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Need to Know: How will Redskins’ GM McCloughan handle free agency?

Feb 3, 2015, 6:04 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, February 3, 15 days before the Washington Redskins and the rest of the NFL assemble in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine.

Question of the day

We’re changing up the format of Need to Know for the offseason. Every day I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

Today’s question is from Twitter:

Let’s approach this question from two angles. First, let’s look at what Scot McCloughan said.

“I honestly think the draft is the lifeline of your organization, but also you’ve got to understand with free agency that’s a tool that you can use and you can use it in a positive manner,” he said at his introductory press conference. “You know, you start dabbling too much in free agency sometimes, you’re getting older guys; you’re getting medical history . . . “

“See, in Washington, we’re going to draft these guys and we are going to draft them and mold them as Redskins. We’re not going to have to go out to other organizations and bring in 32 and 33 year olds who have different plans. I think the best-case scenario is you draft and mold your own and re-sign your own. But free agency is still there to be used to make your roster stronger too. You can’t lose sight of that.”

He specifically mentioned Ron Wolf, who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, and Ted Thompson, his mentors when he was a scout with the Packers. They are purists when it comes to free agency, rarely bringing in talent from outside of the oranization. It doesn’t sound like McCloughan plans to have a roster almost completely stocked with home-grown talent like the Packers do but his vision is to have a team that is built mostly through the draft.

But you should watch what he does and not what he says. In order to get an idea of what he might do, let’s take a look back at 2005, when he took over personnel decisions for the 49ers as their vice president of player personnel. San Francisco had gone 2-14 the previous year so it obviously was a roster that was in just as bad a shape as is the current Redskins’ roster.

McCloughan, however, did not go on a spending spree to pump up the Niners’ roster. He brought in two free agents who found their way into the starting lineup. Johnny Morton, a 35-year-old receiver, was signed away from the Loins and defensive end Marques Douglas, 28, came from the Ravens. Neither was a big splash signing. That was it. All of the other starters were either holdovers or McCloughan draft picks from 2005.

One other note here: McCloughan had come to the 49ers from the Seahawks and, as noted, started with the Packers. He did not sign any players who had been with his previous employers. So those of you trying to connect the dots and bring Frank Gore or Vernon Davis to Washington should think twice.

Putting what McCloughan said and what he has done together it looks like the Redskins will not be big players in the free agent market but they won’t be sitting on the sidelines either. Look for them to plug a few holes with some younger players who won’t break the bank or perhaps with an older player on a one-year deal.

Free agency starts five weeks from today so we will see what he does starting then.


—It’s been 37 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 222 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL free agency starts 35; Redskins offseason workouts start 76; 2015 NFL Draft 87

If you have any questions about what’s going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I’m always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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In case you missed it

  1. hcicron - Feb 3, 2015 at 6:40 AM

    I for one would be perfectly content if we stayed out of FA for the most part this year. Maybe get a mid round compensatory pick for losing Orakpo.

    • bangkokben - Feb 3, 2015 at 9:40 AM

      Are you saying that you want us to not fix any holes through FA because of the SLIGHT chance that we may get compensation for Orakpo? That would have to be some compensation.

      I know we as an organization haven’t valued the draft – really ever – but the POSSIBILITY of a fourth round pick is hardly worth ignoring all needs through free agency. Either your list is a lot shorter than mine or we are on different wavelengths.

      In my mind ignoring free agency is on par with cutting Kerrigan for a cap savings of $7M and no dead money so that we have $7M more and no starting outside linebackers.

      • bangkokben - Feb 3, 2015 at 10:30 AM

        BTW, with Orakpo being damaged goods, I don’t think he gets a contract that merits compensation for us regardless of what we do or don’t do in FA.

        • hcicron - Feb 3, 2015 at 12:00 PM

          No you misinterpret me. When I say stay out of FA for the most part I mean avoid big splashes and use it to supplement holes after the draft. When I say maybe we get a mid for orakpo I mean maybe we get lucky and get an extra pick. Of course I see the holes you do. However a lot of skins fans distrust any move the skins make and therefore think all our young guys were bad picks if they didn’t get a chance or if they played like a rookie. Simultaneously skins fans commend other teams for putting up with their young players growing pains. It’s amazing. We drafted 2 o line last year and people don’t want to give them a chance to grow.

        • bangkokben - Feb 3, 2015 at 1:16 PM

          Thanks for explaining. I’m in complete agreement with what you wrote at noon. I just don’t think we’ll get any compensation for Orakpo but any would be fine.

        • ajbus1 - Feb 3, 2015 at 4:59 PM

          We would get compensation if we lose more than we gain in free agency.

