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Why the Redskins should (mostly) sit out free agency this year

Mar 7, 2016, 10:03 AM EDT


When Scot McCloughan met with the media at the Senior Bowl in January, he was asked if he expected the Redskins to be active in free agency this year.

“We’re not going to be big players,” he said. “I don’t believe in that.”

Redskins fans should hope that McCloughan was not just blowing some of the smoke that is very prominent around the NFL this time of year. The Redskins would be better off being spectators for the next month or two, with a couple of exceptions.

Why? For one thing, they don’t have much cap room. They are currently $6.2 million over the cap. That overage will be reversed as soon as they save $16.1 million by releasing quarterback Robert Griffin III, moving the team to just about $10 million under the cap.

That’s a lot of money in most of the real world but in terms of NFL cap dollars to spend it’s pocket change. Even after they release Griffin, 29 teams will have more salary cap room. Sure, they will be able to create more by releasing some players (WR Andre Roberts) and negotiating some pay cuts (S Dashon Goldson and DE Jason Hatcher are prime candidates). But other teams will make similar moves and the Redskins are likely to remain one of the most cap poor teams in the league.

The top spending priority needs to be to retain their own players. They want Mason Foster to return to play inside linebacker. If they keep pass rusher Junior Galette and he regains his 2014 form the entire defense will be better. Darrel Young won’t take up much space but they need him for occasional blocking duty and for his big special teams contributions. And if they want to keep Colt McCoy around it’s going to cost them considerably more than the $1.5 million they shelled out last year.

They also need to set some money aside to work out an extension for tight end Jordan Reed. If they have some left over at the end of the year, fine. They can roll it over to 2017 and get a head start on paying Kirk Cousins and possibly extending CB Bashaud Breeland and OT Morgan Moses.

The main argument that those who are proponents of an active free agency will make is that the Redskins need to improve in multiple areas. And that’s true; any NFL team needs to aspire to something higher than 9-7 and a one and done playoff appearance. But free agency is not the way to significantly upgrade a team.

You can go back through the history of the team in the free agent era to see that it doesn’t work. Or you can look back at last year. The Redskins did not get a whole lot out of the six free agents that they did sign prior to the start of the season. Only one, nose tackle Terrance Knighton, started more than six games. Galette was injured before he played a snap and two others, DL Stephen Paea and CB Chris Culliver, ended the season on injured reserve.

Free agency frustration is not limited to the Redskins. One Giants beat writer looked at the top 10 free agents signed away from their original teams in each of the past three seasons. Of those 30 signings, only 12 could be considered successful deals for their new teams. Batting .400 is great in baseball but most businesses wouldn’t be around long by hitting on only 40 percent of their multi-million dollar investments.

With all of that said, the Redskins can’t be completely idle when the bidding starts today at noon and the signing starts Wednesday at 4 p.m. If they let Knighton walk after his one-year contract expires they will be in need of a veteran nose tackle. There are a few out there including Ian Williams of the 49ers and B. J. Raji of the Packers, players who can hold down the fort until a draft pick is ready to carry the load in the middle.

The Redskins also need a blocking tight end if they decide to move on from Logan Paulsen, who missed last season with a toe injury. Although he is a little bit older than McCloughan might prefer, the 6-7, 270-pound Scott Chandler (31 in July) would fill the blocking role well and could catch a pass or two.

Beyond that the Redskins should sit on their checkbook and look to the draft to improve depth. If they find themselves with some holes when that’s over there are always some cheap and available free agents looking for work in May when OTAs are cranking up.

  1. bangkokben - Mar 7, 2016 at 10:16 AM

    Spot on, Rich! 100% agree.

    • hail74 - Mar 7, 2016 at 10:55 AM

      Same. I know it’s fun for we fans to look at all the top FAs and think how they would help if they just replicated their performance but it rarely happens. We’d usually have to pay more to bring them here too, so hardly a sound plan for long term gains. Thankfully we have Scot now.

