We live in an era of snap judgement, regardless of whether or not a job has been finished. In times like these, my standard cop-out is to give the ol' "Incomplete" grade. Today, that option is off the table.
The job is incomplete, but with the first major wave of free agency behind us, it is time to take at least some stock. The Redskins have been involved, making moves that are starting to resemble a pretty solid plan of attack.
Defense, defense, defense.
When Scot McCloughan arrived in town, it had to have been made clear to him what kind of defense he was dealing with going into the offseason. At times over the last two or three seasons in particular, the Redskins defense seemed to redefine what it meant to hit rock bottom. On most days, the secondary was the main culprit, but in the final analysis, no one position group was strong enough to make up for the deficiencies of any other position group over the long haul.
As we have traded ideas, suggestions and critiques on the upcoming draft, one theme has been fairly common: REBUILD THE TRENCHES!! From my incessant pleading for offensive line help, to the very reasoned demands for players like Danny Shelton and others who could bolster the front seven, we have all been beating the drum for help along both sides of the line of scrimmage.
The signings of Stephen Paea (26 years old), Terrance Knighton (28 years old) and Ricky Jean-Francois (28 years old) certainly indicate that the Redskins are serious about bolstering the line of scrimmage. These guys are still young enough to play out the contracts they have been signed to, and talented enough to make a difference in the short-term. There is also something very satisfying about knowing that these guys have been hand-picked by McCloughan.
The addition of the young cornerback from San Francisco, Chris Culliver (26 years old), also enhances the story we are telling this offseason. We are all more than aware of the baggage that exists with Culliver, but Redskins fans are also well aware of the growth and maturity that happens in front of your eyes if you pay close enough attention to many of the men who suit up in the NFL. How many people were saying nice things about Sean Taylor the person after his first couple of years in the league? This is not to condone or sanction any of the incendiary things that have come out of Culliver's mouth in recent years, but instead is just a reminder that if you put a microphone in front of every 23-year old's face, you should expect to hear some uninformed, foolish things. Here's hoping that Chris grows as a person and evolves on some of the issues he has spouted off on in the past.
It would be hard to suggest that the Redskins haven't gotten better with these signings. The front seven is certainly strong, even with the loss of Brian Orakpo. The cornerback position has far better depth today than it did yesterday. Even with the team bringing back Trenton Robinson, the safety group still needs help.
It would seem plausible to state that--should the Redskins stand pat--there will be no DL selected at five overall. Then again, maybe we shouldn't make such assumptions. McLovin' could certainly decide that the best player available is a game-changing defensive lineman, but by focusing so many free agent resources on the defensive side, it at least stands to reason that the team will look to go in another direction with their top pick or picks.
In fact, if you are like me, and think that a right tackle should still be Option 1, the trade down scenario is even more tailor-made. McLovin' can almost take any deal that comes along to gather additional picks and move back in the first round. Assuming he doesn't trade down too far, it is still extremely plausible that the team could land one of the top offensive tackle prospects in this draft. The prospect of adding day one starters on both sides of the line of scrimmage is simply mind-blowing.
Grade (So Far)
None of us will ever know how close the team ever was to realistically signing any of the top-shelf offensive linemen on the market this spring. As much as I loved the idea of Bryan Bulaga coming to town, the Green Bay Packers are not the kind of team to let players like him walk away (especially at the ripe old age of 25!). I think we would all agree that the offensive line...needs help. This makes the moves made so far seem...well, incomplete--but that is not a grade today!!
I am going B+ on this project so far. I would argue that part of what is keeping this from being an "A" is my fear of overestimating what these new players will do for us. I love the way the front office has addressed our defense to date. I love the ages of the players we are bringing in, and the contract structures. People will say we overpaid on Culliver, but adding a young cornerback ain't cheap, and if you get it right, the pay-off is exponentially greater than the money spent (in many cases, anyway).
There is room to improve, and certainly room to slip, but for right now, I am finding a lot to like about the moves we have made and the direction we are taking.