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.
—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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