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Need to Know: Which Redskins free agents will return?

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Need to Know: Which Redskins free agents will return?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, February 25, 13 days before the Washington Redskins and the rest of the NFL start free agency.

Question of the day

We’re going back to the NTK format we’ve been using since last month. 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 the Real Redskins Facebook page.

First, note that this question was submitted over a month ago. I do hold on to questions for a while, so if you put one in a while ago you never know when it could pop up.

I’m answering it now because the time is right. Free agency starts in less than two weeks and the Redskins are nailing down their free agent strategy. They were a little bit behind the curve since they didn’t hire Scot McCloughan until almost two weeks after the season ended. But let’s take a look at the big picture here; there will be plenty of posts with details coming between now and March 10.

Please note that this is reading the tea leaves and looking at what makes sense; it is not based on inside info from Redskins Park. They have managed to keep a very tight lid on what is going on there.

The Redskins have 11 unrestricted free agents, not counting Ryan Clark, who retired. I think they will let the following players walk without putting up much of a fight: WR Santana Moss, OT Tyler Polumbus, CB E.J. Biggers, S Brandon Meriweather and DL Chris Neild.

For the right deals, they might be willing to bring back DL Jarvis Jenkins, WR Leonard Hankerson, RB Roy Helu, and TE Niles Paul.

I’m not sure about what they will do with LB Brian Orakpo and QB Colt McCoy. Perhaps they will make a cursory attempt to keep Orakpo on some sort of an incentive-laden deal with they won’t lose sleep if they get outbid, which they probably will. And although it’s doubtful that McCoy is the prototype of the type of QB that McCloughan wants, options are very limited. Wait and see on Colt.

You will note the lack of any "must have" free agents. There are some they would like to have back but none are close to warranting the franchise tag or any super-aggressive efforts to lock them up before the hit the open market.

As far as letting players go, I think there will be less of that than many think. I can’t see G Chris Chester staying at age 32with a $4.8 million cap number. His job goes to a younger and cheaper Spencer Long.

There is plenty of chatter in the fan base about Stephen Bowen, Barry Cofield, Tracy Porter, and some others. But the approach with them could be to negotiate pay cuts rather than letting them go and then getting a short-term replacement in free agency. When younger players are acquired through the draft and developed, they would be able to take their places.

Timeline

—It’s been 59 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 200 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL free agency starts 13; Redskins offseason workouts start 54; 2015 NFL Draft 64

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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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.