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Turmoil or not, Redskins off to strong start in 2017 free agency

Turmoil or not, Redskins off to strong start in 2017 free agency

In a week that saw the Washington Redskins dismiss their general manager, it would be entirely reasonable for the fan base to expect chaos. Especially if the general manager's dismissal came on the same day the NFL's free agency period opened. 

Yet, despite that exact scenario, chaos is not the current course at Redskins Park. In fact, the Burgundy and Gold is off to quite a strong start in the new league year.

By noon on Thursday, the situation for the 'Skins seemed dire. Reports showed that the team would lose two 1,000 yard receivers in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon as well as their best defensive lineman in Chris Baker. Couple that with the unraveling of McCloughan's role amid talk of alcohol abuse and a power struggle with team president Bruce Allen.

At that moment, it seemed hope was lost for the Redskins. 

48 hours later, flip that script.

On the first day of free agency, Washington added defensive line help in Terrell McClain of the Cowboys and Stacy McGee from Oakland. Neither player is a star, but both can be productive. The Redskins needed increased depth on their D-line in 2017, and the team's first two moves of the new league year went directly towards that effort. Injuries have caused McClain and McGee to miss games, and there's little the 'Skins can do about that, but both are relatively young and capable. 

From there, the franchise added their first potential impact player in D.J. Swearinger. 

A second-round pick in 2013, Swearinger has a reputation of a big hitter and playmaker in the back of the secondary. Last year, playing in Arizona, Swearinger recorded three interceptions to go with eight passes defensed, two sacks and 64 tackles. 

Paired with Su'a Cravens in the back of the secondary, the Redskins might lack high-end speed, but they will have two players committed to the safety position. Last year, the team trotted out a career special teamer in David Bruton paired with a converted corner in DeAngelo Hall at the two safety spots. That plan didn't work. Further, both young players are difference makers - athletic and gifted. That duo immediately makes the Redskins better in 2017 than they were in 2016, and Swearinger's signing is the first time the Washington brass has truly invested at safety in many years. 

If you're scoring at home, the first three free agent signings directly responded to areas of need for the club. If the team was playing baseball, McGee and McClain got on base, then Swearinger moved all the runners over. The bases were now loaded.

And then came the home run.

Washington agreed to a one-year deal with Terrelle Pryor, a receiver from the Browns. As big as the loss of Jackson and Garçon is, offsetting that with Pryor provides the Redskins offense with a bigger, more athletic option.

At 6-foot-6 and 240 lbs., Pryor is one of the biggest receivers in the league. Last season, he caught 77 balls for more than 1,000 yards. Making those stats more impressive, the Browns collection of quarterbacks in the 2016 season was abysmal. Pryor was Cleveland's best option offensively, and defenses knew it. 

Want to go another step? Pryor remains raw as a wideout. He could get better, and maybe, much better.  A quarterback in college and his first two years in the NFL, Pryor only made the full-time switch to receiver in 2015. 

In Washington, Pryor will be part of an offense that features an emerging star in slot man Jamison Crowder, arguably the best pass catching tight end in the NFL in Jordan Reed, a veteran with plenty left in Vernon Davis, and, perhaps, the emergence of 2016 first-round draft pick Josh Doctson.

More importantly, Kirk Cousins signed his franchise tag. The quarterback is under contract for 2017, and though a trade certainly remains an option, on paper, the Redskins offense is again stacked. 

What Washington still needs to accomplish in free agency: An impact player on the defensive line. Swearinger is an impact guy in the secondary. Pryor is an impact guy at wideout. McClain and McGee, however, are not. 

The Redskins truly need to address a gaping hole at the nose tackle position. A hole that has largely existed since the team moved to the 3-4 scheme in 2010.

Bennie Logan, formerly of the Eagles, is set to visit the franchise's Ashburn offices. Logan could be the guy the team needs. 

A third-round pick in 2013 out of LSU, Logan has size (6-foot-2, 310 lbs.) and played his best football at the nose in the 3-4 scheme. 

None of this changes the sloppy way the team handled McCloughan. And none of this changes that Cousins could walk away next season without the club getting any compensation. Those two factors are real, and detrimental.

Still, Washington deserves commendation for a strong start to free agency. Bruce Allen has the team operating at a high level, executing well, and without offering massive contracts. 

It's wild to suggest, but on paper in early March, the 2017 Redskins might be better than the 2016 Redskins.

The offense will look very different, but the increased size could help solve some of the team's red zone woes that plagued the team throughout last season. 

The defense has already improved at the back end, and added help at the front end.

If Logan signs, and there is good reason to think he will, that will be three new, young defensive lineman to work with new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. Losing Baker hurts, but the moves being made could offset that loss.

