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Need to Know: Enemy intel—Golden handcuffs for Murray in Philly

Need to Know: Enemy intel—Golden handcuffs for Murray in Philly

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, March 6, three days before the start of NFL free agency.

Enemy Intel: A look around the NFC East and more

Some nuggets from around the NFC East plus another team on the Redskins’ 2016 schedule.

—It looks like DeMarco Murray has a pair of golden handcuffs that will keep him with the Eagles this year. Everyone knew that Murray was not happy during a 2015 season that saw his rushing production drop from by over 50 percent, from 1,845 yards in 2014 to 702 last year. But Howie Roseman, the Eagles’ head of football operations, told PFT that he had not heard from Murray about any discontent. Perhaps that is because there is no realistic path out of Philadelphia for Murray. The Eagles aren’t going to cut him and incur an $18 million cap hit. Philadelphia could handle a trade financially but no team is going to deal for a contract that carries $9 million in guarantees the next two years. So Murray would have to take less money, perhaps a lot less, to leave. The best bet is that he will be there for both Eagles-Redskins games next year.

—After breaking his left collarbone twice during the past season Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo will undergo something called a Mumford procedure to try to keep it from injuring it again. That involves (ouch!) shaving down part of the bone. He will have the procedure this week. The recovery time is 6-8 weeks, which means that Romo will miss the team’s offseason workouts and perhaps even the beginning of OTAs. That’s not a big deal for Romo, who knows his way around the offense pretty well. In fact, with the Cowboys likely to have at least one new backup on the roster and maybe two and Romo’s absence will give them a chance to get more work.

—Here is a prediction. The Giants have almost $60 million in salary cap space, by far the most in the division. They will be in the mix for virtually every big-name free agent on the market and they will sign more than their share of players like Eric Weddle, Olivier Vernon, Malik Jackson, and Danny Trevathian. The various analysts will look at the “improvements” and immediately declare the Giants to be among the favorites to win the NFC East. But they will be mistaking changes for improvements. A Giants beat writer looked at the top 10 free agents signed in each of the last three years. Of those 30 player signings only 12 were successful. So while New York might have some success there is no more reason to think that an influx of free agents will help them any more than similar free agent sprees like the Eagles’ “Dream Team” in 2011 or Redskins teams from many years past proved to be a boon for their win totals.

Alfred Morris said farewell to the Redskins organization and the fans even though it’s not 100 percent that he is leaving. In an Instagram post Morris said, “No matter what happens I will always be apart of #RedskinsNation and a special thanks to all the fans and their abundance of love, support, and loyalty y'all make this game what is #HTTR.” While the door is not closed to him returning to Washington it seems that he would be best served with a change of scenery and a place in an offense that is more suited to what he does well.

—Joe Flacco did a deal that created $6 million in cap space for the Ravens. Now, after his contract extension he wants to help them spend it. “The one thing is I would say we need to get our O-line solidified, see who’s going to be there for sure,” Flacco told PFT Live. He almost certainly has his eyes on guard Kelechi Osemele, who is set to become a free agent on Wednesday. Osemele also played some left tackle in a pinch for the Ravens last year and retaining him is the Ravens’ top offseason priority. Flacco wants him around to ensure that he will be standing when the Redskins play the Ravens this seasons.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 56 days ago. It will be about 189 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL free agency starts 3; Redskins offseason workouts start 43; 2016 NFL draft 53

In case you missed it

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Go home again? Redskins schedule visit with former RB Tim Hightower, per report

Go home again? Redskins schedule visit with former RB Tim Hightower, per report

The Redskins will host Tim Hightower for a visit on Wednesday, ESPN's Mike Triplett reported. Bringing Hightower in at this point represents an impressive story far beyond a mundane free agent visit.  

If his career ended today, Tim Hightower's story would already be remarkable. Hightower - a DMV native that played his college ball at the University of Richmond - played for the Redskins in the 2011 season. That season, he tore his ACL, and was limited to five games.

While torn ACL's happen frequently in the NFL, what happened next for Hightower was anything but ordinary. He missed the next three seasons with an undiagnosed infection, before incredibly returning to the NFL in 2015 with the Saints. 

His last two years in New Orleans, Hightower has been a solid contributor behind starting RB Mark Ingram. He's rushed for more than 900 yards, gained another 330 yards through the air and hit the end zone nine times in 24 games for the Saints. 

In Washington, Hightower would join a backfield of Robert Kelley, Chris Thompson, Mack Brown and Matt Jones. It will be interesting to see if Washington adds any other backs through the draft in April as well. 

