The Redskins are winning the offseason again.
After trading little to obtain Denver quarterback Case Keenum, Washington managed a creative free agent deal to get New York Giants safety Landon Collins. A team with scant salary cap space added two key pieces for a combined $7.5 million this season — half of what one of them usually would cost.
A team notorious for overpaying suddenly found a winning conservative path — although it’s only temporary. Collins’ deal for $4 million this season swells to $14.6 million in 2020 while Keenum becomes a free agent. But the Redskins once more slapped on a financial Band-Aid while trying to stay somewhat competitive.
The true beauty of the moves is how they set up the draft: The Redskins will be able to pick who they need rather than who is most marketable. There’s now no pressure to find a quarterback to sell jerseys or a safety to captain the defense. Neither position figures to be worthy of the Redskins’ No. 15 overall pick, so Washington might have forced a selection and whiffed.
Instead, receiver now figures as the top need, and the club could take a pass rusher in the second round and a guard in the third.
The important thing is that the Redskins concentrate on offense, or they could have another season of trying to win with field goals, a scenario that put unrealistic pressure on the defense.
The exception is at outside linebacker. The Redskins need another pass rusher — they are losing free agent linebacker Preston Smith to Green Bay, and linebacker Ryan Kerrigan turns 31 in August.
The Redskins will be tempted to draft a pass rusher in Round 1, but they don’t need that as much as they need to rebuild their depleted passing game. They can get away with fewer sacks, but not fewer catches.
Washington essentially has a first-round bust in receiver Josh Doctson finishing out his contract, Paul Richardson returning from an injury-dogged year and a bunch of questions.
Coach Jay Gruden’s plan can’t be to rely on tight end Jordan Reed and running back Chris Thompson to lead the team in receptions because neither can stay healthy.
The Redskins have been eyeing Duke QB Daniel Jones for their first pick, and he’ll probably be available given that Jacksonville, at No. 7, is filling its quarterback need with former Eagles QB Nick Foles. But some draft gurus feel Jones might be a second-rounder, so Washington shouldn’t press. Instead, they should try for one of the Ole Miss receivers, D.K. Metcalf or A.J. Brown. Metcalf has more athleticism while Brown is steadier. Either way, Washington needs to pick a playmaking receiver.
That’s the freedom they get in the draft after a couple of savvy decisions at the start of free agency.
Read more from Rick Snider: