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Turmoil or not, Redskins off to strong start in 2017 free agency

Turmoil or not, Redskins off to strong start in 2017 free agency

In a week that saw the Washington Redskins dismiss their general manager, it would be entirely reasonable for the fan base to expect chaos. Especially if the general manager's dismissal came on the same day the NFL's free agency period opened. 

Yet, despite that exact scenario, chaos is not the current course at Redskins Park. In fact, the Burgundy and Gold is off to quite a strong start in the new league year.

By noon on Thursday, the situation for the 'Skins seemed dire. Reports showed that the team would lose two 1,000 yard receivers in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon as well as their best defensive lineman in Chris Baker. Couple that with the unraveling of McCloughan's role amid talk of alcohol abuse and a power struggle with team president Bruce Allen.

At that moment, it seemed hope was lost for the Redskins. 

48 hours later, flip that script.

On the first day of free agency, Washington added defensive line help in Terrell McClain of the Cowboys and Stacy McGee from Oakland. Neither player is a star, but both can be productive. The Redskins needed increased depth on their D-line in 2017, and the team's first two moves of the new league year went directly towards that effort. Injuries have caused McClain and McGee to miss games, and there's little the 'Skins can do about that, but both are relatively young and capable. 

From there, the franchise added their first potential impact player in D.J. Swearinger. 

A second-round pick in 2013, Swearinger has a reputation of a big hitter and playmaker in the back of the secondary. Last year, playing in Arizona, Swearinger recorded three interceptions to go with eight passes defensed, two sacks and 64 tackles. 

Paired with Su'a Cravens in the back of the secondary, the Redskins might lack high-end speed, but they will have two players committed to the safety position. Last year, the team trotted out a career special teamer in David Bruton paired with a converted corner in DeAngelo Hall at the two safety spots. That plan didn't work. Further, both young players are difference makers - athletic and gifted. That duo immediately makes the Redskins better in 2017 than they were in 2016, and Swearinger's signing is the first time the Washington brass has truly invested at safety in many years. 

If you're scoring at home, the first three free agent signings directly responded to areas of need for the club. If the team was playing baseball, McGee and McClain got on base, then Swearinger moved all the runners over. The bases were now loaded.

And then came the home run.

Washington agreed to a one-year deal with Terrelle Pryor, a receiver from the Browns. As big as the loss of Jackson and Garçon is, offsetting that with Pryor provides the Redskins offense with a bigger, more athletic option.

At 6-foot-6 and 240 lbs., Pryor is one of the biggest receivers in the league. Last season, he caught 77 balls for more than 1,000 yards. Making those stats more impressive, the Browns collection of quarterbacks in the 2016 season was abysmal. Pryor was Cleveland's best option offensively, and defenses knew it. 

Want to go another step? Pryor remains raw as a wideout. He could get better, and maybe, much better.  A quarterback in college and his first two years in the NFL, Pryor only made the full-time switch to receiver in 2015. 

In Washington, Pryor will be part of an offense that features an emerging star in slot man Jamison Crowder, arguably the best pass catching tight end in the NFL in Jordan Reed, a veteran with plenty left in Vernon Davis, and, perhaps, the emergence of 2016 first-round draft pick Josh Doctson.

More importantly, Kirk Cousins signed his franchise tag. The quarterback is under contract for 2017, and though a trade certainly remains an option, on paper, the Redskins offense is again stacked. 

What Washington still needs to accomplish in free agency: An impact player on the defensive line. Swearinger is an impact guy in the secondary. Pryor is an impact guy at wideout. McClain and McGee, however, are not. 

The Redskins truly need to address a gaping hole at the nose tackle position. A hole that has largely existed since the team moved to the 3-4 scheme in 2010.

Bennie Logan, formerly of the Eagles, is set to visit the franchise's Ashburn offices. Logan could be the guy the team needs. 

A third-round pick in 2013 out of LSU, Logan has size (6-foot-2, 310 lbs.) and played his best football at the nose in the 3-4 scheme. 

None of this changes the sloppy way the team handled McCloughan. And none of this changes that Cousins could walk away next season without the club getting any compensation. Those two factors are real, and detrimental.

Still, Washington deserves commendation for a strong start to free agency. Bruce Allen has the team operating at a high level, executing well, and without offering massive contracts. 

It's wild to suggest, but on paper in early March, the 2017 Redskins might be better than the 2016 Redskins.

The offense will look very different, but the increased size could help solve some of the team's red zone woes that plagued the team throughout last season. 

The defense has already improved at the back end, and added help at the front end.

If Logan signs, and there is good reason to think he will, that will be three new, young defensive lineman to work with new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. Losing Baker hurts, but the moves being made could offset that loss.

McClain. McGee. Pryor. Swearinger. And maybe Logan. Reports of the sky falling in Ashburn might have been premature. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN 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!

