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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Grading the Redskins' draft

Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Grading the Redskins' draft

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 29, 12 days before the Washington Redskins hold their rookie minicamp.  

Tandler’s Take: Grading the Redskins’ draft

Since we don’t know how the careers of the players picked by the Redskins yesterday will turn out, we must dig in a little more to come up with a grade for the draft headed up by Doug Williams, Jay Gruden, and Bruce Allen. It is possible to grade the process so that is what is done here. Here’s my assessment, feel free to leave yours in the comments.

Strategy— A-

There was a lot to like about the second-round trade that ended up with the Redskins getting Derrius Guice and tackle Geron Christian.The deal itself was good, favoring the Redskins by the equivalent of a mid-fifth-round pick when you look at the traditional draft trade chart. They make the deal with Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers, showing that the organization won’t let ruffled feathers over the messy departure of their former offensive coordinator get in the way of making a deal to help the team. 

And the result, getting Guice, who would have been a solid value at the Redskins original second-round pick, and Christian, who could develop into a solid backup tackle and perhaps more, made the deal a very, very good one. 

Of course, that’s looking at the deal right now. If there is fire behind the smoke of all of the talk about Guice that emerged in the past few days and he ends up with problems that affect his on-field production, it could be a different story.

I think that the topic of drafting Payne with Derwin James and Tremaine Edmunds still on the board has been covered adequately here. I think that the defense may have been better in the long run if they had taken James and then had fourth-round pick Tim Settle of Virginia Tech play nose tackle instead of drafting Payne. But the Redskins did what they believed they had to do to correct the rushing defense, the single biggest deficiency on the team. It’s hard to blame them much for that. 

They moved up in the sixth round, elevating eight spots in exchange for dropping 25 spots in the seventh, and took on some injury risk in Shaun Dion Hamilton. The Alabama linebacker suffered a torn ACL in 2016 and last year he broke a kneecap. The injuries cost him a few rounds of draft position, and if he stays healthy, he could provide a good reward for fairly little risk. Hamilton was sharing playing time with high draft picks Reggie Ragland and Rueben Foster before the injury problems hit. 

Talent/value/needs— A-

They had three major needs coming into the draft—on the defensive line, at running back, and at left guard. They took care of the first two situations with their first two picks. Payne wasn’t a bad value while Guice was an excellent value. 

The guard position went unaddressed. My guess is that they wanted to find one to develop in the fifth round, but when they saw Settle still there they couldn’t pass up the value. As of right now, the starter is Arie Kouandjio, who was inconsistent after injuries forced him into a starting role for the last six games of the season. We will see if they try to sign a veteran free agent option to compete with Kouandjio. 

With their third- and fourth-round picks they added some impressive athleticism, something the team still lacks. Christin is a former basketball player who can move. Troy Apke was called “freakishly athletic” by Mike Mayock. That is an asset that the team needs. 

After taking Payne, I think that the Redskins didn’t think that they would draft Settle, in whom they had shown some interest pre-draft. But, as noted, when he was still on the board in the fifth round, they couldn’t leave him there. The Redskins now have a potentially strong, young core on their defensive line. 

Looking at all eight picks, I can’t say that any were great reaches. It’s possible that they could have had Christian and Apke a round or two later but that isn’t a serious issue. Some will say that Payne was a reach. I’d say he may have been a slight reach at No. 13; perhaps his value was more towards the late teens. The presence of James and Edmunds on the board magnifies that. They may not have maximized the pick in theory but, again, it’s hard to find fault with them going D-line with a slight reach. 

Overall— A

They addressed three serious areas of weakness on the team. The rushing defense got better with Payne and Settle. The rushing offense will improve with Guice. And special teams will be better with the addition of Apke, sixth-round pick ILB Shaun Dion Hamilton, and, if he makes the roster, seventh-round pick Greg Stroman. 

There appeared to be a few different strategies at work. As noted, they got more athletic with Christian and Apke. They are a more physical football team with Payne, Guice, and Settle. And for the second year in a row, the majority of the picks went to defense. Last year it was six out of ten on that side of the ball and this year it was five of eight.

The overriding theme was that they drafted like a team that doesn’t believe it is far from being in playoff contention. Don’t get me wrong, they don’t think they’re a couple of pieces away from a Super Bowl. But the organization does believe that they had a pretty good team last year and the season got derailed by injuries. You can argue whether that’s true but that’s how they acted. 

The A grade reflects a job well done by Allen, Williams, Gruden, Kyle Smith, and the rest of the team’s personnel department. With the exception of the possible opportunity cost of draft Payne, it’s hard to find serious fault in how the draft played out. 

Now that this part is done, it’s up to the coaching staff to get the most out of these players. We don’t know how they will turn out. After a successful draft process, it’s on to determining the true grade and results. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS.

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Days until:

—Rookie minicamp (5/11) 12
—OTAs start (5/22) 23
—Training camp starts (7/26) 88

The Redskins last played a game 119 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 133 days. 


