like Ryan Kerrigan had a solid year. Obviously Trent when he played was Pro Bowl type, Brandon when he was healthy was Pro Bowl type guy. Kirk had his flashes where he was really good. From a consistent standpoint, over the course of 16 games, you know we’re 7-9. He did some great things, threw for over 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns I believe. So, I think he’s a very, very good quarterback without a doubt, but as far as getting us over the hump from 7-9 to winning a division with all the injuries that we had, I think he competed and did some good things.

Cousins, in his year-end radio appearance with 106.7 the Fan, explained that he wants the team to do better but doesn't think the 7-9 record should fall on his shoulders alone. (Quote via Washington Post)

What I gathered from the comment was 7-9 and the quarterback play are causally related and that quarterback play is 7-9, 7-9 is the quarterback play. I saw that and I thought, ‘I think it’s slightly more complicated than that.’ I think there’s a few more dynamics in play as to what your final record is. … At the same time, his job is to evaluate. That’s a big part of his role and his position. In that comment, he’s just doing his job, he’s evaluating the position and he has the right to say what he wants to say.

Both comments were fairly innocuous, but also clearly at odds. Combine that dialogue with the undercurrent of another offseason contract negotiation, and it seemed things between coach and quarterback weren't quite right. 

On Tuesday, speaking at the Senior Bowl, Gruden cleared the air. Asked directly about tension between he and Cousins, the coach was blunt. 

"No." 

Gruden went on to explain his answer about Cousins 2017 play, the now infamous 7-9 line.

"When I say 7-9, if I say one player played great that means I'm saying everybody else was not very good," the coach explained (full video above). "I think we all have to stick together, we all have to improve from a 7-9 season, coaches, players, everybody."

Cousins was good in 2017, throwing for more than 4,000 passing yards for the third straight season. He also showed that he can produce offensively without a great supporting cast, as injuries robbed the Redskins of many of their best passing game threats and seriously damaged the offensive line. 

The quarterback did play two terrible games in the last month of the season, however, including a three interception stinker in the Week 17 finale.

It's possible that Gruden had that fresh in his mind when he spoke in early January, and with the benefit of a little time, his assessment mellowed by late January. 

Either way, Gruden joked about Cousins deserving a vacation, and even said the QB needs a tan. Gruden often uses humor to defuse touchy situations with Redskins players, and maybe he just did it again. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins fans want Zach Brown back. Bad. And for weeks there had been no news about contract talks between Washington and Brown. 

Now that's changed.

"We've been talking to his agent," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said on Tuesday. 

Gruden, speaking from the Senior Bowl, explained that the team would like Brown back in 2018 but Washington also understands that the linebacker might want to explore the free agent market. 

"It’s a process," Gruden said (full video above). "These guys have a chance to be a free agent, they had a good year and they want to check what the market is sometimes. If we can get them before they get to free agency, great, but if not, the bidding wars will begin."

For Brown, free agency will look different in 2018 than it did last season when he signed a one-year. bargain deal with the Redskins. 

Prior to injuries forcing him to miss the final three games of the season, Brown led the NFL in tackles. For two straight years, 2016 in Buffalo and 2017 in Washington, Brown has proved to be a tackling machine and arguably the fastest linebacker in the NFL. Brown also signed new representation last offseason, Jason and Michael Katz of CSE Football, and should Brown hit the free agent market the Katz brothers will aggresively market their client. 

Washington Senior Vice President of Football Operations Eric Schaeffer will handle the contract discussions for Washington, and is known as a shrewd negotiator. 

Like many business deals, this will come down to money. Brown established himself as a fit in Washington, both on the field and in the locker room. Interior linebackers do not command top dollar like pass rushers do, but Brown will still expect to be compensated appropriately. 

Further complicating matters for Washington, the Redskins only have Josh Harvery-Clemmons, Zach Vigil and Martrell Speight under contract for 2018. 

It's too early to predict what "it's a process" means from Jay Gruden, but Redskins fans should draw some encouragement that talks have begun with Brown. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!