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Why the Redskins should (mostly) sit out free agency this year

Why the Redskins should (mostly) sit out free agency this year

When Scot McCloughan met with the media at the Senior Bowl in January, he was asked if he expected the Redskins to be active in free agency this year.

“We're not going to be big players,” he said. “I don't believe in that.”

Redskins fans should hope that McCloughan was not just blowing some of the smoke that is very prominent around the NFL this time of year. The Redskins would be better off being spectators for the next month or two, with a couple of exceptions.

Why? For one thing, they don’t have much cap room. They are currently $6.2 million over the cap. That overage will be reversed as soon as they save $16.1 million by releasing quarterback Robert Griffin III, moving the team to just about $10 million under the cap.

That’s a lot of money in most of the real world but in terms of NFL cap dollars to spend it’s pocket change. Even after they release Griffin, 29 teams will have more salary cap room. Sure, they will be able to create more by releasing some players (WR Andre Roberts) and negotiating some pay cuts (S Dashon Goldson and DE Jason Hatcher are prime candidates). But other teams will make similar moves and the Redskins are likely to remain one of the most cap poor teams in the league.

The top spending priority needs to be to retain their own players. They want Mason Foster to return to play inside linebacker. If they keep pass rusher Junior Galette and he regains his 2014 form the entire defense will be better. Darrel Young won’t take up much space but they need him for occasional blocking duty and for his big special teams contributions. And if they want to keep Colt McCoy around it’s going to cost them considerably more than the $1.5 million they shelled out last year.

They also need to set some money aside to work out an extension for tight end Jordan Reed. If they have some left over at the end of the year, fine. They can roll it over to 2017 and get a head start on paying Kirk Cousins and possibly extending CB Bashaud Breeland and OT Morgan Moses.

The main argument that those who are proponents of an active free agency will make is that the Redskins need to improve in multiple areas. And that’s true; any NFL team needs to aspire to something higher than 9-7 and a one and done playoff appearance. But free agency is not the way to significantly upgrade a team.

You can go back through the history of the team in the free agent era to see that it doesn’t work. Or you can look back at last year. The Redskins did not get a whole lot out of the six free agents that they did sign prior to the start of the season. Only one, nose tackle Terrance Knighton, started more than six games. Galette was injured before he played a snap and two others, DL Stephen Paea and CB Chris Culliver, ended the season on injured reserve.

Free agency frustration is not limited to the Redskins. One Giants beat writer looked at the top 10 free agents signed away from their original teams in each of the past three seasons. Of those 30 signings, only 12 could be considered successful deals for their new teams. Batting .400 is great in baseball but most businesses wouldn’t be around long by hitting on only 40 percent of their multi-million dollar investments.

With all of that said, the Redskins can’t be completely idle when the bidding starts today at noon and the signing starts Wednesday at 4 p.m. If they let Knighton walk after his one-year contract expires they will be in need of a veteran nose tackle. There are a few out there including Ian Williams of the 49ers and B. J. Raji of the Packers, players who can hold down the fort until a draft pick is ready to carry the load in the middle.

The Redskins also need a blocking tight end if they decide to move on from Logan Paulsen, who missed last season with a toe injury. Although he is a little bit older than McCloughan might prefer, the 6-7, 270-pound Scott Chandler (31 in July) would fill the blocking role well and could catch a pass or two.

Beyond that the Redskins should sit on their checkbook and look to the draft to improve depth. If they find themselves with some holes when that’s over there are always some cheap and available free agents looking for work in May when OTAs are cranking up.

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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.