McClain. McGee. Pryor. Swearinger. And maybe Logan. Reports of the sky falling in Ashburn might have been premature. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Everybody thinks the intentional grounding call against Kirk Cousins was wrong, except Troy Aikman

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Everybody thinks the intentional grounding call against Kirk Cousins was wrong, except Troy Aikman

The referees made a fairly obvious mistake last week in the Redskins loss to the Saints when they flagged Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins for intentional grounding late in the game. 

Let's be honest: the call was terrible.

Cousins never felt a pass rush on the play, and was very obviously throwing the ball away. Jay Gruden talked about the play on Monday, and could not figure out how a flag came out in that situation. 

We had two receivers in the area. Quarterbacks throws it away all the time that are uncatchable balls whether they are in the pocket or not. As long as there is a receiver in the area, you can throw it whether they are looking or not. Guys run bad routes – one guy runs a hitch and he’s supposed to run a go and the quarterback throws the go ball, it’s not grounding. So I don’t know why the confusion.

The NFL even reached out and apologized to Redskins team president Bruce Allen for the blown call, a hollow gesture that did not generate much excitement from Cousins (via 106.7 the Fan). 

Whatever they do to say, ‘we’re sorry, wrong call,’ it’s tough because there’s nobody bringing that up in February or March when we're making decisions about which direction to go with the organization. We appreciate the clarification but you know it really doesn’t do much.

If you're keeping score, the NFL, the Redskins head coach and the Redskins quarterback all know the call was wrong. 

You know who doesn't think the call was wrong? Fox analyst, and former Cowboys Hall of Fame QB, Troy Aikman.

Grounding? Free rusher? Decide for yourself below.

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Fantasy Football -- Thanksgiving Day plan

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Fantasy Football -- Thanksgiving Day plan

The Week 12 fantasy football rankings are out -- but when it comes to Thanksgiving Day, everyone wants some player regardless of where they slot overall. Don't overthink it and take a lesser player, but for those on the fence or simply looking for Thursday action, here are some recommendations for all three games.

Vikings @ Lions

Obvious: Vikings -- Wide receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs... running backs Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon are in the RB2/Flex discussion for most, but good luck picking between them; Lions -- Wide receiver Golden Tate and ... wide receiver Marvin Jones works in three-WR formats while quarterback Matthew Stafford is No. 14 among passers this week.

Start: Case Keenum averaged 19.3 points over the last four games while the Lions have allowed ample points to fantasy quarterbacks in that stretch, though only three touchdown passes. Having Thielen and Diggs up the potential for Keenum, who is QB17 in the Week 12 rankings. That's comparable with Matthew Stafford (QB14), Andy Dalton, Jacoby Brissett and ahead of Derek Carr.

Add: Not sure there's any fringe skill player worth taking a flyer on so take a look at Vikings kicker Kai Forbath. He's attempted at least three field goals in four of his last five games and he kicked five extra points in the lone exception. ... Some will start Ameer Abdullah based on their options, but just know the Vikings allow the second fewest points to fantasy tight ends this season.

Chargers @ Cowboys

Obvious: Chargers -- running back Melvin Gordon and wide receiver Keenan Allen; Cowboys -- Wide receiver Dez Bryant, running back Alfred Morris and... quarterback Dak Prescott, though his production is down without running back Ezekiel Elliott and left tackle Tyron Smith.

Start: This hasn't been a vintage Philip Rivers season, but he's coming off his best performance (251 yards, two touchdown passes) since Week 5. The Cowboys aren't that special in the secondary and have surrendered two touchdown passes in three consecutive games. At QB13, he's on the cusp of QB1 status in 12-team leagues. 

Add: Kickers Nick Novak (Chargers) and Mike Nugent (Cowboys) are 15th and 16th respectively. So, there's that. 

Giants @ Redskins

The obvious: Giants -- tight end Evan Engram and... running back Orleans Darkwa is a viable RB2 option against a Redskins defense giving up gobs of yards on the ground; Redskins -- quarterback Kirk Cousins, tight Vernon Davis and...running back Samaje Perine is RB12 this week, though listed as questionable on the injury report with a finger issue.

Start: Jordan Reed is out for a fourth consecutive game, meaning Vernon Davis once again is Washington's main tight end. While he hasn't provided wow performances like Reed at his Pro Bowl best, Davis has been good for a solid 8-11 since taking on a larger role starting in Week 3. This could be his best statistical week of the season. The Giants allow the most points to fantasy tight ends on the season. Opposing tight ends scored a touchdown in each of the first 10 games before the streak snapped Sunday.

RELATED: NEW AND IMPROVED WEEK 12 FANTASY RANKINGS

Add: Josh Doctson is only owned in 55 percent of leagues on CBS even though he's moved into the role of Washington's top outside receiver. The second-year player had four receptions for 81 yards in Sunday's overtime loss, though all the production came in the first half. Consistency is the next step, but Kirk Cousins is showing more and more confidence in the 6'3" target especially on 50-50 balls. Doctson is WR36 in my Week 12 rankings, meaning he's worth starting consideration in three-WR formats regardless.