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What should top the Redskins' list of priorities this offseason?


What should top the Redskins' list of priorities this offseason?

In less than a year, the Redskins completed a stunning turnaround, ascending from a laughingstock in 2014 to a division champion in 2015. But now comes the difficult part: taking that all-important next step and improving from a franchise that was fortunate to get into the playoffs to one that can do some damage once it gets there. And that work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players.

In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine the 25 biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.

No. 22

What is the most important improvement the team needs to make?

Tandler: The Redskins had two obvious weak areas in 2015. One was running the football on offense. That clearly needs to be fixed, especially since there has been plenty of talk about that being the team’s identity since Scot McCloughan became the team’s general manager a year ago.

But I’m going to go to the other side of the ball for my answer to this question. The Redskins need to improve their pass rush. Specifically, they need to get more sacks.

The Redskins got 38 sacks last year. That was tied for 14th in the league, not great, not horrible, just middle of the pack. They were also in the middle of the pack in terms of sack percentage at 6.3 (15th).

The so-so pass rush combined with a secondary that wasn’t very good to begin with and then struggled with injuries during the season made for a poor pass defense. They were 25th in passing yards allowed, 26th in opponent yards per attempt, and 22nd in opponent passer rating.

The reason that improving the pass rush is so important is that the secondary isn’t going to all of a sudden morph into the Legion of Boom. There are a few players who may be long-term contributors, like cornerback Bashaud Breeland and nickel corner/safety Kyshoen Jarrett. But it’s going to be a while before McCloughan can assemble a secondary that is dominant, or even competent.

They have invested some resources in the pass rush and they are perhaps a player or two away from putting consistent fear into the hearts of opposing quarterbacks. If Junior Galette comes back and can be the explosive force he was before his Achilles year (not a given) they should be in good shape on the outside with him, Preston Smith, and Ryan Kerrigan. They need to get a lineman who can get pass pressure opposite Chris Baker (sorry, Jason Hatcher) and some depth. The more the better  

El-Bashir: I apologize if this is getting repetitive, but there’s no getting around the need to fix the Redskins’ subpar run game. I’d actually put it first, second and third on my offseason to-do list.

Consider this: Of the NFC playoff teams in ‘15, five boasted strong running games. In fact, Carolina, Seattle, Arizona and Minnesota were ranked in the top eight. The Redskins were the outlier, ranking a distant 20th in rushing yards per game (97.9) and 30th in yards per attempt (3.7).

Sure, it’s great that Kirk Cousins and the passing attack managed to compensate for an inconsistent and largely unproductive ground attack. But do you feel that’s sustainable in the long term? I don’t. To thrive, the Redskins’ offense needs to be balanced.

I’m already on record saying that I’d be okay with GM Scot McCloughan signing a veteran free agent to pair with second-year running back Matt Jones (and, of course, replace Alfred Morris, who is not expected to be re-signed). I know that goes against McCloughan’s build-through-the-draft philosophy, but what are you going to do? Trust a 2016 draft pick and Jones, who had issues with consistency, fumbles and injuries as a rookie, to carry the load next season? Sounds like a risky (at best) plan to me.

Since the last time I wrote on this topic, the Redskins (and 31 other teams) have a new option to consider: Matt Forte, a proven veteran that Chicago doesn't intend to re-sign. Forte is 30 years old and missed three games last season with a knee injury. But he remains a productive back, rushing for 898 yards on 218 carries (4.1 per) and hauling in 44 passes for 389 yards in '15. Against the Redskins in Week 14, he rushed for 45 yards and a score on 10 carries and reeled in one pass for eight yards.

The Redskins could have other options on the open market, as well, such as the Jets' Chris Ivory (146 yards rushing and 50 yards receiving vs. Washington in Week 6), the Bucs' Doug Martin (136 yards rushing and 35 receiving in Week 7) and the Dolphins' Lamar Miller (53 yards rushing and 22 yards receiving in Week 1).

With free agency and the draft still weeks away, McCloughan is keeping his plans close to the vest. But we know this much: repairing the running game will require more than a patchwork solution.    

25 Questions series

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Redskins add another ex-Cowboy as they sign CB Orlando Scandrick

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Redskins add another ex-Cowboy as they sign CB Orlando Scandrick

The Redskins seem to love former Cowboys. They signed another one today.

Mike Garafolo of NFL Media is reporting that Washington has agreed to terms with cornerback Orlando Scandrick. The early numbers put the contract at up to $10 million over two years.

Scandrick, 31, has played for the Cowboys since they made him a fifth-round pick in the 2008 draft. In nine seasons in the league, Scandrick has eight interceptions and seven forced fumbles.

He has been plagued by injuries the last three years. Scandrick was out for the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL. In 2016 he missed four games with a hamstring injury and he finished last season on injured reserve with a back injury. Whether his struggles last year were due to injuries or age remains to be seen.

Scandrick joins Nosh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau, and Josh Holsey at cornerback for the Redskins. Holsey is the only natural slot corner in the group and he played very sparingly as a rookie last year. Scandrick likely will fill the slot role until Holsey is ready.

We will see what the signing costs in terms of salary cap impact when we see the details of the contract. The phrase “up to” generally means that there are incentives included in the deal so we will have to see.

In recent years, the Redskins have signed former Cowboys defensive linemen Stephen Bowen, Jason Hatcher, and Terrell McClain.


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.


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Redskins guarantee Alex Smith a whopping $71 million in new contract

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Redskins guarantee Alex Smith a whopping $71 million in new contract

When the Redskins traded for Alex Smith on January 30, news also broke that he had agreed to a four-year extension with Washington in addition to the one year left on his contract with the Chiefs. While we got some top-line numbers on the deal, we have gone since then without any details.

Until now.

The details show a deal that has a slightly higher cap hit in 2018 than was on his original Chiefs contract and the numbers rise gradually over the life of the deal, which runs through 2022. The top line numbers are five years, $111 million, an average annual value of $22.2 million per year. 


Smith got a $27 million signing bonus and his salaries for 2018 ($13 million) and 2019 ($15 million) also are fully guaranteed at signing making the total $55 million (information via Over the Cap, which got data from a report by Albert Breer).

But there is another $16 million that is guaranteed for all practical purposes. On the fifth day of the 2019 league year, his 2020 salary of $16 million becomes fully guaranteed. He almost assuredly will get to the point where that money will become guaranteed since the Redskins are not going to cut him after one year having invested $55 million in him. So the total guarantees come to $71 million.

His 2021 salary is $19 million and it goes up to $21 million in 2022. There have been reports of some incentives available to Smith, but since we have no details, we’ll set those aside for now.

The cap hits on the contract are as follows:

2018: $18.4 million
2019: $20.0 million
2020: $21.4 million
2021: $24.4 million
2022: $26.4 million

The Redskins can realistically move on from Smith after 2020. There would be net cap savings of $13 million in 2021 and $21 million in 2022.

The first impression of the deal is that the Redskins did not move on from Kirk Cousins because they didn’t want to guarantee a lot of money to a quarterback. The total practical guarantee of $71 million is second only to Cousins’ $82.5 million. It should be noted that Cousins’ deal runs for three years and Smith’s contract is for five.


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.