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History suggests Redskins could land defensive tackle in 1st round

History suggests Redskins could land defensive tackle in 1st round

Much talk surrounding the political scene in Washington centers on rebuilding infrastructure. Much talk surrounding the football scene in Washington centers on rebuilding the defensive line. Like infrastructure spending, there is plenty of talk about building up the Redskins D-line, but little action. 

This offseason, Washington lost defensive tackles Chris Baker and Ricky Jean-François. Replacing them, the franchise signed Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain. While the new additions are younger than the players they replaced, neither has shown the ability of Baker or durability of Jean-François. Not to suggest McGee and McClain can't be better, but collectively, they haven't done it yet.

That leads the Redskins brass to this week's NFL Draft, with the first round held Thursday night. It's been more than 20 seasons since the 'Skins selected a defensive tackle in the first round, but oddly, the last time it happened has a strong similarity to 2017.

In 1997, then general manager Charley Casserly selected Kenard Lang out of Miami with the 17th overall pick. Thursday night, Bruce Allen and the 'Skins draft team hold the 17th pick. Washington has not selected at 17 since they took Lang 20 years ago. 

Digging a bit deeper, the Burgundy and Gold have selected in the 17th overall spot four times in the franchise's history. Two of those four selections have been used to take defensive linemen; Lang in 1997 and Bobby Wilson in 1991. 

It's relatively easy to dismiss the odd coincidence of the 17th pick and D-line selections. In fact, barring some unexpected development Thursday night, there isn't really a true defensive tackle that makes sense at 17.

Remember, however, that crazy things happen at the NFL Draft. Every year. 

And history tends to repeat itself.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN 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!

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2017 Redskins depth chart preview: Offensive line

2017 Redskins depth chart preview: Offensive line

The Redskins are part of the way through the process of retooling their 2017 roster. While the major part of free agency is over, they still can add a few veterans all the way through training camp. They have 10 picks in the draft that starts on Thursday. In this series, we’re going to take a look at what has changed on the Redskins roster since the season ended and what they need to add to remain competitive in the revived NFC East.

This series started on defense and you can see all those posts here. On offense we’ve put the wide receivers, running backs and tight ends under the microscope. Today the focus turns to the offensive line.

2016 final game starters: (left to right) Trent Williams, Shawn Lauvao, Spencer Long, Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses

Due to some injuries and a four-game Williams suspension, this group started only seven games together.

Departures: C John Sullivan (UFA), C Kory Lichtensteiger (retired)

Sullivan signed after some early season injuries and he started one game. He was a good security blanket for Jay Gruden, who liked having an experienced backup for the middle of the line.

Lichtensteiger missed a combined 24 games in 2015-2016. He may not have been back even he had not decided to retire.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 10.0

Projected 2017 starters: (left to right) Williams, Lauvao, Long, Scherff, Moses

The one spot in any doubt is left guard. Lauvao is in the final year of his contract with a $4 million salary. Jay Gruden has expressed confidence in him but a guard drafted in the first few rounds this week could change all of that.

Moses and Long are in the final seasons of their contracts so they may need a succession plan in place at their positions.

2017 reserves: G: Arie Kouandjio, Ronald Patrick; T Ty Nsekhe, Isaiah Williams, Vinston Painter, John Kling, Kevin Bowen

The glaring hole here is at center. With Sullivan and Lichtensteiger gone they don’t have anyone for the middle of the line if Spencer Long is out. They could try to find one in the draft but it’s possible that they will be on the lookout for a veteran on the waiver wire between now and Week 1.

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often  

Nsekhe is one of the best backup tackles in the league and the Redskins will be happy to have him even if he doesn’t play a single snap. Painter was on the roster for 13 games and he played just 10 snaps on offense.

Kouandjio is the only solid backup at guard and he could push for Lauvao’s starting job. If he wins the job and the team doesn’t want to pay Lauvao $4 million to be a backup, the Redskins will need a couple of guards for depth. Look for one or two to come their way in Rounds 3-5 this week.

Where can the offensive line find improvement?

The left guard spot was the weak link on the chain last year. Lauvao was charged with 32 QB hurries, by far the most on the team. Whether it’s Lauvao becoming fully healthy (a 2015 ankle injury limited him for the offseason program last year) or Kouandjio or another starter from the draft, the position has to be better in 2017.

Another factor that will help is Trent Williams being available for 16 games. Yes, Nsekhe is a very good backup. But in four starts Nsekhe allowed a sack plus 13 pressures. Williams started 12 games and allowed two sacks and 14 pressures. They are paying Williams $11.25 million this year for a reason.

Locks and bubble players

Trent Williams, Long, Scherff, Moses and Nsekhe are locks. Lauvao and Kouandjio are close but the draft could have an impact on them.

Out of the bubble players it would seem that Painter has the best shot of sticking simply because he was in the program last year. Bowe and Kling are huge and they are long shots who will draw interest if they can use their size.

The chances of any of the bubble players will be affected by the draft. There could be some fun competitions down the depth chart in training camp.

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.