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Need to Know: McCloughan, Redskins play 3D chess in free agency

Mar 26, 2016, 5:51 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, March 26, 33 days before the NFL Draft.


—The Redskins last played a game 76 days ago. It will be about 169 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 23; 2016 NFL draft 33; Redskins training camp starts 124

Hot topics

A look at five of the most popular posts of the week here and on

Robert Griffin III signs with new team—It’s much easier to wish Griffin well in Cleveland, an AFC team. The Browns do appear on the Redskins’ schedule this year, a game that will be at FedEx Field. My prediction is that it would make for a good Week 2 Thursday night game. It has to be scheduled fairly early in the season because if the Browns draft a quarterback Griffin may not start for very long.

NFL Mock Draft 6.0: The two-round version—Our Ben Standig has the Redskins going with back-to-back defensive linemen with their top two picks. Considering the extent to which the team has neglected the defensive line in the draft in recent years decades, it would be hard to object too strenuously. However, I do think that the wide receiver position has been equally neglected so that should be some attention in the first two rounds as well.

You don’t know pain until you see Alfred Morris Cowboys jerseys—It was one thing to have Morris leave and join the hated Cowboys. It was another to see No. 46 Dallas Jerseys with Morris’ name on them. It had many fans wishing him well—but not too well.

Saving cap dollars for 2017?—Scot McCloughan doesn’t like to do much in free agency as a rule. But he has been particularly quiet this year, signing just three players from outside of the organization. It appears that the strategy is to save cap money for 2017, when six key players are set to be free agents. It’s indicative of the multi-dimensional game of chess that building a team with a salary cap has become.

Redskins seem confident in Matt Jones as the No. 1 back—At the time this was written, I was reading tea leaves and my take was based on the fact that it looked like Alfred Morris was going to depart and no other back had been brought in as a free agent. Then at the owners meetings, Jay Gruden said that they were going to go with Jones. “We’re taking a bit of a gamble here, but based on our professional opinion, we believe he can handle it and be very, very effective at it, toting the rock,” said Gruden.

Stat of the day

The 2014 Redskins were outscored by 137 points; last year they outscored their opponents by nine points. The year-to-year improvement of 146 net points was the second best in team history.

In case you missed it

  1. colmac69 - Mar 26, 2016 at 7:09 AM

    Bn away so catching up on what’s been happening. the approach so far….no flashy signings …keeping hold of some key guys…….doing things the way the more successful teams do (real GM in charge)

    Wish morris…rgiii and Darryl young gd luck…even tho he signed with dallas how can u not root for morris….quality guy…gd football player….didn’t work out with skins but it’s business at end of day…..with rgiii hopefully we all can move on and get behind cousins…b interesting when browns visit skins especially if rgiii is starting qb…

    Interesting what way they go in draft but looks like some young quality d-line guys…..but so far so gd imo

    • redskinsnameisheretostay - Mar 26, 2016 at 8:28 AM

      “…….doing things the way the more successful teams do (real GM in charge)”

      You mean like Denver used FA recently? No!
      You mean like Seattle used FA recently? No!

      Successful teams build teams in somewhat different ways. There is no true blueprint. While it’s obvious to anyone following the Redskins that the organization has ceased making big expensive gambles in the FA market, it doesn’t mean the teams hasn’t missed on a few golden opportunities.

  2. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Mar 26, 2016 at 7:29 AM

    “I spent more time than I care to admit pondering Reed, Rankins or Billings. ” – Ben Standig

    I think Reed is safer than Billings, but has a lower ceiling as well. You can hope Reed develops some pass rush, but he hasn’t shown it in college (2 sacks in 2 years).

    Most mocks I see these days have Sheldon Rankins going before either of them. He really opened some eyes at the Senior Bowl.

    • redskinsnameisheretostay - Mar 26, 2016 at 9:27 AM

      After the 1st six picks you might as well toss out the mock drafts. These predictions are rarely accurate once the consensus elite of half dozen or so players are off the board.

      I actually like Billings the most in terms of being an potential immediate NFL starter. He could really provide the defense much needed help for 2016. The guy is freakish strong and looks like he’ll be a handful for linemen to block.

