Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, January 28, 27 days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
Question of the day
We’ve flipped 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:
After four years of relative stability at the running back position it feels like the Redskins are about to undergo some upheaval there. Alfred Morris, the starter for those four years, is set to be a free agent. The player many thought would replace him, Matt Jones, flashed some potential but inconsistency, fumbles, and injuries raised some doubts about him.
Will Morris return?
I don’t think that Morris will be back but I wouldn’t rule it out completely. I think the Redskins like a lot about him—his dependability, his work ethic, the fact that he’s a solid citizen and that he is a good example for younger players. But the organization wants a prime back who is more dynamic, who can make something happen when catching a pass out of the backfield, who is a threat to break off a long run at any time, who can take a play that is blocked for three yards and make five or six. Morris used to be able to do the latter but he hasn’t done it consistently the last two years.
I don’t think the Redskins are going to offer him a contract before free agency starts or at least not anything that he would accept. If he looks around for a while and can’t find anything and is willing to return for a fairly inexpensive contract he could end up back in Ashburn. But I don’t expect that to happen; I think a team that emphasizes zone blocking will give him a reasonable deal and his time in Washington will be over.
Won't hand it to Jones
But if he goes, they won’t hand the position to Jones. From what I have heard they like Jones but they are not sure that he will be able to fix everything he needs to fix between now and September. He’s a part of the team’s future but he’s not necessarily the 2016 workhorse running back.
If Morris ends up leaving, then, who will be either ahead of or right behind Jones on the depth chart? I’m sure that McCloughan would rather find one in the draft. But the problem is you can’t count on finding one there who is a decent value when your pick comes up. McCloughan doesn’t want to draft for need.
What about Thomas?
Might Pierre Thomas re-sign? There is some mutual interest. But Thomas would have been playing for the Redskins all season but he chose to sit out rather than play for what the Redskins were offering. I don’t see the Redskins upping their offer substantially with Thomas being a year older (he turned 32 last month). So it may be up to him to lower his demands if he wants to play in Washington again.
I know someone will ask about Silas Redd, so let me address that situation. He will get a shot at making the team as he should be recovered from last year’s knee injury. But he is less proven that Jones is; I can’t see the team figuring that he can be the Plan B if Jones struggles.
A possible scenario
There are a lot of things that could happen here but let me lay out a scenario. Morris leaves as a free agent, signing with the Falcons. The draft comes and goes and the only back who is the best available player is a seventh-rounder who is destined for a practice squad. The Redskins look at the secondary free agent market, which will have some good players who are starting to get desperate for a job. Maybe they sign Thomas, maybe they get someone like Ahmad Bradshaw. You can fill in the blank with your favorite name, there will be some experienced backs looking for work.
One more thing about the draft—no matter what round, if McCloughan sees a running back as the best available player, he’ll take him. That could be Ezekiel Elliott in the first round or Derrick Henry in the second or Jonathan Williams of Arkansas in the third or fourth. That is the wild card in all of this.
—The Redskins last played a game 18 days ago. It will be about 227 days until they play another one.
—Days until: NFL Combine 27; NFL free agency starts 41; 2016 NFL draft 91
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