The Washington Redskins brought in two new players during this offseason who both immediately touted the opportunity to win as a reason they picked the organization. And these two – quarterback Alex Smith and cornerback Orlando Scandrick – have a combined 22 years of NFL experience. They should have the ability to read the league and an organization to tell if the proper things are in place. Smith didn’t hesitate to talk about chasing a championship when he was introduced last week.
So, are the Redskins truly close to competing on a high level, or are these just the things new acquisitions are supposed to say?
The way the organization has approached free agency seems to be a win-now approach. Bringing in a 33-year-old veteran quarterback that has led his team to the playoffs three consecutive seasons points to an immediate timetable for contention. The team could have looked to replace Kirk Cousins with a quarterback in the draft, even trying to move up from the No. 13 slot to land one of the big four of Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield. Former Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson is the wildcard of the quarterback class and could even fall to Washington at 13.
The Jets traded three second-round picks to the Colts to move up from No. 6 to No. 3, likely with an eye on a quarterback. The Bills traded left tackle Cordy Glenn to the Bengals to move from No. 21 to No. 12. They are also in the market for a quarterback.
The Redskins lost two cornerbacks entering the prime of their career (Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland), but instead of going young, they brought in a 10-year veteran, in Scandrick, 31. A younger player may have indicated a longer view, or it could be the team is placing value on Scandrick’s experience as younger corners Quinton Dunbar, 25, and Fabian Moreau, 23, get more seasoning.
The run game, ranked No. 28 in the league with 90.5 yards per game, is expected to be addressed via a deep draft class at the position.
However, Washington hasn’t yet splurged on a high-priced, peaking defensive linemen that could have helped address the biggest weakness in 2017 – the league’s worst run defense at 134.1 yards per game. Johnathan Hankins visited the Redskins this week, but left without a contract.
The Redskins haven’t been overly aggressive in free agency, chasing that high-dollar difference maker. Receiver Paul Richardson was a nice fit at a substantial price, and he’s 25-years-old with plenty of upside, but largely unproven. Bringing back linebacker and leading tackler Zach Brown at a reasonable price tag was a strong move.
The starting left guard job is still in limbo, though, as is outside linebacker. There remains a need at safety.
The team should improve from a baseline level just by being healthy. Getting Jordan Reed, Trent Williams, Morgan Moses, Chris Thompson, Rob Kelley and Jonathan Allen on the field should be a boost in itself.
Playoff history shows that, though it may feel like an everlasting drought for the Redskins, a turnaround in the NFL can be quick. Eight 2017 playoff teams didn’t make the postseason in 2016. Six of them hadn’t been to the playoffs since at least 2013. Four of those were much longer – Bills (1999), Rams (2004), Jaguars (2007) and Titans (2008). The Super Bowl champion Eagles have only been in the playoffs twice since 2010, the same amount as the Redskins.
“It’s very clear, immediately, the desire to win from top to bottom,” Smith said at his introductory press conference. “The stakes, the urgency.”
Scandrick said he got that same feel from Redskins Team President Bruce Allen and Head Coach Jay Gruden.
Doug Williams, senior vice-president of player personnel, downplayed a sense of urgency, but some would make sense as Gruden enters his fifth season at the helm. He’ll now hold the position for the longest stint since 1970 outside of Joe Gibbs, Norv Turner and George Allen.
The organization has a challenge as it sits in the same division as the loaded Eagles, a talented Cowboys roster with a young core and a Giants team that never stays in the doldrums very long. But the biggest offseason actions thus far indicate the Redskins are pushing to win sooner than later.
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