Born in Waldorf, Hightower went to high school in Alexandria before playing college ball at Richmond. Playing with the 'Skins in 2011, Hightower quickly became a fan favorite, especially with his local ties. 

The Redskins run game has not been particularly strong for a few seasons, and questions remain if the current stable of runners will be enough to improve. Hightower doesn't necesarily equal a significant talent boost, but perhaps coaches and front office staff are looking at the group.

Be aware, however, this could be nothing more than a visit. Triplett reported it remains possible Hightower returns to the Saints. He also visited the 49ers last week, and new San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan was running the 'Skins offense in 2011 when the team originally acquired Hightower.

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Redskins draft countdown: WR Isaiah Ford could be a mid-round catch

Redskins draft countdown: WR Isaiah Ford could be a mid-round catch

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 36 days away and there is plenty of speculation as to what players the Redskins will select to wear the burgundy and gold. Between now and the draft we’ll look at some of the players who might be of interest to the Redskins and discuss how they might fit in Washington.

Isaiah Ford

Wide receiver
Virginia Tech

Height: 6-1
Weight: 194
40-yard dash: 4.61

Projected draft round: 3-4

What they’re saying

Ford looks the part of a speed merchant with a tight-skinned, athletic frame, including long limbs. He glides off the line of scrimmage, accelerating fluidly to force defenders to respect his ability to go deep and shows very good balance to sink his hips, as well as burst out of his breaks to create separation. Ford shows the initial quickness and lateral agility to avoid defenders in press coverage, occasionally mixing in a hesitation move to get opponents off-balance. He is willing to run across the middle and cut back inside on quick screens, showing the toughness to absorb big hits and still hang on to the ball. Ford was asked to play outside as well as in the slot

Rob Rang, CBS Sports

How he fits the Redskins: The top of the Redskins’ depth chart at wide receiver looks good with Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder and Terrelle Pryor. But depth is a concern, especially with Doctson’s durability a question mark. On top of that, Pryor is there on a one-year contract so there must be some succession planning at the position.

Ford was a very productive receiver at Virginia Tech, the first player in school history to surpass 1,000 yards receiving in a season. He has the knack for making the sensational catch and he isn’t afraid to go across the middle.

At 6-1 he has the height that seems to be the trend on the Redskins’ wide receiver corps lately. Ford could be a good mid-round pick for the team to develop in 2017 and be ready to be a full contributor in 2018.

Film review: vs. Tennessee, vs. Pitt

Ford is not afraid to run slants over the middle and is willing to cut back to the center of the field after catching bubble screens.

His run blocking ranged from unimpressive to bad with the caveat that it’s hard to evaluate on the TV camera angles. This is an area that can be improved with NFL coaching. Adding a few pounds to his 194-lb. frame could help, too. It also sometimes appears that he could use more bulk to help him use his height when fighting for a ball.

The good and the bad of Ford was on display in the span of a few minutes during the Pitt game. He made a spectacular catch on a tipped ball that bounced off of both him and the defensive back (view here) while they were on the ground. Ford had the awareness to scoop the ball off the chest of the defender and secure it to make the catch. A little while later he was in a great position to made a catch for a first down but he bobbled the ball as he was falling out of bounds (view here) and the pass was incomplete.

In the games I reviewed Ford showed a good knack to make back shoulder catches, something the Redskins don’t seem to like to try. But the ability is there if they draft him and want to try it.

Potential issues: Ford looks skinny, almost fragile, at 194 pounds. If he does add weight he needs to do so without losing much speed. He ran a 4.61 in the 40 at the combine. Against college defensive backs he looks fast enough but that will be a different story in the NFL.

Bottom line: The Redskins can’t go into the season with a very green Maurice Harris and a very pedestrian Ryan Grant as their backup wide receivers. They need a player who can provide depth in 2017 and be able to step up to have a legitimate shot at starting in 2018.

There will be several prospects in the third- and fourth- round range who could be the guy. If the Redskins think that Ford can add a few pounds without sacrificing speed and brush up on his run blocking a bit, they could take a serious look at him.

In his own words:

On how the coaching change from Frank Beamer to Justin Fuente helped him:

I think it simplified everything for us. It limited the amount of routes that I ran - slants, outs, fades and posts; my first two years, I was running digs, post curls, comebacks, things like that - that was fine. I'm comfortable doing both. The route-running was never a problem for me because I feel that's what I do best. Being able to play primarily 'X' last year, winning those 50-50 balls and running those routes, it helped me.

Previously in Redskins draft countdown:

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.