Despite prominent departures in the first week of free agency, the Redskins managed to break even while staying budget-conscious.
After Pierre Garcon took more money to sign with the 49ers, and DeSean Jackson and Chris Baker accepted lucrative offers from the Buccaneers, Washington reloaded with cheap replacements.
Wideout Terrelle Pryor helps offset the losses of Garcon and Jackson. Defensive tackles Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain could fill in for Baker. Safety D.J. Swearinger gives the club a much-needed presence in the back end.
The Giants added receiver Brandon Marshall and the Eagles picked up wideout Alshon Jeffery on a one-year deal, but the Redskins’ NFC East rivals have kept mostly quiet in free agency. That leaves the balance of power in the division unchanged, which isn’t good for Washington given it finished third last season.
Still, the start to free agency could have gone worse. Franchising Kirk Cousins for $23.94 million in 2017 meant the Redskins couldn’t afford to keep everyone. Garcon and Jackson combined for seven TD catches last year. They were never big red-zone targets, and their desire for long-term deals at age 30 made them too risky.
The Redskins were expected to spend more freely after releasing general manager Scot McCloughan, which could have distracted fans from that public relations fiasco. Instead, the team was conservative, with president Bruce Allen calling the shots. Washington reportedly put in an offer for defensive end Calais Campbell, but it was too low to keep him from picking the Jaguars.
Pryor can help at a position of need, but he’ll only tease fans if he has a big season because he’s on a one-year deal. He caught 77 passes for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns last year from six Cleveland quarterbacks. At 6 feet 4, Pryor gives the Redskins a red-zone receiver they sorely lacked last season. If Josh Doctson (6 feet 2) returns healthy, Washington has two tall options to keep opponents from double-teaming tight end Jordan Reed.
Swearinger can play either safety position and will likely be paired with Su’a Cravens. Swearinger sometimes misses tackles, but he’s known as a hard hitter with speed. The Redskins have been burned by slow safeties in recent years.
McClain — a quick nose tackle with lateral speed — and McGee — who can play end and tackle and had 2.5 sacks last season — are tasked with improving a run defense that ranked 24th in 2016.
After those signings, expect the Redskins to focus on the draft. They should pick a pass-rushing lineman in the first round. Inside linebacker and guard are also priorities.
And if team officials believe a long-term deal with Cousins isn’t possible, they’ll need a quarterback for 2018, too.
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