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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

In case you missed it

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Terrelle Pryor reportedly working out with special glasses based on Antonio Brown's advice

Terrelle Pryor reportedly working out with special glasses based on Antonio Brown's advice

New Redskins receiver Terrelle Pryor has been working out with Steelers All-Pro Antonio Brown this offseason. 

The pair documented their receiving drills, ladder drills and even yoga on social media. But what you didn't see, according to ESPN's John Keim, is Pryor practicing with special glasses that Brown recommended. 

Based on Brown’s advice, Pryor has also worn special sunglasses during offseason workouts, designed to prevent him from seeing an object – in this case the ball – until it is almost upon him. Sometimes he takes his gloves off, just to get a feel for the ball with his hands.

The glasses Keim describes sound more like blinders, or even tunnel vision, but the idea is to help Pryor get an instinctive feel for running routes. 

Despite putting up 1,007 receiving yards with the Browns last year, Pryor has only played the position since 2015. His first four seasons in the NFL were spent trying to make a roster playing quarterback. 

Now penciled into a starting receiver role for the Redskins, he knows he has a lot of catching up to do. 

"The good ones, they ask questions and never think they’ve got it. They always want to learn," Pryor said, "I’m not calling myself a great one, but I think I can get there."

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins Playbook: Some good news for Kirk Cousins

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Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

The Redskins offense performed at a high level in 2016, moving the ball well though the unit struggled in the red zone. Much of the success comes from Kirk Cousins' ability to quickly advance through his progressions and release the football before he takes too many hits.

Expect more of that in 2017, especially early in the season.

The Redskins don't face their first Top 5 sack defense until Week 9 when they travel to Seattle. From there, Cousins will face another Top 5 sack team when the Vikings visit FedEx Field in Week 10. 

After that, Washington's schedule doesn't feature a Top 5 sack defense until nearly Christmas. Unfortunately for Cousins, those two teams will come back to back in December when the Redskins host the Cardinals and the Broncos.

Sacks should not drive too much worry for Redskins fans. The Washington offensive line only allowed 23 sacks last season, two less than the Cowboys vaunted offensive line gave up on Dak Prescott. Cousins quick release and mastery of Jay Gruden's offense helps too. 

The Redskins have plenty to worry about in 2017, though facing fierce sack opponents shouldn't be too high on the list. 

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