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Need to Know: The Redskins' pre-free agency to-do list

Need to Know: The Redskins' pre-free agency to-do list

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, January 31, 37 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.  

Timeline

Days until:

NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 29
—NFL Draft (4/27) 86
First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 222

Five things the Redskins need to do before free agency starts

Free agency in the NFL starts in just a little over five weeks. Here is what the Redskins need to get accomplished between now and March 9.

Finish roster evaluation—If they are going to add players to the roster for the coming season they need to subtract players from the 2016 roster. They need to look at the players they have under contract now and evaluate how they fit into the picture going forward. And they need to look at their players who are going to be free agents and decide if they want to bring any of them back. This process involved film study (a lot of which has been happening since the end of the season) and meetings, which started yesterday.

Related: NFL mock draft ver. 2.0

Set prices on potential free agents—Then it comes down to money, figuring who is worth how much, both your team’s free agents and possible targets on other teams. Cap guru Eric Schaffer has already been doing some work on this, looking at comparable contracts. The pro scouting staff has been in the process of evaluating possible free agent targets on tape. They will have cost parameters for their top targets and the ability to quickly come up with numbers for others.

Attend the NFL Combine—Yes, the combine is mostly about the draft. But almost everyone involved in the business end of the NFL gathers in Indianapolis for much of the week. A lot of free agency negotiations start there. Sure, it’s against the rules. But if Dan Snyder or Bruce Allen has dinner with the agent for one of the Redskins’ pending free agents who also happens to represent a different free agent that the team might be interested in, well, there’s nothing to prevent some possible contract numbers being jotted down on a cocktail napkin and passed to the agent, is there? There isn’t, because it happens all the time.

Negotiate with Kirk Cousins, other free agents on the team—Ideally, you would like to get your own free agents who you want to keep under contract before they  become free agents. With Cousins, there is a different timeline working; ideally, they would like to get him signed prior to the March 1 deadline for the franchise tag to be applied. While they could sign him any time after tagging him up until July 15, the Redskins would rather have the certainty of knowing that Cousins is in the fold for the long term before embarking on free agency.

More Redskins: Assessing five mock draft selections

Watch the waiver wire—Players can be released starting on Monday, the day after the Super Bowl. They need to be ready to react to claim any player of interest who goes on the wire (players with fewer than four years of experience) and be ready to attempt to sign veteran players they think can help them.

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Wait, what? Report says Bill Belichick 'inquired' about coaching the Redskins

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Wait, what? Report says Bill Belichick 'inquired' about coaching the Redskins

Bill Belichick is the greatest coach in NFL history. He's won six Super Bowl titles and made the playoffs every year in the last decade. Other coaches were great - Bill Walsh and Joe Gibbs among a few - but nobody is Belichick. 

That's what makes a recent report out of Boston so near impossible to believe. 

Belichick checked in on coaching in Washington? The Redskins? 

Those are valid points, I guess. Belichick spent much of his young life in Annapolis and has great affinity for that area. He's talked about that openly. 

The timeline also makes some sense. Many reports out of New England in 2017 showed a power struggle between Belichick and Patriots owner Robert Kraft about what to do with legendary quarterback Tom Brady as then backup Patriots QB Jimmy Garropolo got closer to free agency. New England wouldn't be able to keep both, and there has been speculation that Belichick wanted to keep the younger passer. 

Eventually, Garropolo got traded to the 49ers, for a surprisingly low return, and New England went to two more Super Bowls, winning last year. 

This year, however, marked the first real time the Patriots looked mortal. Brady's completion percentage dipped to 60.8 percent, his lowest since 2013, and he threw fewer passing yards than any 16-game season since 2010. Now, Brady is a free agent and for the first time ever the possibility of playing somewhere else seems real, even if only somewhat realistic.

Still, Belichick coaching the Redskins seems like the longest of shots. Checking on a job - looking at financial considerations or asking about parameters - and actually taking a job can be two very different things. 

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3 critical takeaways from Jack Del Rio's first media session as Redskins defensive coordinator

3 critical takeaways from Jack Del Rio's first media session as Redskins defensive coordinator

Jack Del Rio spoke to the Washington media on Wednesday, his first public session with reporters since being named Redskins defensive coordinator on Jan. 2.

While the conference call came more than two weeks after the team's announcement, it was certainly worth the wait.

Here are the three most critical takeaways from what Del Rio discussed.

1) He has no interest in discussing potential

At one point in the call, Del Rio was given the chance to set expectations for his group and explain what kind of potential he sees. It was the kind of question he could've easily answered, using glowing adjectives and praising many players.

But he didn't go that route. In fact, he went the opposite direction of that route

"It’s interesting to me that so much is made this time of year with thoughts on potential," Del Rio said. "Potential really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t really amount to much. To me, it’s more about what we can get done and the work that we’re willing to put in and the idea that, ‘Look, we’re going to become a respected unit, OK?’"

That might've been the most compelling response from the longtime coach, and it's a mindset that people like Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Landon Collins will surely appreciate.  

2) Teaching matters quite a bit to him

During one explanation, Del Rio brought up current Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard. Why? To illustrate how someone can grow and improve with the proper coaching.

Woodyard was with the Broncos when Del Rio took over as defensive coordinator, and according to Del Rio, people told him not to worry too much about the linebacker. Woodyard was merely a special teamer who "wasn't going to amount to much."

Del Rio dismissed that advice, instead focusing on bettering Woodyard's fundamentals, which in turn would help his confidence spike. That former Denver special teamer was recently on the field for Tennessee's playoff win in Baltimore and is now one victory away from a Super Bowl.

That's just one example that sticks out to Del Rio and proves how necessary it is to assist in the continuous enhancement of a pro's skills.

"For us, we are going to look to teach and develop," he said. "To me, we have players here that are maybe considered in a specific light and they will have the chance to change that."

3) He absolutely wants Ron Rivera's input

Del Rio and Rivera are both former NFL linebackers who seem to share a lot of the same ideologies about what they want in a scheme and in their guys. For that reason, he is more than willing to get input from Rivera on the 2020 defense's plan.

"It’s an inclusive process," Del Rio said. "[Rivera] wanted to be sure that I knew, ‘Hey look, you’re going to call it. It’s your defense’. I said, ‘Hey coach, I’d love to have you in there any time you have to be in there with us.’ It’s our staff. We’re going to work together. The first thing I said to the defensive staff at our very first meeting, ‘This is not me. It’s not about what I want. It’s about what we are, what we’re going to become.’"

Between Del Rio and Rivera, the franchise now has two leaders who each can point to plenty of past successes in building defenses. The thought of that pair working together and applying what they know in Washington should have fans feeling very pleased.

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