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Skins’ shunning of free agents goes against their nature

Skins’ shunning of free agents goes against their nature

The Washington Redskins have slammed the "Closed" sign down in front of the bank teller window. They've shut down the ATM. The capologists and other bean counters in Ashburn can take the rest of the week off.

The Redskins are done looking for free agents.

From Redskins.com:

"If something comes up [in free agency], we'll run it down," head coach Jim Zorn said on Tuesday. "There isn't anyone that I'm hot after. There's nothing on the hot list."

No hot list? After zero signings of any other team's free agents? After having only one visit, that from wide receiver D. J. Hackett, and offering him a lowball deal?

That seems to go against nature. It's like a dog is standing by the side of the road as car after car drives by. The dog only chases one of them and even then it makes only a few, halfhearted steps in the direction of a slightly damaged sedan. The gleaming sports cars and loaded Hummers that used to set off furious chases pass by without so much as a bark.

The Redskins' active stance in free agency didn't start when Joe Gibbs came to town. In fact, it didn't start when Daniel Snyder bought the team. In the beginning of modern free agency in 1993, the class included wide receiver Tim McGee, linebacker Rick Graf, and defensive tackle Al Noga.

In fact, it goes back even further than that. The Redskins were one of the few teams that signed free agents before '93.

In Plan B free agency, a system that allowed teams to protect most of their rosters but let a few free when their contracts expired, Washington acquired Super Bowl XXVI starting safeties Danny Copeland and Brad Edwards, among others.

Before that system started they gave up two first-round picks to sign linebacker Wilbur Marshall away from the Bears in 1988.

Going back further, they gave up multiple high draft picks as compensation for signing Dave Butz away from the St. Louis Cardinals in 1975.

And, in 1976, there was a loophole in the rules that made it legal from free agents to sign with other teams with no compensation. There was a gentleman's agreement among the owners and general manager—something that would be called collusion today—to stay away from each other's free agents.

George Allen would have none of this gentleman's agreement stuff. He went out and signed Dallas tight end Jean Fugett, Cowboys running back Calvin Hill, and a running back from the Jets named John Riggins.

Although it took six years for the Redskins to figure out that Riggins was best utilized as a battering ram and not a blocking back or outside runner, he eventually was the difference in a Super Bowl winning team.

The Redskins have been trying to buy championships ever since, with results that never have been as successful.

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Need to Know: Quarterbacks win championships and other lessons for the Redskins

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Need to Know: Quarterbacks win championships and other lessons for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, January 22, 51 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 43
—NFL Draft (4/26) 94
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 230

Quarterbacks win championships and other lessons the Redskins can learn

Quarterback matters: We had the setup of the three castaway and ridiculed quarterbacks leading their teams into the NFL’s final four. But, the two who survived were one of the greatest of all time and one who found his groove and had 10.7 yards per attempt and a 141.4 passer rating. Yes, Tom Brady and Nick Foles had a lot of help and we’ll get into that in a minute. But, without excellent play from their quarterbacks, it may have been a different story for the Eagles and Patriots. This doesn’t mean that the Redskins need to send truckloads of money to Kirk Cousins’ house, but if they don’t, they do need a quality alternative. You won’t win with Bortles-level play.

Defense matters: The Vikings rolled right down the field on their first possession and it looked like the Eagles defense was going to have a long night. But then Chris Long got pressure on Case Keenum leading a pick six that apparently energized the Philly defense. Rookie Derek Barnett knocked the ball out of Keenum’s hand when the Vikings were threatening to make a game of it. Minnesota came up empty in its last eight possessions. As the Eagles offense started to build a lead, their defense played faster and more aggressively. At this point, the Redskins don’t have the personnel or the mindset to play that way on defense.

Does running really matter? It’s a small sample size here but in the two games yesterday it did not. The Patriots ran for all of 46 yards. The Eagles got 110, but at the point in the third quarter where they took a 31-7 lead, they had 202 yards passing and 40 yards rushing. Running the ball was not decisive in either game. Offensively, the games were won in the air. Jay Gruden’s “pass happy” approach can be a winning approach.

Stay aggressive: At times during the year, Cousins expressed some frustration in the Redskins’ inability or perhaps unwillingness to keep the pedal mashed to the floor when they had a lead. I hit on the Eagles’ aggressiveness on defense, but their offense didn’t slow down either. They were up 21-7 when they got the ball on their own 20 with 29 seconds left in the first half. In that situations, the Redskins—and, in fact, most other teams—would run a draw, throw a short pass, and let the clock run out. But Doug Pederson was having none of that. Passes for 11, 36, and 13 yards got them down to the Vikings 20 and they kicked a field goal to close out the half. If the game wasn’t over then, it was early in the third quarter when Pederson called a flea flicker and Foles hit Torrey Smith for 42 yards and a touchdown.

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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What can the Redskins learn from the Eagles run to the Super Bowl?

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What can the Redskins learn from the Eagles run to the Super Bowl?

For Redskins fans, it's probably a tough pill to swallow that the Eagles are in the Super Bowl. Making matters worse, Philadelphia got to the championship game without their star quarterback Carson Wentz.

Beyond the feelings that fandom incites, which are real and severe, what does the Eagles' breakthrough season mean for Washington? Let's take a look. 

Perhaps the most incredible part of the Eagles' success is that wunderkind QB Wentz is not at the helm. The second-year player was an MVP candidate all season but got injured late in the year. Nick Foles, the Philly backup, took over and played well in both Eagles' playoff wins. 

Does that mean much, if anything, for the Redskins? 

Some will argue it means Washington should not look to invest top dollar in QB Kirk Cousins. Foles is not considered a top-flight quarterback and still was able to maneuver his squad to the Super Bowl.

Whether or not that argument makes sense, Redskins fans should prepare to hear a lot of it over the next two weeks. 

There is also a theory that the Redskins should eschew spending at QB in favor of spending on defense. 

That may very well be the right move, but don't look to the Eagles to support the theory. 

Philadelphia spent $47 million on the defensive side of the ball in 2017. On offense, they spent $56 million.

What is definitely true?

The Eagles played terrific football in the postseason, and catapulted through the NFC by playing the underdog role.

Redskins fans might hate it, but the Eagles absolutely earned their Super Bowl appearance. 

That doesn't mean Redskins fans have to like it. 

Philadelphia has never won a Super Bowl. 

Now, standing in the way of their first Lombardi Trophy: Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. 

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