— Draft Analysis: Redskins draft for value AND need
— Day 3 Results: Meet the late-round picks
— Day 2 Results: 2nd and 3rd round selections
— Rolling the Dice: Right move drafting Guice
— Bring the Payne: Redskins address porous D-Line
— Creating Options: Depth added on Day 3


Don't forget to subscribe to the #RedskinsTalk podcast, hosted by JP Finlay.

Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below.


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Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

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Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 26, 17 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.  

Note: I am vacationing in the Outer Banks this week. In this space, I’ll be presenting some of the most popular posts of the last few months. I hope you enjoy these “best of” presentations and I’ll see you folks when I get back. 

Contract makes Alex Smith a Redskins for at least three seasons

This post was originally published on March 19. 

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. 

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 I 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, follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Early returns show solid Redskins squad, with potential for more


Early returns show solid Redskins squad, with potential for more

More than 100 days remain before the Redskins take the field in meaningful NFL action.

Any and all excitement needs to be tempered, significantly, because what happens on a practice field in May without pads does not represent what will happen in September, October and beyond. 

Still, the Redskins group that took the field this week for OTAs showed promise. 

New quarterback Alex Smith looked crisp, connecting with a variety of wideouts and commanding the huddle. New wideout Paul Richardson made the best play of the session when he streaked down the field past rookie cornerback Greg Stroman and hauled in a deep pass from Smith. The play showed Smith's ability to identify open receivers downfield, as well as Richardson's ability to go up and grab a contested catch. Even Stroman, the seventh-round rookie, positioned himself well, he just fell victim to a perfect pass and tremendous athleticism.

That was only one play in a two-hour session. Again, don't take too much from May, when players don't wear pads or engage in any of the violence that the NFL is predicated upon. But the OTAs do serve a purpose, both for players and coaches, and there were nuggets to absorb and try to project for the fall. Here they are:

  • Jay Gruden made clear he's not concerned about the health of his offensive line. Trent Williams and Morgan Moses are recuperating from offseason surgery, but Gruden believes both are on track for when things start to matter. It's a good thing the coach isn't concerned because this was the 'Skins line in OTAs (left to right): Geron Christian, Shawn Lauvao, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, John Kling. Should that lineup take the field this fall, there will be trouble. 
  • The Redskins lost Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland this offseason, and the secondary depth will be something to watch throughout training camp. At OTAs, newly signed veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick lined up opposite Josh Norman in the team's base 3-4 defense. In nickel and dime coverage, Quinton Dunbar lined up opposite Norman and Scandrick moved to the slot. As things progress, it will be interesting to see if Dunbar surpasses Scandrick in base coverage, and what becomes of 2017 third-round pick Fabian Moreau. Stay tuned.  
  • Rookie running back Derrius Guice looked every part of the first-round talent many judged him to be before draft season rumors caused him to slide to the late second round. Guice cuts with authority and is able to see holes before they form and patiently wait to hit the open space. Guice also looked fine in pass-catching drills, one area that was a question coming out of LSU (but that says more about LSU's prehistoric offense). Watching the Redskins offense work, it seems clear Guice will be the heaviest used runner this fall.
  • That said, don't count out Robert Kelley. He looks leaner and plenty quick, showing a few impressive runs during the session. Byron Marshall also looked good, and Gruden pointed out his success in his post-OTA press conference. The running back group will have plenty of competition all the way through Richmond. 
  • Jonathan Allen has switched jersey numbers from 95 to 93. Rookie Daron Payne is now wearing 95. Payne and Allen both went to Alabama, both are huge, and both play defensive line. The number switch will take some getting used to. 
  • Zach Brown missed the OTA session as he was moving, and interestingly in his spot with the starting defense was Josh Harvey-Clemons. The second-year pro out of Louisville showed impressive speed in coverage, and remember he played safety in college and performed quite well. He has ball skills and great size to be a coverage linebacker. Some were surprised when the Redskins kept JHC last season at the cut to 53, but his development appears to be paying off for the organization. 
  • Another linebacker that made a play was Zach Vigil. He impressed for the Redskins late last season and was running the Washington second-team defensive huddle. At one point, Vigil broke through the line of scrimmage and blew up a run play. That prompted D.J. Swearinger to yell from the sideline, "OK Zach. OK ZACH!"
  • Speaking of Swearinger, the Redskins defensive captain seemed in midseason form when it comes to yelling encouragement on the field. Nobody hypes up the defense like Swearinger, particularly when the secondary makes a big play. On one pass Dunbar made a nice diving play to break up a pass, and Swearinger and Josh Norman got very fired up, shouting and jumping around. The entire defense responded. Little stuff like that helps disrupt the monotony of offseason work. 
  • Jamison Crowder looks jacked and quick. The end. 





Don't forget to subscribe to the #RedskinsTalk podcast, hosted by JP Finlay.

Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below.