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Five things you need to know about NFL free agency

Five things you need to know about NFL free agency

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, March 11, the day NFL free agency starts.

Nickel coverage

Here are five things to watch for today as the free agent frenzy gets underway at 4 p.m. Eastern time.

1. “Interest” does not equal a “contract”—We have been hearing of Redskins “interest” in a lot of players and we will continue to hear about it. That doesn’t mean that the Redskins want to sign all of those players or even any of them. Sometimes agents will play up even minor interest in their clients to make it seems like the player is in high demand.

2. Expect to hear a lot about players being overpaid—The salary cap increased by $10 million, about $6 million more than the teams expected. Teams can’t sit on cap money like they used to as they have to spend 89 percent of their available money over a four-year period per the CBA. Oh, and the cap will continue to grow and players signing this year are going to want a piece of that, too. In short, a lot of players are going to make a lot of money and, in the opinions of many analysts, they will be making too much.

3. Wait for the contract numbers—When you first hear that Player A has signed with the Redskins for X dollars over Y years, take a deep breath before going on an “overpaid” rant. Wait about 24 hours or so until the details of the deal come through. Chris Baker’s deal shrunk dramatically from the original report of 3 years/$12 million when it was revealed that a million bucks a year of that was incentives he probably won’t make.

4. Highest priorities don’t get filled first—If the Redskins’ first signing is of, say, a backup outside linebacker, don’t go screaming that they have no inside linebackers or where is the safety help. Deals don’t necessarily get done in order of need they get done in the order that the negotiations are finalized. The are working multiple fronts at once.

5. It’s not over after a couple of days, or even a month—Don’t get all bent out of shape if there is still a hole or two at the end of the week. Players will continue to sign deals for the rest of the month. Teams will take a break to see what they get in the draft and then there will be a few more singings after that. And then after they see what they have during OTAs and minicamps another small wave of signings will take place. Finally, as teams look around when training camp is starting they might look for a few players who have lowered their asking prices considerably.

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Timeline

—It’s been 72 days since the Redskins played a game; it will be about 180 days until they play another one.

—Days until: Offseason workouts start 27; NFL Draft 58

In case you missed it

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Robert Kelley, Su'a Cravens, Colt McCoy among Redskins who'll have new numbers in 2017

Robert Kelley, Su'a Cravens, Colt McCoy among Redskins who'll have new numbers in 2017

The next time Robert Kelley plows over a helpless linebacker, he'll do it with a new number on his uniform.

The second-year running back is switching from No. 32 to No. 20, according to Redskins.com. And he's not the only returning player who'll take the field in 2017 with a new pair of digits.

Su'a Cravens will no longer be No. 36 for Washington. Instead, he'll change to No. 30. DJ Swearinger will be taking over No. 36 after coming over from the Cardinals, a number that he reportedly purchased from Cravens for $75,000

Then there's Colt McCoy. McCoy has donned No. 16 for the past three seasons, but he's throwing it back to his college days and will now rock No. 12.

MORE REDSKINS: THE ULTIMATE REDSKINS DRAFT PREVIEW

Finally, second-year corner Kendall Fuller only spent one year with No. 38. As he hopes to improve in his sophomore campaign, he'll be doing so with No. 29.

As for the free agents, Terrelle Pryor will be replacing DeSean Jackson in more ways than one when kickoff rolls around. Not only will the ex-Brown have to shine as a top receiver for Kirk Cousins like Jackson did, but he'll also be sporting Jackson's No. 11.

New linebacker Zach Brown, meanwhile, is now No. 56, linemen Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain are Nos. 92 and 97 respectively and Brian Quick will keep No. 83 from his Rams days.

For a complete list of all the changes, click here.

RELATED: IS REUBEN FOSTER WORTH THE RISK?

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How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

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USA TODAY Sports Images

How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

Do the Redskins have a draft need at running back? It depends on who you ask.

Jay Gruden seems to be very happy with incumbent running back Rob Kelley. Here is what he had to say last month about the second-year back, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Tulane, last month:

“Oh, man, I love Rob Kelley,” Gruden said. “I thought he played great. You throw a rookie free agent into the fire like that and see him play and compete. Not one time did I feel like it was too big for him. Not once. That’s a hell of a thing to say for a kid out of Tulane who only had a couple of carries his senior year. He came right in, he competes on every play.”

[Related: Full Redskins Seven-Round Mock Draft]

Kelley played in 15 games last year and rushed for 704 yards and scored six touchdowns. He started the last nine games and if you project his numbers in this games out over a 16-game season you get about 1,050 yards and 11 touchdowns. That’s not Ezekiel Elliott or Le’Veon Bell production but it’s good for a team that is going to rely mostly on the pass.

Gruden also praised third-down back Chris Thompson and backup Mack Brown. In a telling sign, he acknowledged that 2015 third-round pick Matt Jones is still on the roster but he didn’t have much good to say about him.

Why, then, do you see so many draft analysts listing running back as one of the team’s most urgent needs? Mark Maske, who is the Post’s national NFL writer but also a former Redskins beat reporter, has them taking Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey in his mock draft. “There certainly are issues on defense for the Redskins,” writes Maske. But there also is a need at running back.”

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com said that the Redskins “obviously” need a running back as his rationale for mocking Florida State’s Dalvin Cook to Washington at No. 17.

So, what is it? Is Kelley adequate for the Redskins’ needs considering they call pass plays on over 60 percent of their offensive snaps? Would they run more often if they had a back like McCaffrey or Cook? And if they did run more would the offense improve?

I think that running back is like several positions with the Redskins. If they have to get through the 2016 season with what they have they will be OK. But if there is an upgrade on the board when they are on the clock they won’t hesitate to make the pick if he’s the best player available.

We will see what happens if, say, McCaffrey is still on the board when the Redskins pick at No. 17 and top defensive targets like Rueben Foster and Haason Reddick are off the board. That will be the true test to see how committed Gruden and the rest of the organization are to Kelley, Thompson, and company. 

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