    • sidepull - Mar 27, 2016 at 8:23 AM

      Rankins was my number one on the wish list.

  3. redskinsnameisheretostay - Mar 26, 2016 at 9:08 AM

    I understand some of the optimism here by fans about Scot. I to think he is a talented proven GM. However, it doesn’t mean he has succeeded here thus far. While it certainly is a relief to see the organization end their expensive gambling FA ways, it doesn’t mean we haven’t experienced signing failures that has this team left with huge holes and little chance of answering all these major issues at key positions in the draft.

    Last years off season free agents was underwhelming and actually mostly failures for 2015 season:
    Jeron Johnson
    Terrance Knighton
    Chris Culliver
    Stephan Paea
    Tyler Larsen
    Ty Nsekhe
    Dashon Goldson

    Half these free agents above are already gone and only Goldson provided the team any semblance of an upgrade at any position; at safety that’s not saying a whole lot. Paea and RJF could still end up being nice pickups but most likely these guys are role players not perennial starters. Ty Nsekhe may also hang around for awhile as a solid backup at tackle. I’m not even sure what there is to be excited about with Culliver. He was struggling as a starter when healthy and with a knee injury that looks worst than RG3’s, who should really expect him to play 100% on the field next season? Repaired ACL/MCL injuries are not ones where you expect defensive backs to return from within a year or at least don’t expect him to perform at a level the team will be paying this guy in 2016.

    Yes, the GM and coaches rebounded nicely with the pickups of Blackmon and Foster. However does anyone expect either to be a long term solution as starters on this team?

    Overall last year’s fairly aggressive free agents yielded us some solid role players or backups. However, it has provided virtually nothing in terms of filling holes with quality starters.

    Now that this season’s free agency looks rather silent with mostly players coming here to replace much needed special team positions recently lost, Scot will need another home run in the draft. If anyone is capable of back-to-back successful drafts it is he. However, these guys will be rookies and anyone thinking rookies come in to become immediate quality starters don’t know the history of rookie success in the NFL. It’ll be a success to find just one consistent starter out of this coming rookie class for next season. I hope there are more Preston Smith type players coming. Even a GM with an eye for talent will be tested to match the rookie class of 2015 and especially since the team is picking 21st not 5th in this draft.

    • colmac69 - Mar 26, 2016 at 10:09 AM

      Certainly don’t think you can say he has succeeded in just over a yr in charge….but he got things going in right direction with a solid plan to get skins up toward the top end of the tree….his track record involving building seattle and San Francisco into the upper echelons speaks for itself (albeit San fran now in lower tier)…..also he made mistakes with those teams but he got more right than wrong and I think in another couple yrs the redskins will b in top tier of teams….

      First time in yrs we have a gm with the track record to get skins up where,, we as fans,,want them to be (certainly since marty schottenheimer who I believe would have built skins into very gd team if he had got chance after 01 season)

    • hail74 - Mar 26, 2016 at 11:19 AM

      Spot on about Culliver. He almost single handed lay lost the first philly game for us. How much of that was his injury remains to be seen. As far as Scots FA moves so far, your statement that we got some role players is what The plan was all along. You draft your core guys and fill out in FA. He’s only been here one year so couldn’t expect anything major. The other thing about those moves is they’re easy to move on from if they fail, unlike some of the signings made by us in the past or other teams that “win” the offseason. Scot has already said we overachieved last year so not surprised he didn’t splurge on any one player. He’s really just treating FA like he treats the draft if you think about it. Take as many swings as you can and hope to hit some homeruns amongst all the foul tips and singles.

      • Trey Gregory - Mar 27, 2016 at 3:20 AM

        You guys kill me with the Culliver comments. You guys have your opinions, and I respect that, but I think he’s a very good corner. He’s been a good corner in this league for a few years. One bad-ish year in Washington doesn’t erase all of that.

        The fact of the matter is that he was hurt, and it was pretty bad. They were draining his knee at least once I week, I believe it was multiple times a week though. He wasn’t even close to full speed. But he played through it to help the team. Now, if him playing through it actually hurt the team, then the staff should have pulled him. That’s not his fault. But (and this is a fact) he was the team’s #1 corner. He knew that and took on the responsibility even when he was hurt. I respect that.

