Technically, college players looking to break into the professional ranks dominate the headlines during the NFL Scouting Combine. In reality, however, when the NFL convenes on Indianapolis next week, much more will go down than college scouting.
Perhaps the most important action goes down away from the field, away from the weight room, and away from the player interviews. Instead it happens in hotel lobbies, restaurants and even late-night bars as agents get important face time with NFL executives to determine what will happen when free agency opens in just a few weeks.
Unofficially, of course.
For the Redskins, three questions loom that need answers before the new league year starts in mid-March.
1) Figure out the plan with Brandon Scherff - After massive change throughout the Redskins organization in the last six weeks, the team still faces a tight timeline with Pro Bowl guard Scherff. He will be an unrestricted free agent in March barring a new deal or an organizational decision to use the franchise or transition tag. The team should be working towards a new long-term deal, but can’t try to be cheap. The tag will drive negotiations, and considering a franchise tag on an offensive lineman ran for more than $14 million, that means Washington needs to expect a $15 million annual average salary for Scherff. If the team is uncomfortable with that number, don’t use the tag and prepare to move on. Keep in mind too that Scherff has dealt with injuries the last three seasons. It’s entirely possible he would prefer long-term security to a short-term payday, and that could help to drive contract talks in the few weeks remaining before the market opens.
2) Set priorities - Ron Rivera made clear his Redskins team needs help at tight end during comments at the Super Bowl, and the number one target will be the Falcons’ Austin Hooper. In 13 games in 2019, Hooper caught 75 passes for nearly 800 yards and six touchdowns, significantly more production than Washington got at the position from all of the tight ends on their roster, combined. Hooper will carry a sizable price tag, however, and Rivera’s crew needs to decide right away if they’re willing to swim in the deep end. The franchise tag for tight ends came in at more than $10 million last year, and that seems near a logical starting point for Hooper contract talks. Part of making the tight end decision also means releasing Jordan Reed, the embattled veteran tight end counting more than $10 million towards the Redskins salary cap in 2020. Reed didn’t play last year due to a concussion in the preseason, and it’s been widely reported that Washington will release him. It’s time for these dominoes to start falling.
3) Speaking of dominoes - It’s not Rivera’s fault that the Redskins currently play host to some disgruntled players, or that some contractual situations have created uncomfortable feelings around Redskins Park. It is, however, time for Rivera to start addressing the problems. What’s going to happen with Trent Williams? Is an extension possible or should the Redskins seriously look at trade options? Similar questions exist with Ryan Kerrigan. Quinton Dunbar doesn’t have the Pro Bowl track record of Kerrigan or Williams, but all three players are going into the last year of their contract. It’s time for action.
Bonus: Even if Dunbar stays with the Redskins at the bargain price of $3 million, Washington is desperate for help at cornerback. Will the team pay up for James Bradberry or Chris Harris? What about Bashaud Breeland or Darqueze Dennard? The Redskins need to leave Indy with a real gameplan to address their secondary depth, and that means adding at least one starting-caliber corner.
Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.
MORE REDSKINS NEWS