      • Tom - Mar 7, 2016 at 11:31 AM

        I agree 100% percent. Signing the big names in FA every year was one of Dan Snyders immaturities and lack of leadership to help sell tickets and merchandise but when it comes down to winning football games, the fans that know and understand the game of football know that a year without signing big FA names is almost as big of a win than doing so depending on what is done in the draft. Glad to see we’re taking a different approach on how this organization is beginning to run.

  2. troylok - Mar 7, 2016 at 10:31 AM

    I think signing big name free agents is out of the Redskins’ plans but there are some lesser known players that will be released now and after the draft that they might be interested in. On teams where there’s a new coach, there will usually be a few good players that get the axe because they don’t fit the new coach’s scheme. I’d keep my eye on San Fran. Kelly is not in charge of player personnel but he will have influence, plus some of the players hitting the unemployment line will be guys McGloughin is familiar with from his own San Fran days.

    • hail74 - Mar 7, 2016 at 10:56 AM

      Absolutely and I’d add Seattle with SF as well

  3. Mr.moneylover - Mar 7, 2016 at 10:37 AM

    They need to sign mason foster and junior gallette and just draft Alabama NT jarren reed and they will be just fine…I think second round they gonna draft Sean Davis if he’s available I’m told redskins really like that kid

    • jonevans511 - Mar 7, 2016 at 10:56 AM

      What you think of Billings out of Baylor, money? I think he’d fit right in despite his lack of height, based solely on what Scot M has said in the past- he’s a real football player. Didn’t ever seem to take plays off in college and, despite his size, looks very quick on his feet.

      • Mr.moneylover - Mar 7, 2016 at 10:59 AM

        He can another choice …but it all depends on what they do in free agency

    • hail74 - Mar 7, 2016 at 11:01 AM

      I like Reed to but his stock is rising. Sean Davis certainly has the measurables Scot likes. scouting profile has Duke Ihenacho as his pro player comparison

  4. Mr.moneylover - Mar 7, 2016 at 10:57 AM

    By redskins officially releasing rg3 they should have money to sign a couple of they own free agent players…I think they got 9 mill in cap space

  5. bangkokben - Mar 7, 2016 at 11:00 AM

    As for:

    What Redskin fans feel toward Gruden for Morris’ decline, I’d think that Falcon fans feel in spades toward Kyle Shannahan.

  6. skinsdiehard - Mar 7, 2016 at 11:01 AM

    Why is the Skins cap situation so bad? Worse than 29 teams? The Skins are not better than 29 teams, so apparently they are spending money on the wrong players. Get rid of some of the guys and replace with better talent. I hate it when we are mediocre and have a high cap. That is how it was when Cerrato was in charge. I thought we got better under Shanahan, but I guess not.

    • Mr.moneylover - Mar 7, 2016 at 11:21 AM

      Its bad because of Bruce Allen…it was soooo bad the redskins gave LB H.B blade 40,000 in 2013 when he hasn’t played since 2007

    • lezziemcdykerson - Mar 7, 2016 at 6:39 PM

      Well it was Shanny/Bruce so we weren’t out of the woods yet. You’re right it did seem like we weren’t making big splashes in FA. Can’t remember what year Fletcher came in but we got production out of him. Bowen and Cofield the same got decent production out of those guys. DJax. Not sure if Garcon came in under Shanny but him too maybe. So it’s not like complete swing and misses. I actually almost didn’t list DJax and Garcon because I’m so used to getting guys like Roberts I forgot they were FAs. I think Cundiff was a FA signing that didn’t work out nor did Kai long term. Other than Garcon/Jax nothing really splashy, probably why we have that illusion of not being big FA players. I’m sure I’m missing players these were just the guys I could think of. I saw someone else make the point and I will echo it, we’ve been missing draft talent. Only a few of our drafted players have gotten to second contracts, Williams, Kerrigan, Cousins, Reed eventually so on. When we aren’t getting that cheap farm talent we’re paying FA’s to fill that spot and that’s something we just gotta hope the MADTV guy will fix. Some quality drafts and the cap increasing we could be out from under ourselves in maybe 2-3 seasons.

