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Need to Know: Are the Redskins done in free agency?

Need to Know: Are the Redskins done in free agency?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, March 14, 45 days before the NFL Draft.

Are the Redskins done in free agency?

—Will the Redskins sign any more free agents this week? Or do they intend to go into the draft with what they have? I don’t think that they are done. In fact, I heard that there may be a signing this week, although I can’t confirm. But I see Scot McCloughan and the Redskins doing a near imitation of Ted Thompson and the Packers and staying away from free agent activity for the most part.

—Yes, there are still some needs. I can’t see them starting the season with DeAngelo Hall, Duke Ihenacho, and Kyshoen Jarrett at safety. If the whole draft is a crap shoot then landing a quality safety who can contribute right away is a Mega Millions kind of shot. They cashed that ticket with Jarrett last year and they can’t count on getting another one. They could benefit from upgrade at center. Another defensive line pickup is a possibility.

—McCloughan may wait a couple of months if he wants to do some free agent bargain hunting. Starting in mid May, players signed as free agents do not count against the compensatory picks the team can acquire in 2017. It doesn’t look like they are in line for a treasure trove of picks anyway as none of the free agents the Redskins lose will command a high draft pick. But if they lose a few and can massage it so that they can maybe pick up a fifth and a seventh, hey, those are a couple of picks that McCloughan can find players with.

—If you think that May is too late for the Redskins to find a quality free agent, just think back to last year. Two of their best free agent signings last year didn’t come until September. The defense was shaky as it was but it would have been worse without Will Blackmon and Mason Foster. They helped the Redskins survive the rash of injuries that hit at linebacker and cornerback. Foster will be back and while there apparently is competition for Blackmon’s services the chances of him returning look pretty good.

—I am going to expand on this in an article sometime in the next couple of weeks but I think that the Redskins defensive is not going to be a whole lot better this year than it was last year. They are going to have to win games with Cousins throwing the Jackson, Garçon, and Reed and, they hope, with a better rushing attack. They will draft a couple of defensive linemen and a couple of defensive backs and go through some growing pains. The unit will be competitive and improve as the year goes on but there will be plenty of growing pains.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 64 days ago. It will be about 181 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 35; 2016 NFL draft 45; Redskins training camp starts 136

In case you missed it

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A Redskin fan's guide to the NFL Draft Combine

A Redskin fan's guide to the NFL Draft Combine

This week in Indianapolis the NFL world will converge at the Scouting Combine to watch college football players work out, sprint and lift weights in anticipation of the upcoming draft. For the Redskins front office, this draft needs to be a win.

The 2016 Draft could still yield strong results for Washington, but overall the class did not play particularly well as rookies. This year, Scot McCloughan has nine picks at his disposal, with the extra picks late in the draft in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds.

It's no secret that the 'Skins need help along the defensive line, a lot of help. That should be a major area of focus for the Redskins scouts and coaches, and that will make next Sunday arguably the most important of the week in Indianapolis. 

The combine divides players into 11 position groups, but Groups 7, 8 and 9 will matter most. Groups 7 and 8 represent defensive linemen and 9 are the linebackers. That group officially arrives on Thursday but won't work out on the field until Sunday. The days in between include interviews, psychological testing and the bench press.

Obviously the Redskins won't spend all nine picks on only defensive linemen. The team will likely invest in the offensive line as well, and that group will arrive earlier in the week and work out on Friday. Cornerbacks and safeties are the last to work out on Monday, March 6. 

With the likely departure of at least one of DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garçon, and the possible departure of both, it would make sense for the 'Skins to bring in another receiver via the draft. They work out on Saturday, and should the Redskins decide to take a quarterback in the draft, the passers will work out that day too. 

Running back could be another spot the 'Skins invest. Jay Gruden said that Robert Kelley is locked into the RB1 role, but still the team might want increased competition at the position. The backs will work out Friday.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Why won’t Redskins brass talk to the media at the NFL Combine?

Why won’t Redskins brass talk to the media at the NFL Combine?

The NFL has released the official schedule of when NFL coaches and executives will take the podium and address the media at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. You can find it right here but I’ll save you a click—nobody from the Redskins is scheduled to talk.

NFL teams are not required to have a representative speak at the combine but most do. This year only the Saints and Patriots are joining the Redskins in avoiding the media.

Bill Belichick never talks at the combine and I believe that the Saints have bypassed the opportunity to do so in the past. However, the Redskins head coach traditionally has gone to the podium in the past. Joe Gibbs spoke when he was in his second stint as the head coach. Mike Shanahan, as tight lipped as anyone, met with the press in Indy each of his four years as head coach. Jay Gruden has spoken during each of the three years that he has been head coach.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 3.0

And last year Scot McCloughan held a small media gaggle with local reporters in his hotel in Indianapolis.

This year the Redskins are going somewhat dark. McCloughan did not speak to reporters at the Senior Bowl (Gruden held a brief availability in Mobile), a departure from his first two years with the team. And now no Redskins representatives at the combine.

One of the problems with changing what has been a longstanding practice and going into radio silence is that it leaves people speculating. If the team doesn’t want to put any information out there that is the organization’s option. But if you choose not to fill in the blanks, the fans and media will.

So why aren’t they talking? The best bet is that they are in a delicate stage when it comes to dealing with the future of quarterback Kirk Cousins. He is a pending free agent who is likely to be hit with the franchise tag on Wednesday, the day before the combine starts. At that point, the clock will be ticking on Cousins either signing a long-term contract or getting traded to a team that is willing to meet his asking price. It’s my guess that Jay Gruden does not want to face questions about Cousins’ future.

More Redskins: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice for his own good?

Gruden is not a very good liar; his poker face needs a lot of work. Perhaps that is a good quality for a human being but not a very good attribute for someone who would need to go out and talk about Cousins as the long-term quarterback for the team, or at least the QB for the coming season, when his status may be very much in doubt.

This is not to say that there is definitely going to be a trade of Cousins worked out at the combine. But it is very possible that a deal will be discussed with Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers and any number of other quarterback-needy teams. And perhaps there is concern that Gruden will let something slip or, more likely, say a lot on the subject of Cousins by not saying anything.

Again, this is just reading the tea leaves on my part. But by going silent the Redskins are sending an invitation for people to fill in the blanks. I am just taking them up on it.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.