Are Redskins’ early free agency moves always their best?

March 19

Darrel Young, a late free-agent find, turned out to be a more impactful addition in 2009 than Washington’s most high-profile free-agent pickup. (Washington Post/John McDonnell)
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There are mixed opinions about what the Redskins did in the first week they were allowed to sign free agents, although the vast majority of the voters in yesterday’s poll gave them a B or a C.

Free agency also is known to produce mixed results. Those results, with the benefit of hindsight, don’t always match the level of excitement at the time of the free-agent addition. Put another way, the first players you sign don’t always turn out to be the best.

That was my preconceived notion, anyway, as I dug through the Redskins’ history of transactions.

A logical place to start is 2009, because it was a year that Washington’s free-agent spending wasn’t hampered by the salary-cap penalty (in fact was the moment that led to the penalty) and it was the last time they made a really huge splash.

2009 first-week free agent signings (dates are from the official transaction report, not when the news broke):
Feb. 28: DT Albert Haynesworth
Mar. 2: G Derrick Dockery
Mar. 4: CB DeAngelo Hall

Those are the early moves. Later in 2009, they added LB Alfred Fincher (Mar. 10), SS Reed Doughty (Mar. 11), DE Renaldo Wynn (Mar. 24), DT Michael Marquardt (Mar. 31), LB Robert Thomas and DE Phillip Daniels (Apr. 2), T Mike Williams (Apr. 25), P Hunter Smith (Apr. 27), G Edwin Williams, DB Doug Dutch and T Scott Burley (Apr. 30), DT Antoine Holmes (May 1), WRs Roydell Williams and Trent Shelton and RB P.J. Hill (May 4), then-LB Darrel Young and DE J.D. Skolnitsky (May 6), WR Keith Eloi (May 7) and K Graham Gano (May 8). Then the draft took place, picks were signed, and more players came and went throughout training camp. The Redskins also retained restricted free agents DT Kedric Golston (Apr. 10) and DT Anthony Montgomery (Mar. 25) when nobody signed them to offer sheets.

Of those free agents from five seasons ago, Hall, Doughty, Golston and Young were key contributors through the end of last year, while Haynesworth was a high-profile free-agent bust. Daniels, Dockery and Smith were solid for a time, and Gano is still in the NFL as a highly regarded kicker, albeit for Carolina.

I won’t run through every signing every season (you can do that here; just sort by Redskins), but in 2010, the early moves were Daniels, Williams, Philip Buchanon, Ma’ake Kemoeatu, Casey Rabach and Artis Hicks. More than a week after the first moves were made, Will Montgomery, Logan Paulsen, Ryan Torain and Rex Grossman were among the free-agent pickups (along with RBs Larry Johnson and Willie Parker, who did little), and trades were made for Donovan McNabb and Jammal Brown.

Sometimes, the early moves are the best moves (like in 2007, when London Fletcher, Fred Smoot and Ross Tucker signed early, and the best moves made later involved Jason Fabini, Byron Westbrook and Keenan McCardell).

But the point is, sometimes key moves can be made outside the first week. They might not be the most exciting ones, but Young (as a fullback) and Paulsen are still delivering for the Redskins while Haynesworth is but a memory. In 2014, if the Redskins come through with one or more of the players they’ve been linked to — like safety Ryan Clark, T Donald Penn or OLB Anthony Spencer — it would go a long way toward making sure they’re not boxed in by needs on draft day.

Opening Kick engages regular readers, leading off the morning with a conversation starter, quick observation or poll. Click here for previous installments.

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Keith McMillan · March 18

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