  7. brucefan1 - Mar 7, 2016 at 11:03 AM

    Man, the Skins just do not to be able to get outta the salary cap poorhouse, no matter how poorly performed on the field over the last several seasons! Common sense would seem to dictate that Cap Hell would be the province of teams with abundant talent — not dubious talent, like the Redskins.

    With the obvious thus being stated, I agree with Rich that Scot should stick to a low-impact FA plan, and use his skill and acumen to try to mine some young diamonds-in-the-rough. He seemed to try to do that last year with questionable results (think guys like Paea and Jeron Johnson), but I think it’s still a good plan. Just gotta find a few more gems this time around! Easy -peasy, right?!

    • bangkokben - Mar 7, 2016 at 11:51 AM

      The Redskins are still feeling the effects of the unjust salary cap penalty. That $36 million had to get pushed back into later years. They currently only have $573,164 in dead money. So, at the moment, they are using all of the available cap space on guys under contract. That’ll likely change as they release players like Roberts and maybe Riley. Conversely, the Giants have more than $9.7 million of this year’s cap used on players no longer part of the organization but still have $60 million to work with. Part of the reason they have so much is JPP’s 4th of July accident. (It would be $10-$15 million less if that didn’t happen.) Eli counts for $24.2 million and Victor Cruz counts for another $9.9 million. (Oh the production.) They have just 19 players that count at least a million toward the cap and only eight that count more than $3 million. That will change as they have a number of holes to fill. The Redskins have 23 players that cost at least a million but 17 of which count more than $3 million. A small part of this is due to where the ‘skins have been picking. The higher you draft the more those guys are going to cost throughout their rookie contracts. ODB Jr. has a cap hit of $2.8 million this year while Brandon Scherff counts. $4.8 million toward the cap and both Trent Murphy and Preston Smith are over a million. This year our 2nd round pick will cost just $804K compared to the Giants $1.08M. The gap gets wider throughout the contract.

  8. Mr.moneylover - Mar 7, 2016 at 11:03 AM

    The redskins also cut Jason hatcher and told Darell young the team is going in another direction

    • Mr.moneylover - Mar 7, 2016 at 11:09 AM

      Also Jason hatcher hinted that he still want to play hes not retiring he just getting cut by the team…Darell young not gonna be resign after spending 6 season with the team…redskins really gonna look different next season… Redskins got they eyes on somebody in free agency that’s why they making all these moves

      • lezziemcdykerson - Mar 7, 2016 at 9:13 PM

        I agree. They seem like they’re trying to scrounge up all the lose quarters under the sofa cushion before March 9th so they can get someone. ESPN is reporting Ian Williams as a top free agent possibility but does Scot want to waste the money on aging talent when many mocks have Jarran Reed coming to us at 21? He is a former Niner soI give one leg to hop on. We released 2 safeties so that spot is definitely going to need some work. Scot, at least with the Skins, seems to like to target his old draft players in FA so I’d watch to see what teams some former Niners and Seahawks have dispersed to and cross examine them with who is hitting free agency. I’d like to see our DB situation handle via draft though. We have enough old guys back there.

    • ET - Mar 7, 2016 at 12:49 PM

      I’m sad about Darrel Young. He could have a big impact for the right team.

      I’m a Hatcher fan, but it was time to sharply reduce his role (and salary) or cut him.

      I do like Scot’s decisiveness, though. He’s not sentimental about players. Sometimes harsh, but it’s necessary.

  9. skinsdiehard - Mar 7, 2016 at 11:06 AM

    It’s unreasonable to totally ignore free agency. Teams change about 15- 20 players per year, yet only have about 6 – 8 draft picks on average. So, doing the math, each MUST sign a few free agents. The team can only control how much to spend, but saying that they should boycott free agency is unrealistic. The Skins have about 16 free agents, but maybe 4 players are coming back from injured reserve to replace some of them. They still need to dabble into free agency to sign 3 or 4 players.

    • cmehustle - Mar 7, 2016 at 3:35 PM

      Well, what Scott said was we wont be big players. Which probably means we target a few low cost younger type guys to fill out the roster. Exactly as you said.

