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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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Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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10 Questions for 10 Days: After Josh Norman, what's the plan at cornerback?

10 Questions for 10 Days: After Josh Norman, what's the plan at cornerback?

With Redskins Training Camp set to begin July 26th, JP Finlay takes a look at 10 of the most pressing questions for the Burgundy and Gold before the team heads to Richmond. 

No. 10: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart 

No. 9: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

No. 8: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?

No. 7: Do the Redskins have a 1,000-yard WR?

No. 6: Is Shawn Lauvao the concern, or is the issue bigger on the O-Line?

No. 5: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?

No. 4: After Josh Norman, what's the plan at cornerback?

In a way, the Redskins are quite lucky. Not every team in the NFL has an unequivocal No. 1 corner. Washington has that in Josh Norman

His interception numbers in 2017 did not get the job done, but he still played quite well. Norman got targeted significantly less than the league average, which means NFL quarterbacks actively chose not to mess with former All Pro. 

Still, Norman needs more interceptions than last year. He grabbed none, and he will admit that he must create more turnovers. 

Regardless, Norman is not the Redskins question mark at cornerback. What happens after Norman is the question. 

Washington moved quick this offseason to lock up Quinton Dunbar off restricted free agency. Dunbar has size and range, and has looked quite capable, in spots. He doesn't have a ton of experience, however, and will be asked to start this fall. The team also signed veteran Orlando Scandrick - from the Cowboys - as a likely nickel/slot corner. 

Second-year man Fabian Moreau will be expected to take a significant step forward this fall. The Redskins would like very much to be able to primarily rely on Norman, Moreau and Dunbar while asking less of Scandrick. 

Don't forget Washington lost Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland this offseason. Fuller got moved to Kansas City as part of the Alex Smith trade, and Breeland remains a free agent.

Redskins coaches won't tell the exact truth, but the the team would love for Moreau to emerge opposite Norman and let Dunbar play in the slot. Or maybe let Moreau emerge in the slot, like Fuller did in 2017, and Dunbar opposite Norman. Scandrick hasn't played a full season since 2013, and the 'Skins brass can't expect that in 2018 for the 31-year-old corner. 

Josh Holsey, Adonis Alexander and Greg Stroman will provide depth at the bottom of the roster. That's two seventh-round picks and a supplemental sixth round pick. While each player provides reasons for optimism, it's hard to think any of the three young players will provide immediate help. They're better focused fighting for a roster spot than a starting spot. 

In 2017, cornerback ranked as a strength for the Redskins. 

In 2018, it's a big question. Elite play from Norman could change much of that equation. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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Need to Know: Redskins training camp preview—Offense

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Associated Press

Need to Know: Redskins training camp preview—Offense

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, July 22, four days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Training camp preview: Offense

Here are some of the big topics surrounding the offense at Redskins training camp along with some of the things I’ll be observing closely when training camp gets underway on Thursday. 

Alex Smith

The subheadline here doesn’t need any elaboration. The Redskins gave up a top-100 draft pick, a promising player, and $71 million in guaranteed money to get him. When asked about the timetable for Smith picking up the offense, Jay Gruden said, “He has got to get it down by the first game.”

That first game is seven weeks from today. Of course, the process has already started as Smith appeared to have a solid grasp of things in the offseason practices. There is every reason to think that he will look good in Richmond. 

The question is, how much will the coaches push him? Will they focus on him having success on shorter, easier throws to build his confidence? Or will they call plays that test his ability to throw deep? Last year in Kansas City his ability to hit on long passes helped transform him from being an above-average quarterback to an MVP candidate. The Redskins need him to be effective deep starting Week 1 and training camp needs to be the starting point. 

The running back rotation

This is primarily about Derrius Guice, who is the most anticipated rookie running back in team history. The Redskins were 28th in rushing yards last year and they bring back the same offensive line (although hoping for better health) and three of the same running backs. They are counting on Guice to be the difference maker. 

But Guice can’t do it by himself. Gruden will be wary of overworking his rookie, who has an aggressive running style and who was banged up for a lot of his last year at LSU. He also may give Guice a light load if he struggles in pass protection early on. Chris Thompson’s role is set. Where do Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine line up? Does one or the other take most of the first-team reps when Guice is getting a rest? 

The difference between being the third back and the fourth is big. The fourth back on the depth chart is unlikely to be active most game days. The active back could get five to 10 carries per game.

Who’s at left guard?

Is Shawn Lauvao going to be the left guard? It doesn’t seem logical that they would put all their eggs in Lauvao’s injury-prone and frequently ineffective basket. Will Ty Nsekhe line up there? Do they think that Tyler Catalina or Kyle Kalis can push for the starting job? Is a trade in the offing? 

Jordan Reed’s health

This does not need much explanation if you’ve been paying attention the last several years. It would be both a good sign and a major surprise if he starts camp healthy and doesn’t miss any time due to injuries. If he’s out there, there is no question that he and Smith will quickly develop chemistry. 

Wide receiver depth chart

The stakes at wide receiver are similar to those at running back. The top backup behind the three starters, who could be any of Maurice Harris, Robert Davis, Brian Quick or Try Quinn, will have a regular role in the offense line Ryan Grant had last year. The fifth guy will rarely play, the player who has the sixth spot will rarely play, and the seventh won’t have a job. 

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 and on Instagram @RichTandler

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Apparently, some teams are worried that their players are playing too much of the video game Fortnite. No, seriously.

Timeline 

Happy birthday to Redskins running back Quinton Dunbar, who was born on this date in 1992.

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 4
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 18
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 41

The Redskins last played a game 203 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 49 days. 

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