We know the primary positional needs for the Redskins. Free agency comes before the draft. Some of these areas are better suited for one over the other.
After several days at the NFL Combine, here are thoughts on how -- and where -- Washington addresses its roster concerns
Quarterback – Before we dive into the Kyler Murray’s and Teddy Bridgewater’s let’s circle back to Joe Flacco.
When asked at the NFL Combine about reports of interest in the Super Bowl-winning QB or any veteran with starting experience generally, Redskins president Bruce Allen said, “We were never involved in Flacco.” Fair enough.
Multiple league sources say otherwise. That Denver traded a 2019 fourth rounder – the one round Washington has no selection -- to Baltimore when the assumption had the Ravens likely waiving Flacco suggests either another team pushed up the price or Broncos GM John Elway bid against himself. Only a tiny number of teams need a starter for 2019 and none have been as consistently mentioned in connection with Flacco as the Redskins.
Regardless, this flashback is to set up the concept of what Flacco represents: A proven veteran the team believes could start Week 1 as opposed to a Josh Johnson backup type. For all the intrigue over Murray and the other rookies, the experience path is where league insiders envision a Redskins move after missing the postseason for a third consecutive season.
“Jay is going to want a vet. He needs to win,” a former NFL general manager told NBC Sports Washington.
Holdover Colt McCoy isn’t the standalone answer. Assuming Nick Foles is out of their price range, there isn’t a clear Day 1 starter among the free agent choices (or potential trade targets like Jacoby Brissett). There are several viable starting options, however. Tyrod Taylor and Teddy Bridgewater are the ones mentioned most.
Now, let’s get to the 2019 kids. If the Redskins want Murray, Dwayne Haskins or Drew Lock, they’ll likely need to trade into the top 10 or at least past the Dolphins at 13.. The Cardinals (1), Giants (6) Jaguars (7), Broncos (10) and Dolphins are in play for that trio to various degrees.
The Redskins have 10 picks in this draft. They will trade some to move up at some point. My intuition says they won’t for these quarterbacks.
That doesn’t mean Washington won’t trade picks for a different quarterback. Move into the end of the first round for Duke’s Daniel Jones, whose stock dropped after the Senior Bowl and the Combine, and Washington will have a fifth-year option for a potential long-term passer. West Virginia’s Will Grier likely goes in the second. The Redskins showed interest at the Combine in potential Day 2 options Jarrett Stidham and Ryan Finley.
Wide receiver – This position screams draft over free agency. Despite consistent mock draft projections for a WR at 15, roster logic suggests the second round or later.
Among the overall positions in free agency, receiver might rank the worst. Golden Tate is the clear headliner and the slot threat is no game-changer. Get past the next couple of names and it’s really a who’s who of hmmm.
The draft class is a different story. ESPN’s overall draft board includes 10 receivers in the top 71 and 18 in the top 126. While workout warrior D.K. Metcalf and speed threat Marquise Brown are potential top 15 picks, the Redskins could wait and still find viable targets with one of their three Day 2 selections.
Second round targets Kelvin Harmon (NC State) and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (Stanford) would provide the size element Gruden stated the team needs.
Guard – This could go either way, but viable interior linemen options exist into round four. The first round seems unlikely unless Alabama’s Jonah Williams or Florida’s Juwaan Taylor slips and the Redskins view them at guard. Washington showed interest in Taylor and Oklahoma’s Cody Ford, another round one option, at the Combine.
Interesting Day 2 guard candidates include Chris Lindstrom (Boston College), Bobby Evans (Oklahoma) and Ben Powers (Oklahoma). Going with long-armed center Elgton Jenkins (Mississippi State) would mean moving Chase Roullier to guard. Whatever the plan, the Redskins must fill this gaping hole. VP for player personnel Doug Williams acknowledged the Week 1 starter isn’t on the roster.
Edge rusher – First round, activate. Other than Florida’s Jachai Polite possibly talking himself out of the first round altogether, this athletically freaky group collectively rocked the Combine. Sadly, that means no shot at Mississippi State's Montez Sweat at 15. Ideally, one of the top six remains on the board for the Redskins with Florida State’s Brian Burns and Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell the most likely.
The free agent board offers some candidates, but presumably, that route costs the Redskins more in salary than retaining Preston Smith. Silence remains the staple in discussions between the two sides, sources tell NBC Sports Washington.
Maybe the Redskins covet a veteran option like Justin Houston or Dante Fowler, but a cost-controlled pick at 15, especially with this impressive group of prospects, works best.
Inside linebacker – The Redskins remain coy publically and privately as to whether they plan to release Zach Brown. Doing so would save $5.7 million toward the salary cap. The silence likely connects to the waiting game with the league over a potential suspension for Reuben Foster, who remains on the commissioner’s exempt list following arrests last year on domestic violence charges.
The middle of Washington’s defense needs an infusion of speed offered by a pair of projected top 25 picks in LSU’s Devin White and Michigan’s Devin Bush. The 15th may land in no man’s land for both, and this isn’t a deep class overall.
Put the pieces together and, assuming the Redskins believe Foster isn’t hit with major sanctions (and Mason Foster remains), good chance they skip using significant assets – cash or pick – at ILB.
Safety -- The Redskins need two starters even if Montae Nicholson returns. If there’s a year for additions at these spots, this is it. Free agency offers a plethora of impact candidates. With Earl Thomas and Landon Collins available, this is the spot for a break-the-budget signing. Eric Weddle, Tre Boston and Jonathan Cyprien or re-signing Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are offer more cost-effective options.
As for the draft, good chance five safeties go off the board from 27-46 including Alabama's Deionte Thompson. The Redskins have shown interest in a pair of mid-round candidates, Maryland’s Darnell Savage and Houston Isaiah Johnson.
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