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Need to Know: Five free agents the Redskins will not sign

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Need to Know: Five free agents the Redskins will not sign

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, February 2, 22 days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Five free agents the Redskins will not sign

C Alex Mack, Browns—You won’t find him on free agent lists but he can void his current contract and become a free agent. Mack is due $8 million in salary this year and if he does opt out he will expect to get at least that much. He would be an upgrade in the middle but I don’t see the Redskins paying that much at center.

WR Alshon Jefferey, Bears—He’s what the Redskins are looking for, a 6-4 wide receiver who can go up and get the ball in traffic. But the Bears are unlikely to let him go a year after letting Brandon Marshall walk away to the Jets. They almost certainly give him the franchise tag if they can’t make a deal by the deadline.

S Eric Weddle, Chargers—The two-time All-Pro won’t expect the same $8 million average he got in his last deal but he’ll want something pretty close. Any safety acquisitions the Redskins make need to be of the younger, up and coming variety. Weddle still has some left in the tank but at age 31 he is on the downhill side and just more of the same of what the Redskins have had at safety in recent seasons.

RB Chris Ivory, Jets—I think most realize that Scot McCloughan isn’t going to chase after the likes of Matt Forte and Doug Martin or other higher priced options at running back. But even the 28-year-old Ivory, who gained 1,070 yards last year and still is one or two tiers below the top, probably is not on the Redskins’ radar. I think they would re-sign Pierre Thomas before they paid the $4 million per year or so necessary to land a back like Ivory.

NT B. J. Raji, Packers—He could be a viable alternative to Terrance Knighton if the Redskins decide to let Pot Roast walk. But while the Packers don’t spend any money on outside free agents they always have cap space to pay their own and it doesn’t seem that they are inclined to let Raji walk.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 23 days ago. It will be about 222 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 23; NFL free agency starts 37; 2016 NFL draft 87

In case you missed it

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

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.”

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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When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

A four-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champ, Aqib Talib has a long and checkered past, which includes multiple arrests and failed PED and drug tests. The problems aren't new either, the talented cornerback was first arrested as a high school student. In college at Kansas, Talib was suspended multiple times and had multiple positive tests for marijuana use. 

Why does this matter for Redskins fans on the eve of the NFL Draft?

Despite all the trouble, Bruce Allen drafted Talib 20th overall in 2008 when the current Redskins general manager was in the same role for Tampa. While Talib's legal troubles and suspensions continued in the NFL, he also proved to be a highly capable cornerback in the pro game. 

The lesson for those trying to determine the Redskins draft board: Allen might be willing to look past red flags if a player presents good value. Talib did in 2008, and there could be opportunities for Washington in 2017.

Reuben Foster jumps to mind, as the talented Alabama linebacker will enter the league in the substance abuse program. While Foster's issues pale in comparison to other allegations about some draft prospects, players like Joe Mixon, Gareon Conley and Caleb Brantley will also present unique circumstances for NFL teams to evaluate. 

GMs are thrust into the unenviable task of determining a player's character, often in short periods of time. As 'Skins director of college scouting Scott Campbell explained, the team grades every player for their football skills first, and only later adds in character information. From Campbell's comments:

When you start to evaluate guys in the beginning, you don’t factor in the character. You don’t grade character, you grade talent. So you don’t throw away somebody early that may have some redeeming quality, or there’s a side to the story you don’t know about. You grade football players as football players first on talent, and then when it comes closer to the draft, you start weeding all that, getting more information, deciding, ‘OK, this guy’s not our kind of guy, this guy’s not a Redskin, this guy could be drafted, but good luck to him.

Thursday night the Redskins will be forced to make a determination on the right player for the team. That decision could include judging a player's character, and that could mean balancing legal or substance abuse troubles with talent and ability.

Talib is only one pick in Allen's long personnel career, but it's one worth noting. 

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