In years past the Washington Redskins would lead the National Football League (NFL) in players signed when the offseason free agency signing period started. The team would sign players with a flare not seen around the league and the other franchises would turn their noses up to the glamor coming out of Ashburn, Virginia. Not only did Washington sign players as if putting together a fantasy football league team, they would sign players to extraordinary contracts where money was shelled out in epic amounts.
During those years, Redskins owner Dan Snyder built a reputation off those early free agent signing periods during which he ran the team and, unfortunately for him, it’s one that he has not been entirely able to shake.
Fast forward to 2016 and the Redskins are behaving in a way that many around the beltway did not see coming — or even think was a remote possibility. They are actually standing clear of the over-the-top spending on free agents looking to cash-in on their previous season’s successes.
To General Manager Scot McCloughan’s credit, in his introductory press conference last offseason he said that the Redskins would not be major players during free agency under his watch. He mentioned that the team would like to develop the team’s own young players and build through the draft.
These words could never be truer if the past year’s draft is any indicator. The team drafted well under McCloughan and has six possible 2016 opening-day-starters from that group.
The blueprint has been changed in D.C. and fans must now show patience as a plan seems to be in place on how the team will attack the offseason to better the team. McCloughan has even released or severed ties with a few beloved players who, over the years, produced on the field and off it.
In 2012 Washington galvanized the mid-Atlantic region in its run to the playoffs. Robert Griffin, III was the starting quarterback and NFL Rookie of the Year. Alfred Morris — a fellow rookie at the time — was one of the top rushers in the league and would be a Pro Bowl player in his own right. Fullback Darrel Young finished second in Pro Bowl voting and become a player that was always on the verge of going to Honolulu as well.
Just three years later and that entire tandem will be wearing different uniforms next season.
McCloughan and Head Coach Jay Gruden have decided to take the team in a different direction having already franchised quarterback Kirk Cousins as Griffin’s replacement. As well they have looked to see what young running backs Matt Jones and Chris Thompson can do in more featured roles.
Some of these moves have not gone over well with a fan base that is starved for a consistent winner. But one thing that is for certain is that the Redskins have football minds in the building that are changing the culture in Washington on how to build a team.
For all of the fans who have been longing for the days of sensible free agent spending and the development of young talent that wish is now coming true.
The great teams around the league have always been able to sustain their status even with the defection of players who wanted to cash in. Teams like the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos have shown that they always draft and develop the next man up in case players leave elsewhere for greener pastures.
The Redskins are now conducting themselves like a real professional outfit that is making tough decisions that are not always fan-friendly and yet they are doing them with a clear idea and motivation involved. The days of the free agents looking to get paid and knowing that the 202 and 703 area codes were the places to open their bank accounts are gone.
What happens between now and the draft may not be the flashy moves of years gone by but they should be seen as highly sensible decisions.
Time will tell if the moves work on the field but with McCloughan’s track record how could anyone bet against him?
The Redskins — winners of nine games last year and the NFC East division championship — have stood relatively quiet as their divisional foes have made bold moves since the start of free agency earlier this week.
The Philadelphia Eagles re-signed their starting quarterback in Sam Bradford. They also traded starting running back DeMarco Murray to the Tennessee Titans; and cornerback Byron Maxwell, linebacker Kiko Alonso and their 13th pick in the first round in the NFL draft to the Miami Dolphins for their eighth overall pick in this year’s draft.
The Eagles also signed offensive guard Brandon Brooks to revamp an offensive line that did not play well last year. They filled a few spots with the likes of quarterback Chase Daniel, safety Rodney McLeod, linebacker Nigel Bradham and cornerbacks Ron Brooks and Leodis McKelvin so far during the free agency signing period.
The New York Giants have been the leagues big-spenders so far, having spent almost $200 Million on defensive end Olivier Vernon (five years, $85 million), nose tackle Damon Harrison (five years, $46.25 million), corner back Janoris Jenkins (five years, $62.5 million) and former Redskins middle linebacker Keenan Robinson (one year, $3.5 million).
The G-Men are trying to shore up one of the league’s worst defenses with the aforementioned acquisitions and look to add a few more big names over the next few days.
The Dallas Cowboys have played free agency close to the vest, adding only one player as this is being written in defensive tackle Cedric Thornton.
The Cowboys have been busy re-signing their own players, coming to terms with linebackers Rolando McClain and Kyle Wilbur; and cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Josh Thomas. Offensive tackle Charles Brown and tight end James Hanna have been retained as well.
Relatively speaking the NFC East has been busy getting better and shoring up weaknesses. The Redskins brain trust will have their hands full making sure they are countering and making the team better as well.
The main storyline now is that the days of bringing in overpriced, past-their-prime free agents are over. McCloughan and Gruden are showing that they are working in unison regarding some of the moves that have already been made.
Young, who was a fan-favorite, was told by Gruden that the team was going to go in a different direction. The move is clearly a Gruden decision because his offense does not make use of fullbacks. That would show that he and McCloughan had to be in agreement in order for the team to make such a tough move.
Perhaps this is another telltale sign that the brain trusts in Washington — which have more recently been perceived to be dominated by Snyder — are actually working together. At least this is to what all indications point.
For the Burgundy and Gold to continue their upward trajectory they will need these types of compromises within leadership for the betterment of the team.
So far the team has entertained several free agents but outside of their own players have signed only defensive lineman Kendall Reyes. Reyes who is listed at 6’4 320 lbs is a player who started 50 games over the past four seasons playing for the San Diego Chargers. He will give the Redskins defensive front added depth and possibly could challenge and win a starting spot.
The move was not splashy but a value move by McCloughan in which the teams salary cap will not be hit hard as Reyes signed for 1 year at $2.5 million. This is another bargain move by McCloughan who has mastered the one year deal with incentives before offering too much to a player who may need to prove their worth.
The team still has about $20 million in salary cap space and have several positions of needs that need to be filled via free agency or the upcoming draft.
Some fans are not sure what to think of the team not going free-agent-crazy but in the end, recent moves (or lack thereof) demonstrate that a true plan is in place.
It’s best for everyone to just sit back and watch what is without question, a new and refreshing approach for the new-look Redskins.