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Need to Know: How will Redskins' GM McCloughan handle free agency?

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Need to Know: How will Redskins' GM McCloughan handle free agency?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, February 3, 15 days before the Washington Redskins and the rest of the NFL assemble in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine.

Question of the day

We’re changing up the format of Need to Know for the offseason. Every day 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 is from Twitter:

https://twitter.com/Redskinsmeme/status/562349107088355328

Let’s approach this question from two angles. First, let’s look at what Scot McCloughan said.

“I honestly think the draft is the lifeline of your organization, but also you’ve got to understand with free agency that’s a tool that you can use and you can use it in a positive manner,” he said at his introductory press conference. “You know, you start dabbling too much in free agency sometimes, you’re getting older guys; you’re getting medical history . . . “

“See, in Washington, we’re going to draft these guys and we are going to draft them and mold them as Redskins. We’re not going to have to go out to other organizations and bring in 32 and 33 year olds who have different plans. I think the best-case scenario is you draft and mold your own and re-sign your own. But free agency is still there to be used to make your roster stronger too. You can’t lose sight of that.”

He specifically mentioned Ron Wolf, who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, and Ted Thompson, his mentors when he was a scout with the Packers. They are purists when it comes to free agency, rarely bringing in talent from outside of the oranization. It doesn’t sound like McCloughan plans to have a roster almost completely stocked with home-grown talent like the Packers do but his vision is to have a team that is built mostly through the draft.

But you should watch what he does and not what he says. In order to get an idea of what he might do, let’s take a look back at 2005, when he took over personnel decisions for the 49ers as their vice president of player personnel. San Francisco had gone 2-14 the previous year so it obviously was a roster that was in just as bad a shape as is the current Redskins’ roster.

McCloughan, however, did not go on a spending spree to pump up the Niners’ roster. He brought in two free agents who found their way into the starting lineup. Johnny Morton, a 35-year-old receiver, was signed away from the Loins and defensive end Marques Douglas, 28, came from the Ravens. Neither was a big splash signing. That was it. All of the other starters were either holdovers or McCloughan draft picks from 2005.

One other note here: McCloughan had come to the 49ers from the Seahawks and, as noted, started with the Packers. He did not sign any players who had been with his previous employers. So those of you trying to connect the dots and bring Frank Gore or Vernon Davis to Washington should think twice.

Putting what McCloughan said and what he has done together it looks like the Redskins will not be big players in the free agent market but they won’t be sitting on the sidelines either. Look for them to plug a few holes with some younger players who won’t break the bank or perhaps with an older player on a one-year deal.

Free agency starts five weeks from today so we will see what he does starting then.

Timeline

—It’s been 37 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 222 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL free agency starts 35; Redskins offseason workouts start 76; 2015 NFL Draft 87

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Redskins outside linebacker Trent Murphy underwent surgery this offseason to repair a broken bone in his foot, per a source with knowledge of the situation. Murphy has completely healed and is a full participant at training camp. 

The injury came late in the 2016 season and he played the Redskins final game of the season with the broken foot. He was listed on the injury report for that game as limited with a foot injury. He was not listed on the Week 16 injury report against the Bears.

Hit with a four-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs this offseason, Murphy won't suit up for the Redskins until Week 6. He will be forced to miss the first four games, and then the Redskins have a bye in Week 5. 

Murphy had a breakout season in 2016, finishing the year with nine sacks and 47 tackles. A second round pick in 2014, Murphy had a combined six sacks in the two seasons prior. Last offseason, Murphy was tasked with gaining weight for a position switch to defensive end. After he gained the weight, outside linebacker Junior Galette was lost for the season, and Murphy was moved back to outside linebacker. 

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Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

RICHMOND—The Redskins offense is dealing with some challenges on the field. Their top two wide receivers from last year left as free agents and replacements Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson have little game experience with quarterback Kirk Cousins. Tight end Jordan Reed (toe) was a surprise entry on the PUP list. Running back Rob Kelley needs to prepare to get ready to carry the load for 16 games.

There is one other change the team must deal with. Sean McVay, the team’s offensive coordinator, left in January to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. He had been calling the plays for the past two years. That duty will now fall on head coach Jay Gruden.

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Play calling is not new to Gruden. He did it from 2011-2013 for the Bengals when he was the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati. Gruden also made the play calls in 2014, his first season as the Redskins head coach.

Still, he wants to make sure that he’s ready to retake the play caller’s headset. The method he will use is to throw away the script.

“I think early on we’re going to have scripted practices, and once we get going, get our main core of plays in there, I think we’ll have a lot of unscripted practices where I can call plays,” he said. “So I think that’s the most important thing, the unscripted practice. Whether it’s two -minute, whether it’s drives down the field, whether it’s third downs, all that good stuff, do a lot of unscripted work, red zone and go from there, but I feel pretty comfortable already.”

That certainly makes sense. Games are not scripted and the successful play callers who can adjust to the ebb and flow of the game. You can’t duplicate the dynamic but you can come close in 11 on 11 work on the practice field.

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Another key to making this work will be trusting his defensive and special teams coaches. If Gruden can’t delegate to them he will be getting pulled in too many directions on game days.

“How well I handle that will be how successful I will probably be as a coordinator calling plays and as a coach,” he said. “I feel good about the staff that I have around me. Coach [Greg] Manusky and Jim Tomsula and Torrian Gray on the defensive side of the ball, I don’t think I have to worry so much about that, Ben Kotwica, Bret Munsey on the special teams. The big thing is I have got to be involved in the football game, make sure I’m ready for the red flag tosses and all that good stuff, but for the most part I have confidence in the defense and special team coaches and players.”

We will see how well it works out. As a rookie coach he occasionally seemed to be overwhelmed by all that he had piled on his plate (the situation was complicated by his curious decision not to hire a quarterbacks coach). But now, with three years under his belt and an exponentially better understanding of what is involved in coaching an NFL game, there should be more confidence that he can handle 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.