        It also used to drive me nuts how Barry played him off so much. I think Culliver needs to be able to jam guys at the line, he was successful like that in San Fran. But he still wasn’t bad when playing off.

        The knee injury is concerning though. That’s a legitimate point. I’m just trying to have faith that these NFL orthopedic wizards can get him going like they have so many other players. But the skills were always there. And he has multiple years of good tape to prove it.

        • redskinsnameisheretostay - Mar 27, 2016 at 10:23 AM

          It’s the culmination of the two that has me most concerned. My criticism on him has most to do with what he can provide for the team in 2016. After going back and reading on Culliver I actually underestimated his injuries earlier in the season. Certainly his performance had to be impacted. The toughness and devotion he displayed may be why the coaches will keep him. If he can get to 100% then I does give me more hope he’ll be better player than what he has shown on the field here thus far.

          ” He wasn’t even close to full speed. But he played through it to help the team. Now, if him playing through it actually hurt the team, then the staff should have pulled him. That’s not his fault. But (and this is a fact) he was the team’s #1 corner. He knew that and took on the responsibility even when he was hurt. I respect that.”

          There are too many flavors of RG3 2012 in this above comment. I looked it up and read that he was dealing with “Knee Inflammation” at least before the Philly game. Now, I dislike this description since inflammation indicates a response to some type of injury but there was no report of the actual injury. And low and behold just like RG3, he eventually suffers a far more severe injury to the knee. Anyway, I wasn’t aware the injury was this severe. Playing on a swollen knee at a skill position is like running through a camp fire. Keep doing it and eventually you’ll get burned.

          Just like RG3 in 2012, I really blame the player more than the coaches when risk playing with a lingering injury that results in something far worst. As a player you have to be accountable for your own health. The old adage of everyone knowing the difference between when you are playing with pain and knowing when you are playing with injury is something the player must take into consideration before staying on the field.

          I’m not sure when the perspective that a coach is accountable for a hobbling player’s future injury came into being with fans and media. As long as I can recall, when you are hobbling and have been evaluated, the only recourse the coach has outside of determining if you can perform well enough to play is to ask “can you play on”. This I think applies to RG3 in 2012 and Culliver last season.

          To stress this point, rest RJF’s comment below…
          “Just over previous years hearing about this team and just knowing all the things everybody trashed us about, ‘This person could’ve played, or this person couldn’t play,’ ” Jean Francois said. “Hands down, this dude said he was injured, but he didn’t say he wouldn’t be able to play. That wasn’t an upstairs decision. It wasn’t no GM, no coaches – it was his decision and he wanted to be out there with his teammates that he goes blood, sweat and tears with. That was us he wanted to bang with, and he did just that and helped us get the ‘W.’ ”

        • Trey Gregory - Mar 27, 2016 at 2:24 PM

          @Redskins name: good points as usual. You’re right, ultimately it’s on the player to say he can’t play. RG3 and Culliver only have themselves to blame. But I think that quality is what you want in a player. The game has to matter to them if they’re going to play though that stuff. So what I meant was that the medical staff probably should have recognized the extent of the injury, gave a very strong warning to Gruden, and then he probably should have been pulled. If that happened then the coaches had more information that Culliver just saying he was okay. They need to ask the experts and make a decesions that way. I’m not trying to blame Gruden, I think he’s done a good job, but his bad play with that injury and the subsequent worse injury maybe (MAYBE) could have been avoided. Plus, he obviously wasn’t playing well with the injury. That probably should have been enough for them to pull him.

          I’m not a doctor, nurse, or physicians assistant. But I did spend about 11 years working as an EMT, ER Tech, and Navy Corpsman (field medic) with the Marines. Just to say, I have some clue about this. I’ve seen that injury before. Sometimes knees inflame for no apparent reason. Or a reason that wasn’t caused by one incident. When that happens, the people are miserable. Just imagine fluid building up and building up in a closed space within your knee. The process to drain it is extremely painful. we literally take a huge needle, insert it into the socket and drain. When we’re done: the fluid starts building up all over again and thus more pressure. I’m amazed he could even run. I’m sure these guys get shot up with lidocaine before games (there no way guys play with broken ribs if they can feel it), but that bulky pressure and fluid was still in his knee; making it stiff.