  10. pdxskin - Mar 7, 2016 at 11:25 AM

    I would like to see us go after at least one quality DB (CB or S) in free agency, if not one of each. With some of the additional cuts that should be coming this week, that shouldn’t be out of reason – cut Goldson and use the cap savings on a younger/better safety, cut Roberts/Riley/Lauvao/Hatcher/Lichtenshteiger, and you should have enough to at least go out an get a decent Center and ILB (the others can be replaced with draft picks or players already on the roster).

    • lezziemcdykerson - Mar 7, 2016 at 6:54 PM

      I mean it sounds good but can you name a DB in FA that’ll come cheaper than the guys we have and we’ll give us better production? You get what you pay for in FA, if you’re trying to cut cost it’s got to come through the draft. Leave the old guys in place and make them battle it out in camp with the pups. Decent measuring stick to see how far the young guys have to go as well as determining how much the old guys have in the tank. I remember a couple years back Tim Hightower was getting a lot of touches in preseason (and he looked really good, just came off of a decent season as well) then at the end of camp we just cut him, the emergence of Alfred made him expendable. We don’t have to be married to these guys but, Scot wants a veteran presence to shape the locker room. We only have to endure it another year or so, because all the old guys are getting short term deals- if they don’t get cut by then. Our young guys are getting older and becoming leaders which also, besides a decline in production form the veteran players, helps us push the out the door. Patience my friend, it’s hard for me too.

    • lezziemcdykerson - Mar 7, 2016 at 7:25 PM They extended Nacho and cut 2 safeties Johnson and Goldson. We’ll see what happens with the draft, hope they don’t replace an 8M slumlord with a 6M slumlord.

  11. Mr.moneylover - Mar 7, 2016 at 11:28 AM

    Former rams DE Chris long will visit the redskins tomorrow

    • pdxskin - Mar 7, 2016 at 11:35 AM

      Ugh…. visits from aging and injury prone players are not the sort we are hoping to hear about! Hopefully it is just a “kick the tires” meeting to see how cheap he might be, if the need arises.

      • Mr.moneylover - Mar 7, 2016 at 11:51 AM

        I think he’s a upgrade from Jason hatcher…Jason hatcher been injury prone as well since he sign with the redskins….brian orackpo had two season ending injury but I herd last year he played all 16 games…it all depends who is your workout coach is and the redskins got one of the best …will you choose a 31 yr old DE or a 34 year old…now I’m sure they won’t give him a crazy deal probably a one or two year deal….if they sign Chris long they probably feel confident in they strength and condition coach

      • bangkokben - Mar 7, 2016 at 12:01 PM

        He’s likely younger and cheaper than Hatcher, if you’re looking for a silver lining.

    • Tom - Mar 7, 2016 at 11:52 AM

      This outta be interesting, things really starting to shake up.

    • John - Mar 7, 2016 at 7:19 PM

      A tough player and hard worker. Always liked him but smallish for a 3-4 defense. Injuries the last 2 years and being 31 are worrisome.

  12. mrhart76 - Mar 7, 2016 at 3:29 PM

    I see with all of these cuts today the defense is not gonna be all that next year. 2 new starting safeties. A new NT. a new DE. 2 new middle linebackers. Corner help. A fall back to reality is upon us.

    • John - Mar 7, 2016 at 7:15 PM

      The defense was not much to write home about this past season. There were many games where they like the running game were invisible. Time for an infusion of new blood.

  13. utraa - Mar 7, 2016 at 7:12 PM

    Let’s get this over with. To all you Skins fans, next year next year next year. Next year will NEVER get here for you, as long as Snyder is the owner. For all of you that believe so much in Cousins and that Skins organization is so good that is why Cousins broke his neck to sign a contract to stay with the organization, yeah right. All ready it’s like starting all over from scratch, they will be lucky to break even next year, take it to the bank

  14. lezziemcdykerson - Mar 7, 2016 at 7:35 PM

    Demarco Murray to the Titans. Was kind of hoping he’d stay so we’d have those two additional Bye’s on the schedule.

  15. charge1 - Mar 8, 2016 at 9:12 AM

    I use to love winning free agency every year but this is by far the best way. Thank you Scott Archives

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