The Washington Redskins continue to address needs with free agent signings, while continuing preparations for the draft.

In today’s mailbag, we discuss both topics as we examine how Pro Bowl inside linebacker Zach Brown will fit into the puzzle, and how the moves thus far could impact draft decisions.

Thanks, as always, for taking part in the Redskins Mailbag, and keep those questions coming! E-mail them to me at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line, “Mailbag question,” and we’ll do it all over again next week.

With the acquisition of Zach Brown, what’s his role in our inside linebacker mix in the upcoming season? Word on Brown is that he likely won’t call plays, and while Foster can, he usually doesn’t. So, do you see Compton still playing the “Mike” while Brown takes over from Foster as the “Will,” or vice versa? Or more of a rotation with Brown or Foster coming in on third downs as a pseudo “Sam”?

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— C.J. Paschall

It’s still really early. All of this will be sorted out during practices later this spring and summer. But the addition of Brown, who is coming off a Pro Bowl season, means increased depth and a great deal of competition for the Redskins’ inside linebackers, but especially Mason Foster, Martrell Spaight and Steven Daniels.

You’re right, Brown seems best suited as the weakside linebacker rather than the middle linebacker. During his career, he hasn’t been the signal-caller of the defense. That doesn’t mean he can’t, however. But Brown does have great athleticism and range. He can clean up a lot of messes, which is great. Some people with familiarity have raised questions about his leadership abilities, which isn’t quite as much of a factor if he’s the “Will.”

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But, back to your question, I’m expecting more of a Brown-Foster showdown, with Brown possibly entering offseason practices with an edge because of his Pro Bowl status and his $4.65 million salary, as opposed to Foster’s $1.2 million.

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Spaight most likely will do his best to try to overtake Compton, although Compton’s experience and leadership skills give him an edge. There’s definitely a chance that we could see coaches use Brown in a few exotic packages along with Compton and Foster. We saw them use Foster, Compton and Su’a Cravens at times last year, so you never know.

After signing Zach Brown, which is a great pickup by the way, I feel there’s still one player out there in free agency that can take this team to the next level: Johnathan Hankins. Do you believe after signing Brown to a $4.65 million contract and if Hankins’s price goes down we can afford him with all we have left after we restructure DeAngelo Hall’s contract? 

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— Malik Brandon-Bey

I don’t see the Redskins going after Hankins. Word on him around the league is that he’s mainly a two-down player, and his asking price (a reported $10 million per year) is too high for a player with those types of limitations. Even if Hankins lowered his asking price a little, I’d still expect the Redskins to pass. Look for Washington to draft a nose tackle and groom him to eventually start.

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Several mock drafts have Washington selecting an offensive player, such as wide receiver John Ross, running backs Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey or guard Forrest Lamp with their first-round pick. If the mock drafts were correct, do you think it’s smart strategy to draft the highest-rated player on their board if it was an offensive player, based on the shape of their defense?

 Larry Grant, Woodbridge

I understand the best-player-available approach. You never want to pass on a supposed can’t-miss guy because of another need that’s not rated as highly. But fortunately for the Redskins, most draft analysts have Cook rated similarly to linebackers Haason Reddick and Reuben Foster. So, the Redskins could still draft for talent and need. I just feel like their need for difference-making defensive players screams out way more than the need for a running back. Washington runs a pass-first attack and seemingly hates pounding the ball. So, the Redskins wouldn’t put a workhorse back like Cook to good use anyway. I think for the amount of work they give their running backs, Rob Kelley has shown enough promise to believe that he’s going to get better and make enough plays to effectively pace the offense. Meanwhile, Washington’s defense remains short on guys capable of making game-changing plays.

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Even though the Redskins signed Brown, I still think they’ll probably go after an inside linebacker in the draft. Brown could wind up being a difference-maker. But it’s no sure thing that he will be a long-term solution. So, if there’s a talented player at that position when the Redskins are on the clock, they should snatch him up.

When next season comes, can’t the Redskins place the transition tag on Kirk and have the right to match any contract he signs with another team? I don’t see another team offering him anything as ridiculous as the $35 million franchising him for a third time would cost. Is this faulty thinking?

— Marc Crifasi 

Yes, the Redskins can use the transition tag on Cousins, which means the guarantee of a $28 million salary for the 2018 season if no opposing team signs him to a contract that Washington officials decide is too rich for their taste. In that case, Cousins could sign elsewhere and Washington would receive no compensation. The transition tag move avoids having to pay $35 million for a third straight franchise tag season. You’re right, that it’s probably unlikely that another team would give Cousins a $35 million a year contract. But, it’s also unlikely that Cousins would sign a long-term deal here. He really wants to test his value on the open market to see where that takes him.

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I find the signings of Terrell Pryor and Zach Brown surprisingly encouraging. Unlike most free-agent signings (and very unlike the “falling star” signings of Deion and Bruce in the early Snyder years), both of these players are young and still clearly ascending at their positions. And the one-year contracts are quite interesting because effectively they are saying to the league: “I’m good and I’m going to prove it this season,’ which is all to the benefit of the Redskins.  That is definitely the kind of player you want — like Cousins. Also the Redskins let them marinate on the market for a while to get their asking price down and get them at good value for money. If they don’t pan out, it’s no dead money. If they do pan out, the Redskins are well-positioned to re-sign them. Isn’t this exactly the kind of personnel policy we’ve been crying out for? It is simultaneously unbelievable and promising. What do you think?

— Don Crehan, Darnestown

The one-year deals to guys like Pryor and Brown definitely set the Redskins up in a good situation because they avoid the risk of giving a highly lucrative contract to a player who isn’t a good fit. They get a highly motivated player at the same time. The only problem is next year, if both players play well, Washington goes into free agency needing to re-sign both of them, as well as key players such as Morgan Moses, Bashaud Breeland, Will Compton, Chris Thompson and Spencer Long, while also needing to find a quarterback, and there’s only so much money to go around.

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But aside from that, yes, this is a good situation for the Redskins, and the players have the chance to set themselves up for nice paydays if they produce.

Email a Redskins question to mike.jones@washpost.com, with the subject “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered next Tuesday.

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