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Need to Know: How much will Redskins' McCloughan dip into free agency in 2016?

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Need to Know: How much will Redskins' McCloughan dip into free agency in 2016?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, January 20, 35 days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Question of the day

We’re flipping into offseason mode with Need to Know. At least a few days a week I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

Today’s question comes from Twitter

This should be an easy question to answer since McCloughan constantly preaches building through the draft. But last spring he signed five free agents to contracts that totaled $69 million and then shortly after the start of training camp he signed pass rusher Junior Galette. It was not a spree that reminded anyone of the Vinny Cerrato days but the bottom line was over 20 percent of the roster and about a third of the starters were veteran free agents who had joined the team in the last two seasons. That’s not really building through the draft.

Why did McCloughan do that? It’s likely that the believed that the Redskins needed some help in a hurry. All of the signees played defense. Three were on the defensive line, a particular weak spot. Chris Culliver was brought on the shore up the cornerback position and Jeron Johnson was brought after both 2014 starters at safety, Ryan Clark and Brandon Meriweather, were no re-signed.

If you have an immediate need it is unwise to try to fill it in the draft unless you have a very high pick and you have be very confident that a particular player will be there. Players picked in the second round can’t be relied on to start right away (19 of the 32 second-round picks last year did not start as many as half of their games). And after the second, it’s a crap shoot; if you find a rookie starter in the draft on Saturday you were just plain lucky.

So the question is, where do the Redskins have immediate needs? Certainly they have to upgrade in many areas. But where do they not have a starting caliber NFL player anywhere on the depth chart? That’s not an easy question to answer.

For example, the interior of the offensive line needs to play better but the organization may or may not believe that a veteran free agent should be part of the solution. Do they think that Shawn Lauvao will be back and healthy in time for training camp? Can Arie Kouandjio be plugged in to the left guard spot if there’s no confidence in Lauvao’s recovery? Can Spencer Long move to center? Or do they think that Kory Lichtensteiger can hold down the fort there while a draft pick gets ready?

Such multilayer questions exist at almost every position on the field and the staff is still sorting them out. It’s logical to assume that they answers to some of them will have to be found in free agency. I wouldn’t be surprised if McCloughan brought in four or five free agents, all of them fairly young and relatively cheap, similar to what he did last year. The Redskins have eight draft choices (two seventh rounders) and I anticipate McCloughan moving back to pick up more.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 10 days ago. It will be about 235 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 35; NFL free agency starts 50; 2016 NFL draft 99

In case you missed it

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Redskins interviewed Greg Manusky for defensive coordinator

Redskins interviewed Greg Manusky for defensive coordinator

The Redskins interviewed current outside linebackers coach Greg Manusky for their defensive coordinator opening, the team announced yesterday.  

Manusky has a long history with the Redskins organization. He served as outside linebackers coach this past season, and was also linebackers coach back in the 2001 season. In his playing days, Manusky was a Redskins linebacker from 1988 to 1990. 

He has held three separate defensive coordinator positions in his coaching career, including with the San Francisco 49ers (2007-2010), San Diego Chargers (2011) and Indianapolis Colts (2012-2015).

For more on his defensive philosophy and background, check out Rich Tandler's profile of Manusky

The Redskins have confirmed four interviews for the defensive coordinator position: Manusky, Rob Ryan, Gus Bradley and Mike Pettine

MORE REDSKINS: Projecting the Redskins' 2017 roster—Defense

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Projecting the Redskins' 2017 roster—Defense

Projecting the Redskins' 2017 roster—Defense

The Redskins are looking at potential free agents and continuing with the draft process as they try to move team from residing in the middle of the pack in the NFL to becoming annual contenders to go deep into the playoffs. The process is all about trying to build a solid 53-man depth chart. Let’s get out the crystal ball and see what that depth chart might look like.

Earlier this week we looked at the offense; today the defense is up. Although there could be a change to a 4-3 base defense in the making depending on who the coordinator is, we’ll line them up in a 3-4 until there is word to the contrary.

*Pending unrestricted free agent

Defensive line

Starters: Chris Baker*, draft pick/free agent X 2
Backups: Matt Ioannidis, Ricky Jean Francois, Anthony Lanier

It seems that Baker wants to stay and give that the Redskins would be starting their D-line virtually from scratch without him the chances of coming up with a deal seem strong. I will spend the entire 99 days between now and the draft saying that it’s not a given that they will take a defensive lineman, or any defensive player, with their top draft pick. But someone like Malik McDowell of Michigan State sure would fit in well here along with a free agent like Bennie Logan of the Eagles. The organization will be looking for leaps forward from Ioannidis and Lanier.

Related: Redskins defensive coordinator resume: Jason Tarver

Outside linebacker

Starters: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith
Backups: Junior Galette, Trent Murphy, Lynden Trail

Although nothing is certain until pen is put to paper, the chances of Galette giving it another go after two torn Achilles in two years are strong. Trail and Houston Bates will battle for a fifth spot, if there is one. Given Smith’s inconsistency and the uncertainty of Galette’s health it wouldn’t be surprising to see them draft an edge rusher.

Inside linebacker

Starters: Will Compton, free agent
Backups: Martrell Spaight, Mason Foster, draft pick

I’m putting Compton there in dry erase marker, not in Sharpie. They love his leadership and work ethic but he must make more plays. I have a free agent starting beside him because it’s a tough position for a rookie to learn. But if they spend a high draft pick that player could jump into a starting job quickly.  Foster moves into the nickel role that he performed well after Su’a Cravens went out with an injury. Steven Daniels, a 2016 seventh-round pick who spent the year on injured reserve, could push Spaight for a job.

Cornerback

Starters: Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar
Backups: Kendall Fuller (nickel), Tharold Simon, free agent/draft pick

This could go in a lot of different directions. The only spot set in stone is Norman’s. I have Bashaud Breeland moving to safety, which is something of a speculative hot take. If they make that move, they could spend a high draft pick or substantial free agent money on a corner or they could stay in-house with Dunbar or Fuller. Simon could make the team and contribute or he could be cut.

More Redskins: An early look at first-round draft possibilities

Safety

Starters: Su’a Cravens, Bashaud Breeland
Backups: Will Blackmon, Deshazor Everett, draft pick

Safeties are hard to find. In college, potentially good safeties gravitate towards cornerback, where the NFL money is better. If a good one hits the free agent market, the laws of supply and demand push the price up beyond the value of the position. For those reasons, the Redskins might try Breeland at safety. Some in the organization have believed for a couple of years that safety is his best position. Cravens announced that he would be moving to safety so that change is firm. Duke Ihenacho, who is a free agent, could be back but I think he moves along. Blackmon is a good veteran reserve who can play nickel also. Even though he made a key interception when forced into duty against the Eagles, it still seems that they don’t trust Everett at safety and perhaps a mid-round pick will replace him.

Specialists: LS Nick Sundberg*, P Tress Way, PK Dustin Hopkins

I predict that Sundberg will be the first of the team’s pending free agents to agree to a contract. Hopkins may get some camp competition but it is unlikely to be of more than the token variety.

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