          As a Corpsman, if I told a commanding officer a Marine should be pulled from physical activity because of whatever (usually risk of heat stroke), and they asked the Marine if he was okay, the Marine says yes, the CO let’s him participate, then he has a heat stroke: that CO gets burned. Because he had an “expert” advising him and he went against it. Just something to think about with coaches. Heavy is the head.

          I love Culliver. Think he’s a great football player. Not an elite corner, but right under those guys. His first season was disappointing because of that injury and, I’m going to be really bummed if he doesn’t ever get back to speed. Because we FINALLY had two very solid corners. A full speed Culliver and Breeland are the duo we’ve been wanting for years. I hope it works. As well as Galette/Kerrigan. I’m very optimistic about the D in 2016 if those 4 stay on the field at full speed.

    • Skulb - Mar 26, 2016 at 12:39 PM

      Nsekhe did a good job filling in at tackle whenever Trent was out so I wouldn’t i9nclude him on that list. He can only play when he’s on the field right, and he did well enough when he was.

      • redskinsnameisheretostay - Mar 27, 2016 at 10:28 AM

        Yeah I mention him in the comment as a potential long term backup. The list wasn’t one reflecting all failures. It was one that showed all free agents acquired for 2015 season during the off season.

    • bowlregard - Mar 26, 2016 at 2:34 PM

      Some people are never satisfied. We went from worst to first in his first year. And outside of Culliver none of these free agents cost very much.

      • redskinsnameisheretostay - Mar 27, 2016 at 10:36 AM

        The comment was clearly about results and not who cost what. In today’s game, it’s rare …very rare to build a roster just off the draft. You need some key FA contributors. Now in this team’s case, I was reflecting on starters and the lack of many quality ones in key positions even now. This was a realistic comment on where the rosther is right now and how the GM has his work ahead of him. Maybe you like living off “half truths” so if you think the 1st place achievement in the NFC East was a not primarily a result of a very weak division that was culminated by a fairly weak schedule then I guess you have full expectations of winning the division next season as well, right?

        Give credit where credit is due but at least learn to paint a complete picture of the status of this team without broad brushing it with some “worst to first year”. That’s more politics than truth about the current state of this team.

    • John - Mar 26, 2016 at 8:31 PM

      Peace and Culliver went out due to injuries. Culliver was the best corner in camp, then he sat out for the suspension, then the knee was bothering him, so he sat, then he ended up on IR.

      Baker was a stopgap but not a good one. Its possible he could return at a lower number. RJF is a rotational player.

      A lot of the guys that were brought in were guys to patch temporary holes in season, example: Pierre Thomas, Alex Smith, etc. They could be back but not as long term solutions.

      Scott M is not a free agency GM. Of you want that, then rehire Vinnie. Scott coming out of the Green Bay system is a grow through the draft GM. Bring in players via the draft, then you can grow the players. Free agents are out for the $ and are generally set in their ways. Also the more players drafted gives you a chance at getting that diamond in the ruff. All those years of chasing free agents really set this team back. Just look at how few picks the team has had in the last 16 years.

      • redskinsnameisheretostay - Mar 27, 2016 at 10:51 AM

        “Baker was a stopgap but not a good one.”

        I completely disagree with this position on Baker. I believe Baker could get even better now that he has a year playing the one game DE spot. After all these years he’s being properly utilized. A big man that moves like he can is an ideal one game 3-4 DE.

        Every season you have players to plug in holes. That’s the norm however many of those free agents acquired during the off season where not those type of guys.

        “Scott M is not a free agency GM. Of you want that, then rehire Vinnie.’
        This comment makes no sense whatsoever. First, Scot is a great at evaluating talent. It doesn’t matter if it is from the draft or FA. You have to find players that can play and fit the needs as a contributor to the team. You’re assuming that there are two different skill sets where there isn’t. The only difference between a rookie and a current player in FA is if their character. You actually know far more about the FA than rookie in this case. You also assume that Scot can only build a roster from the draft. No team relies completely on the draft for building a roster. It’s the biggest and best way but it needs to be complimented by acquiring good free agents.

