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Need to Know: Redskins can't count on free agency to improve

Need to Know: Redskins can't count on free agency to improve

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, February 13, 24 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.  

Timeline

Days until:

NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 16
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 63
—NFL Draft (4/27) 73
First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 209

Free agency not a cure for what ails Redskins

Many fans are looking at the March 9 start of free agency as the day the Redskins will begin to transform themselves into a Super Bowl contender. Armed with about $65 million in cap space, many are expecting a big-time shopping spree to fill all of those holes and add some depth. Others are expecting to at least add a few starters and some solid depth.

The truth is, however, that you should probably cancel any plans you have to celebrate any big haul by the Redskins. It appears that this year’s free agent class will be much more of a bust than a boom for the Redskins.

The reason why is simple—supply and demand. Let’s look at the supply first. Our friends at Rotoworld have a list of pending free agents ranked in order of quality. With the defensive line being an area in need of a serious upgrade, let’s look at who’s available. At the top of the list is Calais Campbell, who will turn 31 before the season starts. Next is Kawaan Short, who is likely to be tagged by the Panthers. A few names down is Chris Baker, perhaps a hint that they should focus on re-signing their own.

You get past Bennie Logan, a possible target for the Redskins who is eighth on the list, and you start to run into a bunch of players who are aging and/or ineffective. Nick Farley was a high draft pick who will be looking for his third team. Alan Branch is 32 and he likely will play for the Patriots or nobody. You’re getting into territory where you might as well re-sign Ziggy Hood.

The pending free agents at safety seems to have a little more youth and ability available. But many teams need safeties and the quality players there will be gone quickly.

OK, you say, there are 10 D-linemen and some safeties there that may be upgrades for the Redskins. They can just pick a few and sign them, right?

Wrong. This is where the demand side comes in. To put it simply, there are a lot of teams out there with a lot of cap space that the CBA says they must spend. A lot of dollars will be getting thrown at a very limited number of quality options. There will be bidding wars and the Redskins don’t like to get involved in those. And even if they do, they will lose far more of them than they win.

Yes, at the moment the Redskins have more cap space than all but four other teams. But in a way, the cap space is an illusion. Many teams with comparable amounts of cap space already either have their 2017 starting quarterbacks under contract or another quarterback who is taking up substantial cap space (think the 49ers and Kaepernick or the Bears and Cutler). The Redskins will have $24 million whacked off the top of their available space if they do that they will have about $40 million in cap space, a number that will put them in the middle of the pack.

Suppose the Redskins do what a certain faction of the fan base thinks they should do and they let Cousins walk. That would save a chunk of cap space. This strategy calls for the organization to spread the money around to upgrade the rest of the team. But, where to they spend it? Should they just sign guys for the sake of signing guys? Look at the Rotoworld list again and identify which players the Redskins can sign that will have the impact that a quality starting quarterback will. Then eliminate all but a handful of them because they are going to be tagged or re-signed by their own teams or sign with other teams. Then subtract most of that pool because other teams will be after them. What do you have left? Not enough to get you more than five or six wins.

The point here is not to make the case that Cousins needs to be brought back. It’s that solutions to what ails the Redskins, with or without Cousins, is not out there waiting to be bought. The Redskins’ best course of action would be to try to get Logan or Johnathan Hankins of the Giants even if they have to overpay a bit and then re-sign their own including Cousins, Baker, Pierre Garçon and/or DeSean Jackson. Then they should work on extensions for Spencer Long and Morgan Moses and maybe for Trent Murphy and Bashaud Breeland.

Free agency is worth paying attention to. The Redskins will add some players and it will be interesting to see who they get. But unless you like huge disappointments don’t set your hopes too high for the Redskins to exit March with the makings of a perennial Super Bowl team in place. Over the years Redskins fans have learned that free agency is fool's gold and this year is no different and given the circumstances probably worse. 

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Report: Brandon Scherff and Redskins 'far apart' on contract negotiations

Report: Brandon Scherff and Redskins 'far apart' on contract negotiations

Besides the quarterback competition between Case Keenum and rookie Dwayne Haskins, one of the biggest storylines from Redskins training camp will be whether the team and Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Scherff can agree on a contract extension before the start of the 2019 season.

On Monday, a report came out from 106.7 The Fan's Erin Hawksworth that Scherff has been offered multiple contract extensions from the Redskins, but "the two sides are far apart."

Scherff is entering the 2019 season on the last year of his rookie deal and set to be an unrestricted free agent at season's end. 

The fifth-year guard will make a base salary of $12.5 million in 2019 after the Redskins picked up his fifth-year option a year ago as part of his rookie deal.

Should Scherff hit the open market, he will be a hot commodity. 

He may not receive a contract as big as Cowboys' guard Zack Martin did, but expect him to command close to top-market money. Martin received a six-year, $84 million deal in 2018 with $40 million guaranteed. A contract extension for Scherff could look something like the five-year, $66.5 million deal Jaguars' guard Andrew Norwell signed in 2018. 

Besides tackle Trent Williams, Scherff is without a doubt the most important piece to the Redskins offensive line. With Williams currently holding out, Scherff's presence on the offensive line is even more important.

Scherff missed eight games a season ago with a torn pectoral muscle, and his absence was very visible.

One thing is for certain: if the Redskins are not willing to pay Scherff top-market money, barring something unexpected, he will certainly get it somewhere else. And no Redskins fan wants that.