  2. kenlinkins - Feb 3, 2015 at 7:18 AM

    Rich: The year before SM landed in San Fran the Avg Age of players was 26.0, his first year there it was 26.2, then 26.5, then 27.1, then 27.2, and in 2009 was 27.3. The year before he landed in Seattle the Avg Age was 27.4, then 27.0, the 25.5, then 25.3 and in 2013 it was 25.0. So, in San Fran the Avg Age went up every year and in Seattle it went down every year. San Fran didn’t hit double digits wins until Jim H became the Head Coach in 2011 (in SM 7th year with the team). Seattle hit Double digit wins in 2012 ,SM 3rd year with the team, (It was also Pete C 3rd year). I wonder how much had to do with SM (as GM or VP of PP) and how much had to do with having a good head coach at both places. (or having both being able to work together, something I am not sure is in place yet at Redskins Park). Your Thoughts?

    • Rich Tandler - Feb 3, 2015 at 7:43 AM

      At a quick glance, I think the 49ers average age crept up because they kept around a lot of the same players. They weren’t signing a bunch of old guys (Johnny Morton excepted), some of the guys there just got older. The 2005 Seahawks Super Bowl team had grown old and had to be torn down.

      The coaching question is the old chicken or egg question. Did Harbaugh raise the talent to the next level? Or did the coach arrive just as the talent was coming of age? I think talent is more important than coaching but that doesn’t mean that coaching isn’t important.

  3. celticsforever - Feb 3, 2015 at 9:54 AM

    The entire SM angle is being over-analyzed. Yes there is a new GM in town. Yes he prefers drafting to FA. Yes this is a distinct & positive shift from where things have been. No – SM does not walk on water, nor does he leap tall buildings in a single bound. He’s going to evaluate the roster along with the coaching staff, and he’s going to put the pieces in place he believes will make the team a winner. He won’t mortgage the future. He knows this team is not just “a guy or 2” away from contending. What I expect the coming year is a hungrier, more competitive team that places hard and is well coached. They won’t make every play, but be in the position for the attempt. Force the opponent to beat you, don’t hand it to them. I’ve got no problem with DB getting beat one-on-one in tight man to man coverage. It happens. The other team gets paid too. What is intolerable is that DB losing his man, looking the other way while his man runs 10 yards wide open. We can say it was the coaching. Well that’s been changed (Morris & Haz). So now its ALL on the players. And if they aren’t up to the task them SM will draft their replacements. It’s a performance league. So perform. I expect SM to do his job well. I also expect the same for the players.

    • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Feb 3, 2015 at 11:12 AM

      It’s a much better approach. The unspoken subtext is, what about The Danny?

      We’ve had over a decade of failure, and the one constant in all that is the owner.

      If he would stay the hell out completely, maybe things will get turned around.

      • ajbus1 - Feb 3, 2015 at 5:00 PM

        Argh…The Danny factor. It’s always in play.

  4. kenlinkins - Feb 3, 2015 at 11:47 AM

    Rich: I was a bit shocked to see the following: In 2008 players / roster transactions 243 (Zorn’s 1st year), 2009 172, 2010 178 (Shanahan’s 1st year), 2011 145, 2012 191, 2013 153, and then in 2014 (Gruden’s 1st year and 1st year of Allen’s as GM) it was only 102! (data from transaction totals). I was sure that in 2014 the Redskins might have set a record in this area but this data says the Redskins really didn’t move that many players on / off the roster as before. I am reading this correct? (and if so, why the decrease in transactions)?

    • Rich Tandler - Feb 3, 2015 at 11:56 AM

      I don’t know where your getting the historical information from but perhaps there is some confusion about transactions for the entire calendar year vs. transactions during the season. I count about 100 in-season (after final cuts) for the Redskins this season and about 270 from the end of 2013 season to end of 2014 season.

      > >

  5. tideskin - Feb 3, 2015 at 12:26 PM

    Rich, How would you compare Scott McCloughan’s approach to signing free agents and drafting players to Bobby Beathard’s approach?

  6. ET - Feb 3, 2015 at 1:22 PM

    I’m curious to see how Scotty and his minions do with UDFAs. Seattle is unusually adept at finding good value among the unwanted and undrafted. Hopefully some of that mojo will carry over to DC. We need all the help we can get.

  7. captblood3000 - Feb 3, 2015 at 2:13 PM

    Remember that free agency starts before the draft. If you wait until after the draft to sign free agents, you can find the cupboard. I expect the Redskins to sign free agents at positions of particular need, say one safety, one defensive lineman, and one offensive lineman. But these signings need not be splash signings.

    • captblood3000 - Feb 3, 2015 at 2:14 PM

      Sorry meant to say “cupboard bare”.

    • Joe Greene - Feb 4, 2015 at 6:35 PM

      Agreed. I could see a RT like Jermey Parnell from Dallas or a proven veteran like Eric Winston, a NT like Kenrick Ellis from the Jets, and one of the trio of S from Baltimore like Jeromy Miles. None is likely to be a huge splash, but each fits an area of need with positive play in limited snaps.

