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Two huge targets remain available on defensive line free agent market

Two huge targets remain available on defensive line free agent market

The Redskins made two quick moves when free agency opened to shore up their defensive line, signing Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee to multi-year deals.

Neither player has a stat sheet that jumps off the page, but both have size and have shown flashes of strong ability.

For many, despite the dismissal of former GM Scot McCloughan, the Washington offseason has gotten off to a strong start.

The addition of D.J. Swearinger and Terrelle Pryor will directly address needs, as will the contracts for McClain and McGee. 

The Redskins' defensive line struggled so much in 2016 that there is some question if another addition is neccesary.

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 5.0

Bennie Logan visited the Redskins, but ended up signing with Chiefs on a one-year deal. And speaking of defensive linemen, two of the best available remain on the market in Dontari Poe and Johnathan Hankins.

A two-time Pro Bowler in 2013 and 2014, Poe's numbers have dipped in the last two seasons. In 2016, Hankins made 16 starts for a stout Giants defense, logging three sacks 43 tackles. 

Poe has reportedly visited Atlanta, Jacksonville and Indianapolis, with a scheduled visit for Miami planned. Hankins' travel interary has been quieter, and some believe he could end up back with the Giants. 

Either player could immediately help the Redskins, though, so far, it doesn't seem like there has been much interest. Outside of big-money deals for Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams, the defensive tackle market has largely seen smaller money and short-term contracts. 

It's also worth keeping in mind that talent evaluators consider the 2017 NFL Draft quite deep along the defensive front. Maybe some teams plan to build their trenches through the draft instead of free agency.

Whatever the reason, and free agency is not even a week old, players like Poe and Hankins remain available. And players like Poe and Hankins could help the Redkins.

RELATED: LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS

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Jay Gruden loves Rob Kelley, but would also love drafting a 'special' RB

Jay Gruden loves Rob Kelley, but would also love drafting a 'special' RB

Redskins coach Jay Gruden has a very high opinion of running back Rob Kelley. He surprised many by making the 53-man roster as an undrafted rookie last year and when starter Matt Jones faltered, Kelley took over as the starter for the last nine games.

“Oh, man, I love Rob Kelley,” Gruden told reporters earlier this week at the NFL meetings in Phoenix.

“I thought he played great. You throw a rookie free agent into the fire like that and see him play and compete. Not one time did I feel like it was too big for him. Not once. That’s a hell of a thing to say for a kid out of Tulane who only had a couple of carries his senior year. He came right in, he competes on every play.”

Actually, Kelley had 65 carries as a senior at Tulane, for 232 yards and one touchdown.

But Gruden’s overall point about Kelley being a little-used back in college. In four years with the Green Wave he never had as many as 100 carries in a single season.

RELATED: UPDATED NFL MOCK DRAFT 6.0

Kelley got 168 carries in the NFL last year, gaining 704 yards. He scored six touchdowns, the same number that he scored in 49 games at Tulane.

Gruden was not done singing Kelley’s praises.

“He had some of the greatest two-yard runs I’ve seen,” the coach continued.

“He gets back to the line of scrimmage, he keeps his feet moving, he protects the ball. He’s going to get better in pass protection. Catching the ball, he did a nice job. He dropped a couple here and there but for the most part he catches the ball. I really think the vision he has he’ll be more patient as a runner this year. I think he’s going to be a good back, I really do.

“A lot of people think we need a great running back. I think Rob is a great running back, I really do.”

While that certainly is a ringing endorsement, Gruden wouldn’t shy away upgrading the position in the draft.

“There are some special players in this draft, if they’re available they’d be hard to pass up, quite frankly,” Gruden said moments after lauding Kelley.

MORE REDSKINS: JAY GRUDEN BULLISH ON 2017 REDSKINS

Two of the running back considered “special” who may be available when the Redskins make their pick in the first round are Dalvin Cook of Florida State and Christian McCaffrey of Stanford. In a separate interview with JP Finlay of CSN, Gruden talked about those two backs.

 “That’s the thing about those two guys, they can move around,” said Gruden. “They’re not just lining up in the I formation running the power play. They can line up outside at different spots, play receiver, catch the ball out of the backfield and they can also run it between the tackles. They’re not just one dimensional players, they’re very exciting.”

So to sum up the coach’s thought process here, Gruden thinks that Kelley is a “great” running back but the team would find it tough to pass on “special” and “exciting” alternatives. It doesn’t sound to me like Kelley should get too comfortable with the idea of being the lead dog at running back. And those Redskins fans who have earmarked that first-round draft pick for defense may end up being very disappointed.   

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.

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Need for speed? Jay Gruden confident in Redskins options at safety

Need for speed? Jay Gruden confident in Redskins options at safety

The Redskins struggled at the safety positions in 2016, dealing with position changes and injuries, and the front office moved early in free agency to address the back end of the secondary.

Washington signed D.J. Swearinger away from the Cardinals in the opening days of the 2017 league year.

Swearinger will likely join second-year Redskins player Su'a Cravens in the back of Greg Manusky's defense. Cravens played linebacker as a rookie, but word came out late last season he would play safety in 2017.

Both Swearinger and Cravens are playmakers and big hitters, but the question has emerged if either player contains the speed neccessary to keep up with some of the elite receivers that play in the NFC East. At his USC Pro Day in 2016, Cravens ran a 4.69 40-yard dash. At the NFL Combine in 2013, Swearinger ran a 4.67 40-yard dash.

For Redskins coach Jay Gruden, there isn't much reason to worry.

"Knowing Su’a, I don’t think there’s a lot of things he can’t do so I’m excited to see him back there," Gruden told to reporters during the NFL League Meetings. "I think he’s going to have a lot more range than people give him credit for right now. He didn’t run the greatest 40 time, but he plays fast on the football field and that’s more important."

Gruden allowed that the team has some questions with Cravens simply because he hasn't played safety yet in the NFL. Other Redskins players have voiced plenty of confidence in Cravens' ability in the back end, and much of his work from college would suggest he should be capable.

Swearinger has a stronger track record at safety, though he's also on his fifth NFL team since being drafted in the second round in 2013 by the Texans.

"D.J., when you watch him in his career, he maybe disappointed a little bit early, but last year I think he played as good as any safety in the NFL," Gruden said. "He’s done it in different spots, wasn’t just a box safety, he played in the hole, he played half the field, he played corners, he played everything. Very productive, brings a great energy."

RELATED: UPDATED 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 6.0

Beyond Swearinger and Cravens, the 'Skins have options on the roster in Will Blackmon, Deshazor Everett and DeAngelo Hall. 

"That’s the one thing with D-Hall, when you watch him play safety he sticks his face in there. He’s a very physical guy so we have to get him right," Gruden said. "We have Will Blackmon who came a long way last year too and Deshazor. I really liked what he did when he came in the game. We matched him up against tight ends and he had a big interception against Philadelphia. He did some good things. He’s a factor on special teams so he won’t be going anywhere."

Hall's offseason will be interesting to watch. The former Pro Bowl cornerback has dealt with injuries in each of the last three seasons and is still working on his conversion to safety. In the NFL since 2004, Hall acknowledged he might have to re-work his contract to stay with the team, but most signs point to that happening. 

Improved safety play, and just improved tackling from the safety position, could lead to an improved Redskins defense this fall. 

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