1. So maybe I'm not the toughest grader in all of Academia. My red pen has plenty of ink left in the well. Despite those facts, it would be hard to argue that I have gone soft when it comes to grading what the Redskins have done so far in free agency.
2. When you hear that the Washington Redskins have "money to spend" in free agency, you picture Dan Snyder driving Brinks trucks full of money and backing them up onto players' driveways. At least I do. With a motto of "Price Tags are for Suckers," we have historically been guilty of grossly overpaying for...pretty much everything. I feel like at times, Dan Snyder has approached free agency as one might approach a charity auction, where items are routinely bid up because the money is going to a good cause. The only problem was that Snyder's left hand seemed to be bidding against his right hand. It's no wonder that Ryan Clark is a bit turned off by offers he may be getting from Bruce Allen--he has grown accustomed to Washington being the place where a solid but aging veteran can cash in one last time. That does not appear to be the case any more, and it is a breath of fresh air (well...not to the solid but aging veterans).
3. Even with plenty of money to spend in this wondrous season of free agency, the Redskins were not in a position to lavishly spend on one or two players in an attempt to become "elite" overnight. (Kevin--I am not saying that we are elite now, nor am I saying that we are close to being elite, so save your Mugatu photo.) Going 3-13 exposes a number of weaknesses and holes in your operation. Having $18 million tied behind your back for two straight seasons is a driving force behind the creation of some of those weaknesses and holes.
4. When the Redskins tip-toed into the season of giving (fat contracts), it took a couple of days to get my head right. I felt like Bruce Allen and I were at the supermarket together--him pushing the basket with me inside it, of course. Every aisle we turned down would present a fresh set of toys I would beg for him to buy me, only to see ol' Bruce staring intently at his cheat sheet, saying, "That's not on our list!"
(For the record, I would be riding in the main part of the basket, not in the little seat forcing me to stare into Bruce's eyes the entire time. I'm a grown man, for God's sake--riding in the seat with the two little leg holes would be demeaning. Besides, I get carsick when I go backwards.)
5. Pencils are not down yet, and there are still more signings to come, but what the Redskins have done so far deserves at least some praise. It might not be the kind of free agency haul that sells a bunch of tickets, but it is the kind that has already improved our starting lineup, and is doing wonders for our depth.
6. Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher, cornerback Tracy Porter and linebacker Darryl Sharpton all figure to crack our starting lineup on defense. Offensive guard Shawn Lauvao and wide receiver Andre Roberts are likely to be in our opening day lineup on offense. If this is what ends up transpiring, that would mean that almost a quarter of our offensive and defensive starters would have come to us in free agency in the last week. I think it would be fair to lament the necessity of using free agency to fill that many holes, but if these guys pan out, the money was very well spent.
Another signing, defensive lineman Clifton Geathers, has the chance to prove he can lift the overall level of play along the line of scrimmage. Adam Hayward and Akeem Jordan--both linebackers--not only give us veteran depth at a position we had major issues with in 2013, they also figure to contribute heavily to special teams. In fact, that Bruce Allen targeted Hayward specifically for his potential to improve our special teams play makes me extremely happy.
7. I think the overall grade so far should also include the re-signings of DeAngelo Hall and Perry Riley. Whether these guys are Pro Bowlers or not (for us or anyone else), our ability to field a competitive defense in 2014 depended on bringing these two back. I guess I won't dock them for also re-signing Brandon Meriweather because it's not like we could overhaul everything in one offseason, but it doesn't make me feel we are "good" at safety by a long shot.
8. The team isn't done signing players yet, so the work is still in progress, but I feel compelled to give Bruce Allen an "A-" for his work so far. He has spent wisely, and on very needy positions on our roster. These are more than just warm bodies we are bringing in. We have done more than just bring in one or two big contracts, hoping that a basket filled with all of our eggs will get the job done. It is worth noting that even an "A+" job would likely not be one that moved us from 3-13 to 13-3, but what Bruce Allen has done so far is ensure that it is possible to start taking steps in that direction.
9. Not known for his personnel decisions--or better put, not well-known for them (or even better put, not highly regarded for them)--Bruce Allen has taken very little risk with this crop of free agents. Nobody is breaking the bank, and just about all of the signings make sense on some level (not sure what the Jake Rogers deal was all about...is Allen hellbent on signing ex-Cowboys?).
10. Redskins fans have reason to hope for better Sundays with these new players in tow. One wonders about the potential for our defense if guys like Richard Crawford and Keenan Robinson are fully healthy. One also wonders if Josh LeRibeus is ready to take advantage of the opportunity that the team is clearly giving him by moving Kory Lichtensteiger to center. I picked these three young players out of the group that also includes Baccari Rambo, Phillip Thomas, Tom Compton, Adam Gettis and Chase Minnifield to place my hopes. It is foolish to wish that they all turn into big-time contributors (even if that is what we do anyway). Even hoping for three of them to make the turn could be a long putt, but if this highlighted trio is ready to play in 2014, it increases the value of this free agent class that much more. We would be deeper and less dependent on individuals at crucial spots, which would also hopefully make us less dependent on free agency in general next season. This is the real value of the job Bruce Allen has done--he has plugged holes with affordable, competent talent that buys him the time necessary to build through the draft. That's...just...crazy...enough...to work.