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Need to Know: What is the Redskins' free agency game plan?

Need to Know: What is the Redskins' free agency game plan?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, March 9, one day before the Washington Redskins and the rest of the NFL start free agency.

The free agency game plan

We’re a day away from free agency starting in the NFL. In the past, we would have a pretty good idea of how active the Redskins would be. There were usually a few splashy first-day signings, with some big money dropped in the first week of the spending sprees. With occasional exceptions that was how things usually played out with Charley Casserly, the Vinny Cerrato/Dan Snyder combo, Mike Shanahan, and Bruce Allen.

Now there’s a new sheriff in town and nobody knows quite what to expect early in free agency. Or late. Or anywhere in between.

When Scot McCloughan was hired, he promised to take the team in a different direction with an emphasis on the draft. But unlike his mentor, Packers GM Ted Thompson, who generally sits out free agency, McCloughan said that he sees some value in it.

“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 news conference in January.

Through the years the Redskins haven’t been able to use free agency in a “positive manner”, at least not positive enough to build a consistently successful team. Sure, they have signed some individual players who have worked out but as a team-building strategy free agency has been a massive failure.

What has McCloughan done in free agency in the past? In his first year in charge of the 49ers, the only place he has been where he was truly in charge of both the draft and free agency, he did next to nothing in free agency. Of the 22 main starters in 2005, 20 were either holdovers or ’05 draft picks of the 49ers. WR Johnny Morton came from the Lions and DE Marques Douglas came from the Ravens. Morton was at the tail end of his career. Douglas’ signing is roughly comparable to the Redskins landing Ricky Jean Francois last week.

That was the extent of the 49ers 2005 free agent activity, at least in terms of players who saw major action on the field. They were 2-14 in 2004 and improved to 4-12 in ’05.

While that’s interesting it’s not necessarily informative about what to expect in 2015. Different teams and different years could well lead to different plans. It’s hard to imagine McCloughan signing an aging wide receiver to go with Jean Francois and calling it a day.

They need two starting caliber safeties and they can’t rely on being able to find them in the draft. Market conditions may force them to stay in house for their starter at right tackle but it appears they would least like to add some veteran depth. Cornerback depth is reliant on the health of DeAngelo Hall and, if he stays around, Tracy Porter. Again, they can’t rely on the draft for a nickel corner. They released two defensive linemen, could lose another to free agency and signed one.

So we will see how McCloughan handles it. My feeling is that they will be relatively quiet the first day and maybe into the weekend. Then they will go into action to scoop up some good fits who will have shorter contracts with less guaranteed money than the guys who signed on Saturday.

This will allow McCloughan to build through the draft and not have positions taken up by free agents who have contracts that make them too big to fail.

But that’s just my working theory. Right now very few know what McCloughan’s free agency game plan looks like. We might get a few hints over the course of the next day and a half leading up to the Tuesday 4 p.m. start to free agency. After that we’ll get some hard facts to discuss.

Timeline

—It’s been 71 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 188 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 42; 2015 NFL Draft 52; Redskins training camp starts 143

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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Need to Know: Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Eagles

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USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Eagles

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, October 23, six days before the Washington Redskins play the Dallas Cowboys at FedEx Field.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Redskins vs. Eagles, 8:30 pm, ESPN

Days until:

—Redskins @ Seahawks (11/5) 13
—Giants @ Redskins Thanksgiving (11/23) 31

Final report on injures of note:
Out
: CB Josh Norman (rib),
Questionable: OT Trent Williams (knee)CB Bashaud Breeland (knee), S Deshazor Everett (hamstring), RB Rob Kelley (ankle),
See the full injury report and analysis here

Final thoughts on Redskins vs Eagles

—The first time these teams met, both scored defensive touchdowns. Ryan Kerrigan got the first Redskins points on the board with a pick six of Carson Wentz in the second quarter. With a minute and a half left, Fletcher Cox wrapped up the game for his team with a 20-yard return of a very controversial fumble. The difference tonight could well be a defensive or special teams score.

—In that game, the Redskins never let the Eagles get any sort of running game going. The Eagles rushed for 54 yards, the second-lowest total for a Washington opponent this year. And they had 24 attempts (2.4 yards per) so it wasn’t as though they didn’t try. The Redskins could use another strong effort against the run this time as well.

—I examined third downs in the first look at this game a few days ago. Since then, this was bought to my attention.

Third downs could be a fatal flaw for the Redskins. The Eagles’ ability to convert third and long situations was a key to them being able to survive without much of a running game in the opener. The Redskins need to hold the Eagles to 40 percent or less on all third downs and to 25 percent or less on third and long. And they will have to do it without Josh Norman, their best defensive back.

—In the first meeting, the matchup of the Redskins’ offensive line and the Eagles’ defensive front went decidedly in Philly’s direction. Washington rushed for just 64 yards and Kirk Cousins was sacked four times. There were plenty of concerns about the line, especially RT Morgan Moses, who gave up two sacks, and RG Brandon Scherff, who gave up four total pressures. Those two and the unit as a whole have been better since that game. The Redskins’ front will need to win that battle this time around.

Prediction: A Week 7 game is not really a must-win when you have a winning record. There is a lot of season left to be played. But if the Redskins are going to take the next step and stay in the thick of things for the ideal playoff seeding, they need to take this one. This year in the NFL, just when everyone thinks they have things figured out something happens to flip the script. Everyone now figures that the Eagles are the best team in the NFC and perhaps the best in the NFL. They are ripe for an upset.

Redskins 24, Eagles 20

Season prediction record: 2-3

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.

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Trent Williams needs knee surgery eventually, but the timeline has many factors

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Trent Williams needs knee surgery eventually, but the timeline has many factors

PHILADELPHIA — Arguably the Redskins best player, all of the NFL knows that Trent Williams can still play at a high level while dealing with injury. 

How long Williams can play though injury seems the more important question though as reports emerged the left tackle will need knee surgery at some point. That could come in the next few weeks, or as Redskins fans hope, perhaps at the end of the season.

Currently playing with a torn medial patella-femoral ligament in his right knee, the six-time Pro Bowler has not practiced since sustaining the injury three weeks ago in Kansas City. He was able to gut out a strong performance last week against the 49ers, and is expected to do the same Monday night against the Eagles.

One factor that might be pushing Williams to play with such a damaged right leg is that backup tackle Ty Nsekhe is also out after having surgery on his core muscles. 

MORE: REDSKINS WEEKLY MVPS FOR EVERY GAME THUS FAR

Nsekhe is expected back relatively soon, but the timeline remains murky. When he can come back, perhaps Williams will reconsider his options. 

Surgery for the torn MPFL will leave Williams with a five or six-month recovery. 

It's obvious the Redskins' offense is best with Williams on the field. Nsekhe, however, proved a capable backup last season when Williams served a four-game suspension. 

Without Nsekhe, the Redskins would go to veteran T.J. Clemmings should Williams be unable to play. Nsekhe has not played since a Week 3 win over Oakland. The Redskins added Clemmings to the roster in early September, after their fourth preseason game. He spent the last two seasons with the Vikings. 

For now, the Redskins will continue to hope Williams can play through the pain.

"Trent is a tough guy, so we will see how it works, see how feels tomorrow and go from there," Jay Gruden said of Williams on Saturday. 

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