Scot McCloughan was introduced as the new General Manager of the Washington Redskins on January 9th in a move that was widely praised around the league. Now if you're a long-time Redskins fan, the first questions that go through your mind are 'What's the catch?' and 'How will this blow up in our faces?'. McCloughan's had some well-documented off the field issues, and left his previous two teams to deal with personal issues. But what he left behind were teams that were well stocked with talent, and ready to compete at the championship level. The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks have appeared in 3 Super Bowls with McCloughan's influence, and he earned a Super Bowl ring with the Seahawks two years ago.
Now he is in charge of the Redskins who have had three winning seasons in the last ten years, and have won their division once in the last 16 years. The team has few positions that are "set" right now, and most of those "set" positions need new contracts to even consider them long-term solutions. McCloughan did a complete roster review, and Head Coach Jay Gruden did a review of his coaching staff. He quickly identified the defensive line as an area that needed a major overhaul, and went to work releasing two DL that were 30+ and coming off injury-shortened seasons in Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen. Those moves saved the team almost $10 million in cap space this year. They were replaced with the trio of Ricky Jean-Francois, Stephen Paea, and Terrance Knighton.
The secondary was another area desperate for new talent. McCloughan found a new cornerback in Chris Culliver, and a safety that he was familiar with from the Seahawks in Jeron Johnson. The one spot they didn't fix was free safety, but that was due to their restraint in not overpaying players, or as Bruce Allen said, not paying "C" players "A" player money. The same goes for the right tackle position, as they watched all of their targeted players sign deals that were higher than they were willing to pay.
So how do the experts at E$PN IN$IDER grade the Redskins first offseason under GM Scot McCloughan? They gave the team the second highest grade, and were only behind the Green Bay Packers who signed no free agents, instead focusing on re-signing their own players as usual. The Redskins shared an A- grade with the New York Jets who spent heavily on their secondary, and the Seattle Seahawks who traded for Jimmy Graham and made a few low-key signings. Minus the Jets, that is good company to keep at the top of the ratings. The Scot McCloughan era has started off on a positive note, now we wait and see what's next in the draft and the upcoming season.
Key re-signings/additions: DT Stephen Paea, DT Terrance Knighton, CB Chris Culliver, S Jeron Johnson, DE Ricky Jean-Francois, OT Xavier Nixon
Key subtractions: DT Barry Cofield, S Brandon Meriweather, OLB Brian Orakpo, DT Chris Neild, CB E.J. Biggers, DE Jarvis Jenkins, K Kai Forbath, WR Leonard Hankerson, RB Roy Helu, S Ryan Clark, WR Santana Moss, DE Stephen Bowen, OT Tyler Polumbus
The Redskins' reputation as irresponsible spenders in free agency already was a bit outdated. It might finally die if the team continues to operate the way it has since Scot McCloughan became GM. Washington was the first team Riddick mentioned when I asked him which ones he liked to this point in the signing period. Riddick worked in scouting for the team from 2001-07 and has a greater appreciation for what held back the organization in the absence of a true GM.
"Having been there so long and having seen the ultimate undisciplined approach and then watching them this year with McCloughan and [chief contract negotiator] Eric Schaffer working in lockstep to get great values, you can see they are doing it right," Riddick said. "Culliver is the only one they really extended for financially, but if you are going to do it, do it with a corner and do it with someone you're comfortable with. They still need a free safety and they were in the market for some guys who got out of their range, but that kind of discipline signals positive change."
Polian lauded what he saw as "some really good moves" while saying the big question was whether the team could find a pass-rusher to play opposite Ryan Kerrigan. The fifth overall choice in the upcoming draft could help Washington there.
"Getting a strong talent evaluator in McCloughan is the most important addition they made this offseason," Yates said. "They have not solidified their defensive front to some degree."