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Five takeaways from the Redskins' Madden 20 ratings

Five takeaways from the Redskins' Madden 20 ratings

With the release of EA Sports' Madden NFL 20 just a few weeks away, the game released their individual player ratings on Monday.

Madden ratings are usually a controversy-provoking topic. Each year, there are a lot more players disappointed with their initial Madden rating than those pleased with theirs.

This year was no different. Some players, such as Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen, have said they will boycott the game after being so upset with their rating.

The game unleashed a new rating system this year, which is intended to reward star players and have them feel different than just an above average player.

So how did Madden rate the Redskins?

The Burgundy and Gold come in at the 16th best overall team in the game, despite only having one individual player rated 90 overall or higher.

Two of the Redskins' NFC East foes, the Philadelphia Cowboys and Dallas Cowboys, were the No. 1 and No. 2 overall rated teams in the game, respectively. The Eagles boast a rating of 89, and the Cowboys come in at an 88 overall.

The New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers were all the next highest with an 87 overall.

Here are five takeaways from the Redskins' Madden NFL 20 ratings.

1. Left tackle Trent Williams was rated a 95 overall, the second-highest rated left tackle in the game.

Williams' rating of a 95 is very deserved. He's consistently been the best player on the Redskins from year-to-year, and one of the best offensive lineman in the league. Madden has recognized Williams' importance to the Redskins as well as his overall skill; only the Packers' David Bakhtiari (97) had a higher rating at his position.

The Redskins' Silverback was the third-highest rated offensive lineman in the game, with Bakhtiari and Cowboys' guard Zack Martin ahead of him. He's the only Redskins player to receive an overall rating of a 90 or higher.

Williams has been a key offseason storyline for the Redskins, as he was absent from Redskins' mandatory mini-camp in June. His absence was at first rumored to him wanting a new contract, but reports came out later that he was upset with the team's handling of his medical situation from a season ago. It is unclear whether Williams will report to training camp, which begins July 25.

If the Madden ratings are any indication, Williams is as important to the Redskins as anyone. The Redskins need him on the field.

2. Case Keenum and Dwayne Haskins have been rated just one number apart.

The main storyline throughout Redskins' training camp and the preseason will be the quarterback competition between veteran Case Keenum and rookie Dwayne Haskins. If the Madden ratings prove to be true, it's going to be a very close battle.

Keenum's initial Madden rating comes in at a 73 overall, while Haskins is a 72. In terms of specific ratings, Keenum slightly edges Haskins out in awareness (80 to 75) and speed (79 to 75), but Haskins has the edge in acceleration (83 to 82), agility (83 to 73) and strength (70 to 51). 

Of course, Keenum's ratings are based off his performance last season with the Denver Broncos, while Haskins' ratings are a rough estimate because he's a rookie. It's likely that both players could have a very different rating at the end of the season than they do now.

3. The Redskins have three defensive linemen all rated around the same number. 

The defensive line unit is probably the strongest position group on the Redskins and the Madden ratings agree with that.

Defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis and Daron Payne received an 83 overall rating, while Jonathan Allen received an 82 overall grade.

While all three had productive seasons in 2018, it is worth wondering how Allen is not the highest rated of the three.

In his second season, Allen finished second on the team in sacks (8.0) and tied for the team lead in tackles for loss (11). Out of the three, Allen had the most overall tackles, sacks, tackles for loss and quarterback hits.

While the Redskins expect Allen, Ioannidis and Payne all to have a major impact in 2019, don't be surprised if Allen has the highest overall rating of the three at the end of the year.

4. The Redskins' big free agent signing, safety Landon Collins, was rated a low 83 overall.

This number at first glance seems very low. In his four seasons in the NFL, Collins has made the Pro Bowl three times and first-team All-Pro once. 

But Madden has a whopping 10 free safeties rated higher than him. Recently acquired New York Giants safety Jabrill Peppers has a higher rating than Collins, and anyone who's watched the two players over the past couple years knows that's questionable. 

A season ago, Collins was rated an 88 overall. Missing four games with a shoulder injury could be a partial reason for his dip, but the 25-year-old is still one of the elite safeties in the league. An 83 overall does not reflect that.

5. Haskins is the second-highest rated rookie QB in the game, while Giants' Daniel Jones is, uh, low.

While a 72 overall rating would not be flattering to anyone, Haskins has to be pleased being the second-highest rated rookie quarterback, only behind No.1 overall pick and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray.

Overall, the rookie ratings are a lot lower in Madden 20 than they were in Madden 19. A year ago, five rookie quarterbacks (Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen) started with a higher rating than Murray, who enters the game as a 73 overall.

When looking at the rookie quarterback class, perhaps the most surprising ranking has to be the Giants' Daniel Jones, who enters the game at a 63 overall.

In years past, a 63 overall would be given to a fringe roster player, not a top-ten first-round pick. For reference, Redskins' seventh-round pick Jimmy Moreland enters the game at a 64 overall. 

To put it into perspective, the next lowest top-ten pick was Denver's Devin Bush, who checked in at a 72. The Giants have seven rookies with a higher Madden rating.

Jones' low rating is in unprecedented territory for a top-ten pick, let alone a first-round pick.

The beauty of Madden ratings is that they change. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was a 77 entering the 2019 season.

A year later, he's a 97 overall, and arguably the biggest snub from the 99 overall club. While many players may be upset with their rating, they have the ability to let their play do the talking.

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