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Need to Know: Will McCloughan boost the Redskins' offense through free agency?

Need to Know: Will McCloughan boost the Redskins' offense through free agency?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, February 17, 7 days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Will McCloughan boost the offense through free agency?

Last week I looked at how much Scot McCloughan might use free agency to bolster the Redskins’ defense. RWJ here has asked me to take a look at what the free agency plan might be on the offensive side of the ball.

My answer is going to be guided by McCloughan’s statement at the Senior Bowl that the Redskins are not going to be “big players” in free agency and by his past statements about the draft being the “lifeblood of the organization” and on having an aversion to signing players over the age of 30 who may not buy into the Redskins’ way of doing things. I don’t know if he will stick to this philosophy or not but he did adhere to it last year.

Let’s take a look at each position group:

Quarterback—Everyone knows that Robert Griffin III is going to be gone and that Kirk Cousins will be the starter after being retained with either the franchise tag or a long-term deal. If Colt McCoy decides that pastures are greener elsewhere and departs, the Redskins will almost certainly be shopping for a veteran free agent quarterback. In any case, I see one spot going to a project quarterback drafted somewhere from the fifth round on.

Running back—There will almost certainly be a need with Alfred Morris likely headed out of town. I think that McCloughan would rather draft one to either compete with or compliment Matt Jones. I doubt he will go for any back in the early stages of free agency so that leaves out players like Matt Forte and Lamar Miller. If he can’t get a suitable back in the draft I think he’ll look to that free agent market in May to pick up a back like Pierre Thomas to share some time with Jones.

Wide receiver—The Redskins already have two receivers who are sort of like free agents in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. They are getting up there in years (both will be 30 later this year) and they are expensive. They really can’t afford to bring on another big WR contract. With Andre Roberts likely to be cut the Redskins will look for depth—and probably 2017 replacements for Jackson and Garçon—in the draft.

Tight end—The Redskins don’t have any big contracts here yet. But Jordan Reed will get a deal averaging around $10 million per year so they can’t afford to spend too much more here. If they can sign a tight end who is capable of both blocking and providing something of a receiving threat for a million and a half per year they might do that. But such players are getting harder and harder to find.

Offensive line—After taking five offensive linemen in the last two drafts, the Redskins’ most frequent O-line starting combination last year had five players all drafted by the organization. Even though they may want to upgrade from Kory Lichtensteiger I don’t see them all of a sudden going off the rails and getting a free agent center.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 38 days ago. It will be about 207 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 7; NFL free agency starts 21; 2016 NFL draft 71

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Over/under: Redskins running backs in 2017

Over/under: Redskins running backs in 2017

Redskins running backs over-under

The Redskins’ running backs depth chart looks quite different from how it did a year ago. Rob Kelley, who was “ninth-string” back last year per Jay Gruden, is the starter. Samaje Perine enters the mix with expectations that exceed those normally assigned to a fourth-round pick. Chris Thompson is the constant as the third-down back. What kind of numbers will they put up this year? Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay go over-under on some Redskins running back stats. 

Rob Kelley, 1,000 rushing yards

Tandler: If you project Kelley’s production in the nine games he started over 16 games it comes to about 1,050 yards. He had his ups and downs in those nine starts and he will have them this year. But he should have enough ups to be able to average the 62.5 yards per game needed to hit the thousand-yard mark. Over

Finlay: Unlike wide receivers, where 25 guys broke the 1,000 yard mark in 2016, it's getting harder and harder for a running back to hit four-figures. In 2016, only 12 RBs ran for more than 1,000 yards, and only eight got over 1,100 yards. As the NFL becomes more and more of a passing league, less backs are getting the carries sufficient for a 1,000 yard season. The Redskins haven't had a 1,000 yard rusher since Alfred Morris in 2014. While I think Kelley gets the bulk of the yardage, I think it caps out about 900 yards and Chris Thompson and Samaje Perine creep into the total. Under

RELATED: Who's next at QB for the Redskins?

Kelley, 10 rushing touchdowns

Tandler: He scored six as the starter last year and doing the math that comes to 11 over 16 games. But last year there wasn’t a player like Perine, who could come into the game and vulture some touchdowns after Kelley did the work to get the ball in goal to go position. Under

Finlay: Sorry to keep going back to stats, but last year only seven running backs got to 10 TDs or more. Only seven! Hard to see Kelley getting there on a team that didn't run all that much, or all that well either, in 2016. Under

Samaje Perine, 500 rushing yards

Tandler: It tough to set a line for a guy who hasn’t played. I’ll go off Matt Jones’ 2015 rookie season when he gained 490 yards while sharing time with Alfred Morris. If Perine averages four yards per carry, which is not hard to do, he’ll need about eight carries per game to get to 500. It’s close but if Kelley is effective, as I believe he will be, Perine might not get enough carries to have a chance. Under

Finlay: Tandler's Matt Jones comp pretty much works for Perine, but Jones had explosive speed that Perine doesn't have. A better comp for me was Derrick Henry last year as a rookie with the Titans. DeMarco Murray was established as the top dog, and Henry worked for a productive 490 yards. Under

MORE REDSKINS: Offer to Cousins not nearly enough

Chris Thompson, 60 pass receptions

Tandler: His role is beyond just third down. If the Redskins are behind in the fourth quarter, Thompson is usually in there to try to help spark a rally. Along with TE Jordan Reed and WR Jamison Crowder, Thompson will benefit from Kirk Cousins’ familiarity with him. Over

Finlay: Thompson should be a strong contributor in 2017, but 60 catches is a lot for a running back. Only David Johnson (80) and Le'Veon Bell (75) went over that number in 2016, while James White had exactly 60 catches. Thompson grabbed 49 balls in 2016, an impressive total. I could actually see Thompson getting a bigger percentage increase in carries, he had 68 rushes last season with a very solid 5.2 YPC, than catches. Under

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Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

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#RedskinsTalk Podcast: Final refresh before 2017 season truly begins

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#RedskinsTalk Podcast: Final refresh before 2017 season truly begins

Rich Tandler and JP Finlay wrap up the Redskins offseason and prepare for what will be the most intriguing and the most overplayed storylines at training camp in Richmond.

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back