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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.


—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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Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?


Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?

The Redskins sure hosted a lot of free agent defensive line visits in the second week of free agency, but so far, no signed contracts. 

Johnathan Hankins came to Ashburn. Sylvester Williams came to Ashburn. Pernell McPhee came to Ashburn. All three left without a done deal, and now for Redskins fans, the question becomes not about when a deal will get done, but if any deals will happen.

Actually, one deal did happen. According to a report, Williams has signed with the Lions. 

Since visiting the Redskins on Monday, Hankins also took a trip to see the Lions. McPhee, who was offered a contract by the Redskins, has since taken a trip to visit the Falcons. 


Keep in mind too, Washington expressed interest in nose tackle Bennie Logan last offseason, and the 6-foot-2, 309 lb., former Chief is again on the market. A visit from Logan would surprise nobody, though it hasn't been reported yet. 

Mother Nature might also be an impediment for the Redskins. A March snowstorm shut the D.C. region down on Wednesday, which could have limited potential free agent visits.

What's clear is between Hankins, McPhee and Williams this week, in addition to Muhammad Wilkerson and Benson Mayowa last week, the Redskins are obviously looking to upgrade their defensive line. Combine that with a contract restructure for incumbent Terrell McClain, and Washington has the flexibility to improve on last season's NFL-worst run defense. 

That doesn't mean, however, the Redskins will absolutely sign one of the above mentioned players. And it doesn't mean outside linebacker Junior Gallete won't return to the Redskins either. 

Many fans wonder if a McPhee signing means the Redskins would move on from Galette. It might, but that's no sure thing. 

Washington went into the 2017 season with five outside linebackers: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Galette, Ryan Anderson and Chris Carter. Right now, the 'Skins only have Kerrigan, Smith and Anderson under contract. The team needs to add at least one OLB, but likely two.

McPhee also carries about 20 extra pounds on his frame than Galette, giving the former Bear and Raven more flexibility to play against the run. Galette is a speed, leverage and moves player, focused on getting to the quarterback. He's capable against the run, but in the same way a sports car shouldn't carry a snow plow, Galette should be used to pressure QBs. 

Point being: McPhee and Galette could both make sense for the Redskins, if the team can work out the cash. 

Money usually matters the most in free agency, and it's clear the Redskins haven't made the type of offers that any of these players felt compelled to immediately sign. Deals could still happen though. Hankins didn't sign last offseason until April and Galette seems to thank Redskins fans via social media with relative frequency. 

Washington also had some success with the patient approach to free agency. The team was able to keep Zach Brown, though it took some nervous days of allowing the tackling machine linebacker to test the free agent market. With that win in hand, don't expect the Redskins brass to change their philosophy. 

Until further notice, it's hurry up and wait season in Ashburn.

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Redskins Draft Countdown: Could Da'Ron Payne be the final piece to the D-line puzzle?

Redskins Draft Countdown: Could Da'Ron Payne be the final piece to the D-line puzzle?

Redskins draft countdown

Da’Ron Payne

Defensive tackle

Stuff the run in the middle of the line? Check. Get outside to stop stretch plays? Check. Get after the passer? Check. Yes, Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne checks all the boxes the Redskins are looking for on the D-line.

He can be the immovable object, taking on double and triple teams, and he also can chase down the quarterback. At 311 pounds he could be the Redskins’ nose tackle in base and move outside in nickel.

Height: 6-2
Weight: 311
40-yard dash: 4.95

Projected draft round: 1

What they’re saying

Payne possesses one of the most impressive combinations of strength and athleticism that we've seen from an interior lineman. He will be the premier run-stuffer in this draft, but he may have enough in the pass rushing toolbox to project as a better pro than college pass rusher. Payne is a game-ready starter who immediately upgrades a defense's ability to slow the run.

Lance Zierlein,

How he fits the Redskins: This just in—the Redskins need a nose tackle. Of course, if you’re reading this you know that, and you’ve known it has been the case ever since the Redskins went to the 3-4 defense in 2010.

In very closely related news, they need to play better against the run, too. You probably noticed that they were dead last in the league in rushing defense last year. And that the NFC East has two very strong rushing teams in the Eagles and Cowboys and a Giants team that could well take Saquon Barkley with the second pick in the draft. If they don’t fix their rushing defense they could literally get run over.

Payne could help them a lot. He can take on double and triple teams and clog up running lanes in the middle. If they try to go around him, he has the quickness to penetrate and disrupt outside runs.

And a defensive lineman taken in the top half of the first round should be able to provide some pass rush pressure. As noted by Zierlein, Payne has the potential to do that. He’ll never be a double-digit sack guy, but if he can kick in four to six per year and get some pressure up the middle, that would be fine.

Film review: vs. Tennessee, vs Georgia (national title game)

Like most players, Payne can’t get much in the way of a pass rush when he is double and triple teamed. But when they tried to block him one on one he consistently got pressure. Payne didn’t get many sacks, but he did make a difference. Against Georgia, one pressure resulted in an interception and another forced a third-down incompletion.

Payne is very difficult to move off the spot in the running game, even when the offense tries to do it with two or even three players. Running backs did not get by him on a regular basis. In the second half in particular, Georgia tried to move the ball with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, both of whom are likely to get selected in the top 100 in the draft next month. But they kept running into a mass of humanity in the middle of the line with Payne in the middle of it.

He played well during the Tennessee game during the regular season, but he didn’t have a lot of impact. The only time his name was called was when he was hit with a roughing the passer call.

Potential issues: At 311 pounds, Payne may not be the ideal size to fill the chronic hole at nose tackle. It should be noted, however, that defensive line coach Jim Tomsula has said that the Redskins aren’t necessarily looking for the 350-pound nose tackle and that a relatively smaller player can get the job done. Ziggy Hood played the nose at 305 pounds last year. The Redskins finished last against the run, although that’s not necessarily cause and effect.

Bottom line: The Redskins went 20 years without taking an interior defensive lineman in the first round before taking Jonathan Allen last year. Nobody could legitimately complain if they doubled up on first-round D-linemen after so many years of neglect.

Payne should be there when the 13th pick goes on the clock. Unless the Redskins address the nose tackle spot in free agency Payne will be under strong consideration. The defensive line improved last year with the additions of Allen in the draft, Stacy McGee as a free agent and the second-year emergence of Matt Ioannidis. Payne could be the final piece of what could be a dominant defensive line.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.