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Redskins Free Agency Report: Pernell McPhee (finally) signs with Washington

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The ‘Skins get the rotational OLB they needed to replace Murphy and Galette

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NFL: Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE: Contract details reported

The Redskins lost Trent Murphy to free agency and withdrew an offer to Junior Galette, so they lost two good pass rushers. So newly-signed Pernell McPhee needs to provide quality backup play behind Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith. McPhee provides more of what they’ll lose without Murphy: A bigger-bodied linebacker at 274 pounds, who can be used in multiple ways. McPhee’s versatility in Baltimore got him paid in Chicago. But injuries disrupted his play there; McPhee missed 12 games combined in three years. He has 31 career sacks – 17 with Baltimore and 14 with Chicago.

Height: 6’3”

Weight: 269 pounds

Age: 29

Entry to NFL: 5th round, 2011, (Baltimore Ravens)

Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, the first big free agent signed by Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace in 2015, and safety Quintin Demps were released by the team [recently].

McPhee, 29, was scheduled to earn a base salary of $7.2 million in 2018, which was too high for a player with only 14 sacks over three seasons in Chicago. By releasing him, the Bears will open up $7.075 million in salary-cap space.

McPhee played extremely hard on defense, and he was also a forceful and entertaining presence in the locker room. However, he missed 12 games with a variety of ailments, including chronic knee issues, since joining the Bears. He was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 21 after trying to battle through a shoulder injury.

Injured and unproductive, McPhee was released by the Bears this off season, opening the opportunity for him to catch one with another team. The Bears didn’t think he was worth $7m per season.

We’ll have to wait on contract details, but McPhee wasn’t likely to be an expensive signing. The Redskins let two guys walk in free agency that they liked a lot, and McPhee didn’t seem to have drawn a lot of interest from other teams.

How does he fit with the Redskins?

McPhee is similar to the McTwins signed last year — a veteran player brought in as a relatively low-cost rotational player. I actually think he will fit well with the Redskins. He has the same kind of flexibility that Trent Murphy offers to play as an edge rusher or with his hand in the dirt like a DE, and the Redskins are always looking for flexibility across the defensive front seven.

Here’s a profile from 2015 when McPhee had finished his rookie contract with the Ravens, before he signed with the Bears:

McPhee was a fifth round pick for the Baltimore Ravens out of Mississippi State in 2011. At 6-foot-3 and 280 pounds he could have potentially filled the role of a situational inside pass rusher or bulked up to play 3-4 end. He ended up providing them with a balance of both roles. He played with his hand on the ground for most of his first two years, lining up at end and tackle in 4-3 looks and also lining up as an end in 3-4 looks. He finished his rookie year with a +20.8 overall grade including a +20.5 pass rushing mark. McPhee also led all interior lineman with a 9.2 Pass Rush Productivity rating.

This past season [2014] was McPhee’s breakout year, a year in which he was able to rank second out of all 3-4 outside linebackers with a +26.0 overall grade (and +28.4 including the playoffs), even though his 540 total snaps were half as many as some of his counterparts. His pass rushing grade of +23.1 ranked him third behind only Justin Houston and teammate Elvis Dumervil, and he managed a solid +3.2 grade against the run.

He not only provides value as an edge rusher but can also do damage from inside. He could fit with either a 4-3 scheme or a 3-4 scheme. The best fit for him would be with a team that embraces his versatility (like the Ravens did) and that shows the willingness and creativity to move him around and maximize his pass rushing ability. Expect McPhee to garner plenty of interest if he hits the open market.

Personally, I like McPhee as a low-cost signing, and he should fit in as a front-7 McTriplet, along with McClain (if he’s not cut) and McGee in 2018.