- At the outset of free agency, I am generally a proponent of the Redskins using their scarce resources to bring in the best players possible to fill the largest holes on the roster—the starting roster. Novel idea, I know. Now that most of the big names/big contracts have been handed out, it isn’t that this core philosophy has been abandoned—not by any means. For me, what has changed is that now I am weighing what I can get in the draft versus what I can sign in the wee hours of free agency. We can all say that had we signed the big name defensive lineman free agent, we would have still drafted Vita Vea, but I am not buying that (and I said it too). Big ticket items change mentalities. At this stage of the offseason calendar, some things are coming into focus ahead of a draft that has multiple rounds of starting players. I am going to start thinking about what kind of player I am targeting in the first round, and I am probably going to let that dictate how I spend the last of my offseason dough.
- That said, I absolutely remain committed to signing Johnathan Hankins, the 26-year old defensive tackle. And yes—it would absolutely inform my first round draft plans. Bringing in a player who fits our scheme the way Hankins does, and putting him into our rotation with guys like Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, Anthony Lanier and Stacy McGee makes us better and absolutely allows the team to target another position in the first round of the draft (in my humble opinion). Pro Football Focus had him ranked #20 overall for defensive linemen, and at 26 years old, he has years to give—prime years at that. If the Redskins only had one need to address, then I would happily watch Hankins and Allen work with Vea or Da’Ron Payne in September. Since we know that the Redskins are in need of impact players that slot immediately into multiple starting roles in September, I have a problem paying up for a player and then using a top draft pick on a guy at the same position this close to the draft. It isn’t the exact same, but something about that smacks at least a little of the Vinny Cerrato philosophy, where he drafted two wide receivers and a tight end all clumped together in the 2008 draft. We need our front office to show some intestinal fortitude by addressing multiple needs with confidence they have the right guys (as opposed to carpet combing one area of need at the expense of everything else).
- Since you asked, and setting aside for a moment who we sign in the next three or four weeks, here is my current order of “race to the podium” guys (if these guys are available when I draft, I have my pre-filled out card ready to send straight to Goodell. (The main caveat here is that I am not including any quarterbacks or Saquon Barkley on my list because they.) Quenton Nelson is my number one guy. I am sorry Jay...I know you would vomit all over this card before it made it to the podium (Jay has been...reticent...about drafting a guard again in the first round). If Quenton is there when we draft, I race. He fills a HUGE need, is considered by some to be the most pro-ready player in the whole draft, and would make our offense better IMMEDIATELY. I have never allowed myself to think Nelson would be there at #13 overall, and I still think the chances of this happening are extraordinarily slim. I see him as the biggest impact player for the Redskins and I don’t think it is even close given the hole we have on our offensive line. Derwin James is number two on that list, because I see him as a beast that offensive coordinators would struggle to avoid. Just the thought of James in the Redskins secondary makes me giddy. My third-ranked player on this list is still not even a defensive tackle. It’s Denzel Ward, the corner out of Ohio State. When Shawn Springs came over to the basement a couple weeks ago, he told us that there was a reason Marshon Lattimore came out early from Ohio State—and not just because he is a beast himself. Springs said Ward was basically going to be the best defensive player the Buckeyes had and Lattimore didn’t want to be competing with him in the draft. Now, Lattimore is awesome...awesome. If Ward is that much better than him, I am racing to the podium to grab him. Most prospect rankings have Lattimore lasting until right around (mostly until right before) the Redskins draft. If those three players are gone when the Redskins draft, the good news is there are a handful of best players available that would start for Washington on day one. I look forward to learning why I am dead wrong about these three guys! Hahaha...
- This brings me to the running back position, which has caused unprecedented strife on the set of The Audible (which is just my basement). Just to bring you up to speed: I believe in running backs on rookie contracts—as many as possible. I don’t believe in paying free agent dollars to running backs—certainly not in the opening days/weeks of free agency. This is a very “offseasony” philosophy. The farther we are away from actual football, the more I look at things in terms of salary cap space and resource allocation. The closer we get to guys in pads and helmets, the more I am thinking in terms of bodies and fit. The shelf life of NFL running backs is crazy short (less than three years still I think). While there are always exceptions to the rule, most running backs give you their best production right out of school. Unfortunately for them, that is also when they are making the least amount of money. I am a proponent of drafting a running back every single year in the third to fifth rounds ( I believe this is actually true for many teams already). It requires teams to draft well (I mean, obviously), and it means that you are always stocking your stable with fresh, young running back talent. Of course, if a veteran running back is interested in competing for a job on a minimum deal with incentives right before training camp, that’s great. That is not the same as signing a guy inching up on 30 years old to a multi-year deal with guaranteed money.
- The argument I am running up against is full of truth—the Redskins need a running back. Chris Thompson needs way more help and Samaje Perine couldn’t get the one yard we needed on MULTIPLE occasions. What’s more, Alex Smith NEEDS a productive running game in order to unleash his fury, making the position just needy enough to consider going back on my mantra. UNLESS...unless I was willing to draft a running back in a much higher round than I have been willing to over the past handful of seasons. Instead of grabbing that fourth rounder who might be missing one of those all-important “facets” (pass protection, wiggle, hands, bulldozing ability, etc.), I would say now is the time for the Redskins to dabble in one of the first two rounds. In this class, there should be a starting caliber running back available when the Redskins draft in the second round. I think his name is Sony Michel, but we shall see. If that happened, I would call us square with CT25, Samaje and Sony headlining our ground attack (take your pick on our fourth RB). This thought of mine does not sit well with some...I think we should revisit on the podcast tomorrow night.
- Our jumping off point for today could be pretty simple (and needs to be given we are closing in on 1,500 words): Setting aside the names we have already used in this article, which remaining free agent should be signed by the Washington Redskins as soon as possible and why?
The Washington Redskins still have a few bucks to spend, but how should they spend it at this point with the draft one month away?