        I’m well aware of the history of free agency in the NFL. They’ll always be failures but there are many successes like at Seattle and Denver. Just because the team has had poor choices in free agents in the past is not a sound declaration for ignoring it all together.

      • Trey Gregory - Mar 27, 2016 at 2:39 PM

        @John: It could have just been the way you worded it. But, to me, it sounded like you said Culliver ended up on IR because of knee inflimation and not an ACL/MCL tear. A very serious injury. I think he was a great FA pickup, but I just wanted to clarify that.

        But I think you’re completely off on Baker. He played lights out. They found his ideal position and he had the best season of his career. Without looking at the actual number, I’ll bet he had the best season of all Washington DEs. He was in the top half of the league for sure.

        I’ve been very outspoken about how I feel about FA. The way Miami, and to a lesser extent the Giants, are doing it doesn’t sit well with me. But you have to take some guys. And sometimes you have to risk taking guys who cost a little more. It’s about identifying the right guy for the right situation. Not just about his play but also how he fits into the locker room, leadership, and if the money makes sense for the developmental stage of the team.

        Example: signing Mike Wallace for insane money to a team that isn’t even close to competing: stupid. He’s not a leader and they needed a lot more. Signing Aquib Talib to a big, but not crazy, deal in order to add leadership, fire, physicality, and great play to a team ready for a Super Bowl run: brilliant. Each situation is different. You have to look at them seperately to know the whole story. Even if you do everything right, it doesn’t always work out. I loved our FA signings last year. Some worked better than others: just like draft picks. It happens.

        • John - Mar 27, 2016 at 3:42 PM

          I was pointing out that Culliver was our beat corner coming out of camp, then sat out the suspension, then his knee was bothering him (probably had to do with being beaten bad in 1st Eagles game), then had the bad season ending injury. Kind of hard to call him a bust, when we really never saw him at his best. Some are quick to want to roll him out of here without getting a good look at him.

        • John - Mar 27, 2016 at 3:51 PM

          Regarding stopgaps I was thinking Pot Roast, not Baker.

          I’m OK with signing free agents to fill gaps or for depth or to get to the top of the mountain but the way the Skins made them the centerpiece for 16 seasons. It all started with the 2000 team with Dieon, Bruce Smith, Carrier, George etc. What a disaster.

    • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Mar 26, 2016 at 9:21 PM

      Terrance Knighton let Chris Swaggy Baker play LDE instead of NT, which was better.

      And Pot Roast got better in the 2nd half of the season, once he’d played himself into shape.

      The team was disappointed that he didn’t make any of his weight incentives (weight LOSS incentives), and for his age and salary, looks to turn the page.

      But he was better than our situation with Swaggy being the NT.

    • goskins44 - Mar 27, 2016 at 3:57 PM

      @ redskinsname… I am not sure I agree you “have” to have a few good FAs to win (see GB), but let’s just assume you are right.

      The only time overpaying in Free Agency (and you always over pay for the top guys, that is a fact) that is when you are close, just needing a few players to get over the top. We are not anywhere near close. We still have too many huge holes, FS and SS, Dline, OG, C, CB, TE, RB, WR all need attention, especially depth. The approach to FAs right now has to be to fill major holes with young, inexpensive guys with potential and team friendly contracts. All the guys signed last pretty much fit that mold.

      I am not going through every other signing, except Culliver who was really hurt since week 3 but A) He wanted desperately to help his team and B) even 70% of Culliver was better than any other option we had to replace him. That kind of effort can galvanize a team. All others either made at least some contribution or are gone or in some cases both! That’s the exact purpose of FAs at this time.

      For this year, we need money for next year to sign our own players. We have several players that will deserve big contracts next year and we will need the cap space. Therefore the very quite FA signings.

      I am very glad we are taking this approach. While many fans do not have the patience to wait this process out, they will ultimately be happy when we are consistently good, not just one yr and done wonders. Maybe in 2 yrs we will be ready to overspend on a guy or two to put us over the top. But right now we need to lay off and stay the course.