  8. timwillhidetimwillhide - Feb 3, 2015 at 11:29 PM

    I wouldn’t mind seeing us sign Kyle Wilson CB, Antrell Rolle FS, Brooks Reed OLB Stephen Paea DT/NT I know Stephen Paea is only 300lbs but he is 6’1″ and strong as an OX, I think he can handle the NT position and could also add weight if needed. The only player that I listed that would cost allot may be Antrell Role but he would solidify the back end and be worth it till we can Draft and develop someone. Kyle Wilson would be a god backup CB. Brooks Reed is still young and we could sign him long term to save money he has proven he can get the job done. 3 major holes on the Defense would be filled. I think we can easily fix the Oline in the Draft by Drafting Brown and Miller out of Louisville, Mason out of Georgia Tech, and Collins out of LSU. if we Draft Shelton NT out of Washington instead of Collins. I feel Brown can play RT or someone already on the Roster maybe Moses can fill that spot.

    • timwillhidetimwillhide - Feb 3, 2015 at 11:34 PM

      People that say Drafting a Linemen other than LT at #5 are living in the Past. With the rookie pay scale teams are not investing the kind of money in that pick like they use too. Also you have elite rushers on both ends anymore and on some teams in the middle. You can draft any lineman at any point in the first round thanks to the rookie pay scale

      • shermanp79 - Feb 4, 2015 at 9:45 AM

        I understand what you are saying but it still makes no sense. You can find starting RT, G or C all the way into the 3rd round. It still doesn’t fit the value at that spot. Scot has made it clear, no matter the position, he is taking the best talent on the board. but it will be value at the pick. When selecting in the top 5 you want an impact guy, not a nice OL when you can find one later. The biggest thing is the OL available aren’t rated that high. All of them have question marks. We have reached to fill positions for too long, that is why this team is a mess. That is what you want to do. You want us to take Mosses at #5 when you can get Jon Jansen in the 2nd round? I know Mosses is a bit exaggerated but trying to make a point. You so badly want a RT, you want one leaving talent on the board rated higher.

        • timwillhidetimwillhide - Feb 4, 2015 at 11:50 AM

          In this draft there are Olinemen that are rated up there within the top 10. Drafting the best player at a spot that is not of need doesnt make sense either. We wouldnt draft WR Cooper just because hes the best avalible or Gordon, Gurly. There also might be a linebacker that is a 4-3 linebacker like Ray that doesnt fit our Scheme it would be dumb to draft him too. I believe it should be best player avalible at a position of need and that fits our Scheme. It may be a reach for some other team but reaching up 3 to 4 spots to get a guy that fits is not a reach

        • Joe Greene - Feb 4, 2015 at 6:37 PM

          There are NO OL in this draft rated in the top 5 by anyone who actually knows what they’re talking about. None.

  9. shermanp79 - Feb 4, 2015 at 9:11 AM

    I see them bringing in a OL or two, a S and maybe a TE. This team needs a TE that can block and catch. Both Paul and Paulsen need to go. Since Reed has injury issues maybe bringing in a FA TE like Gresham or Kendricks would allow them to fill other needs in the Draft. There are other guys like Clay or Tamme, the latter being a guy who probably won’t cost much. They can find a guy who won’t break the bank like Thomas or Cameron The one guy I like in the Draft is the guy from Delaware, he could be our Gronk. Watching him hurdle that guy in the Senior Bowl showed his athleticism. I think there are questions about Reed long term. He has to show next year that he can stay healthy. He needs to show a willingness to block and run better routes. So TE is one position I think FA could help depending on what they do in the Draft. The OL has some young G and C available. There are some RT too. Maybe finding a RT in FA that could solidify the position for a couple of years helps. Who knows about Mosses this year or beyond. Is he a big project? I think right now you have to believe it will take time. We need S help badly and the Draft doesn’t have a great S class. Most are late round selections right now. The few ranked higher may not fall into best value when selecting. I think we sign a few FA while taking the best player when picking. After the Draft I could see a couple of shorter signings to fill something missed in the Draft.Whatever Scot decides, I have faith it will be the right decision. Unlike the past we have someone with a history of success.

    • greed - Feb 4, 2015 at 3:03 PM

      how can you be sure if the S Class or any other position is weak in the draft ? Its about player development something that has been missing on this team for quite sometime now -ever notice how we cut guys and they go on and be major contributors for other teams the next example will be A. Robinson with the ravens

      • Rich Tandler - Feb 4, 2015 at 3:16 PM

        Actually, very few Redskins who got cut go on to be productive elsewhere. There are a few, yes, but it’s not nearly as much as fan talk would have you believe. The fact that you have to project Robinson into being a productive player is evidence of this. Very few concrete examples.

        To me, this means that the Redskins haven’t been selecting players who are likely to develop (proper work ethic, football smarts, love the game not what the game can get them, etc.).

    • Joe Greene - Feb 4, 2015 at 6:42 PM

      Gresham also misses a couple of games every year. I’d keep Paul as he’s shown he can be the lead receiving TE and does not have the injury issues that Reed does. I’d be fine going with Gresham and Paul as the top 2 TE and finding a true blocking TE, like Lee Smith, to replace Paulsen.

      BTW, Gresham and Kendricks are both bad blockers as well, they’re not much of an upgrade on that front. Archives

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