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Redskins To Free Agency!?!?!

It’s never too early to start the offseason discussion...especially when we are talking about the prospect of retaining “our guys.”

NFL: International Series-Washington Redskins at Cincinnati Bengals Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I know it seems at least somewhat self-serving to post our After the Whistle segment of The Audible again, but there was another portion of our conversation on Tuesday night that happened somewhat organically, and I didn’t cover it yesterday. The beauty of the Kirk Cousins situation is that it leads us down multiple roads in terms of roster management and salary cap allocation.

For those of you who have been fans of the Washington Redskins long enough, you know that the Dan Snyder era has been marked (at least initially) by spending precious salary cap space on free agents coming from other teams. One of the more egregious consequences of spending so lavishly on players from other teams was not being able to retain our own players was tight!

I think about players like Antonio Pierce and Ryan Clark as classic examples of players we eschewed in favor of flashier and higher-priced players on the market (though nobody is complaining about London Fletcher at this point in time). In some cases, it wasn’t even that—the fact we didn’t have enough money to bring back Lorenzo Alexander haunts most of us. The point isn’t about being “right” or “wrong” about free agents (cough...Adam Archuleta...cough), as much as it is about the fact we kind of made a practice out of not targeting our own free agents.

Heading into the offseason, we are all eager to see Scot “McLovin” McCloughan operate. According to my go-to salary cap/contract/market valuation site Spotrac, the Redskins are looking at having about $54 million of cap space for 2017 (based on the top 51 contracts they will have). Check it out—this number will shift, but this is a pretty good look at our situation.

As we move to spend that money, I have great news for you all: the 2017 free agent class is rumored to be among the worst we have seen in a while. This is of course, predicated on the terrible, no good, horrible 2013 draft that is producing the meat and potatoes of this free agent class. Why is this good news? That’s simple: the Redskins have money to spend and can spend it to lock up their own players. It’s worth noting that it won’t just be the Redskins doing this. After all, who doesn’t expect the Steelers to lock up Le’Veon Bell and the Cardinals to lock up Tyrann Mathieu (and probably Chandler Jones)?

As it stands, the Redskins will likely have exclusive negotiating rights on the league’s top free agent. Clearly, Kirk Cousins is going to get some of that space (though not really what this article is about today). Think of these unrestricted free agents that could be in line receive some of that dough: Chris Baker, Vernon Davis and even Pierre Garcon.

**I didn’t want to get into the Garcon matter today, but let’s dip our toes in. Unless another team wants to offer Garcon a boatload of money, to me, he is a guy I would want to keep in the fold. I don’t think he will cost us too much and I think we could even succeed in saving a few bucks by guaranteeing his salary (a la Vernon Davis this year). I like the way he plays and I think he has gas left in the tank. I see Garcon as the kind of player that McLovin favors (plays a tough, physical brand of football. At the end of the day, Garcon isn’t going to make us forget about DeSean Jackson, but he could help this offense move the ball on Sundays for another couple seasons (he’s 30 years old).

I guess I am also suggesting we won’t be spending on DeSean, but the fascinating side to the Redskins salary cap space is that it is by no means a lock that Jackson will depart. McLovin could find the space to keep DeSean if he really wants to. In my estimation, he will choose to spend some money on defense, but we shall see!

We still have a few restricted free agents to pay anyway—guys like Chris Thompson, Will Compton and Ty Nsekhe. All three of these players have played well enough for the Redskins to want to bring them back, and on the offensive side of the ball, Thompson and Nsekhe have proven to be somewhat invaluable. I think we all wonder what the future of our linebacking corps is going to look like, but the present looks like Will Compton, and I would be shocked if he wasn’t brought back. (Junior Galette is a name that won’t seem to ever go away, and who knows if he can ever play at a high level again, but we do know this: he probably won’t break the bank and he is dying to reward McLovin for having faith in him.)

In the coming months, we can put some numbers next to some of these names (Spotrac employs some cool algorithms to calculate market value for each player), but the message today is the same as the one I discovered on the podcast after a few glasses of whiskey: we could be seeing a real sea change in the way our favorite team manages its roster. Retaining our own guys and building from within is as refreshing as it is wise. In addition to this, we have a personnel man in whom we are supremely confident—he will be able to weed through all the bad ideas in free agency to find modestly priced players that will contribute on Sundays. Maybe we succeed in finding one splashy free agent (maybe the Panthers screw up two years in a row and let a guy like Kawann Short hit the street), but for the most part our splashes will come from inside our own bath tub. Kirk and Swaggy would be great splashes. The rest of the help is going to need to come from the draft class. When you retain your own core players, you begin to minimize the holes you need to fill from the top of the draft and in free agency.

It’s coming really is.