  4. Mr.moneylover - Mar 26, 2016 at 10:18 AM

    Our D-line coach can help those guys with hand placement …scot m. Gonna pick the best player on his boad when we pick regardless of need it might be a CB,or WR…last year Brandon scherff was to good to pass over and on top of that we needed O-line help… they can get a DL in the second round if they choose to go CB…

  5. Mr.moneylover - Mar 26, 2016 at 10:20 AM

    Draft day is gonna be so fun…like scot m. Said game tape don’t lie highlights and the combine do

  6. kenlinkins - Mar 26, 2016 at 2:09 PM

    Rich: Due to the RG3 trade deal in 2012 the Redskins will not have a first round pick to resign in 2016, 2017 and 2018. With Cousin’s tag replacing RG3’s Cap hit for 2016, that leaves 2017 and 2018 without a first round pick to resign. The Redskins only have 3 guys with 5 digit cost (Williams, Cousins, Garson) for 2016 and three more making over $5 million (Kerriagn, Jackson, and Culliver). Some think that Garson, Jackson and or Culliver will be asked to take a pay cut in 2016. ONE: How much does not having 1st round picks to resign help the Redskins with the Cap moving forward TWO: Will it be harder for the GM to ask guys like Culliver, Jackson and or Garson to take a pay cut seeing how most players get asked to do this in order to help the team get under the Cap (or is a older vet is playing out his contract and it is clear he is not worth the amount his contract calls for and wants to avoid being a free agent )? IYO will the Redskins GM go after every dollar he feels is not a value and has a Cap savings involved?

    • Rich Tandler - Mar 26, 2016 at 5:56 PM

      First part, not sure if that makes a big difference. In fact, with the option it’s easier to hold on to a first-round pick for a fifth year, especially if he’s taken outside of the top 10 (lower option amount).

      Second part, plenty of teams ask players to take pay cuts even though they are well under the cap. The player can decide to take it or take his chances on the open market.

      In Culliver’s case, I don’t think it would be hard to ask at all. No idea if he’ll accept or decline. Jackson and Garcon are not going to be asked to take pay cuts, from what I have heard, so there’s no point in going into that hypothetical.

      • Richard Price - Mar 26, 2016 at 8:08 PM

        Rich, in your opinion who would Scot take at 21 if Kelly, Billings and Raglan were all available?

        • Rich Tandler - Mar 27, 2016 at 5:22 AM

          I answered that when you asked it a couple of days ago.

          And I’m more than happy to answer questions in here in the comments but Twitter and Facebook are much better ways to ensure that I see the question and that you see the answer.

      • kenlinkins - Mar 26, 2016 at 10:06 PM

        I forgot all about the 5th year option ( so your point is well taken). If RG3 would have worked out more like A. Luck, $16 million would look like a great deal for the team for one year if they were up against the Cap. It would seem that Cousins is in a rare position by getting tagged at almost $20 million for one year vs. a Top 10 first round pick. I guess the owners didn’t see that coming. Anyone want to bet that the next CBA has a way for teams to move the 5th year option to anyone (or maybe two players) in a draft year as a way to protect against a BUST of a high round pick? Also, If I were Garcon or Jackson I wouldn’t change my deal either and call the GM’s bluff but Culliver is another story and might want to deal once he is cleared to play. I do wonder if anyone in his position has ever dragged out the rehab to keep a better deal in place for longer. RICH: when you get time, could you explain more about injury and how it effects contracts / money? (i.e. process, protection for team and player, injury settlements etc) Thanks again. Your web site gives more information / insight than any other I have read. While I don’t always agree, I do always know your thoughts are your own and leaves room for fun debate. Great Job…

    • John - Mar 26, 2016 at 8:16 PM

      Garcon has made it pretty clear that he’s not taking less. He has said its a business and the money will be somewhere if not here. Restructuring Jackson may be possible with a lower base but adding more years.

      • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Mar 26, 2016 at 8:34 PM

        I don’t think that’s a good idea, either. No point pushing soon-to-be 31-year-old WR cap hits further down the road.

        They’re both playing for us this year, at least one needs to be replaced by a younger WR in 2017.
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