Has this Redskins offseason disappointed you so far? Or maybe I should re-phrase. Were you expecting more to happen?
That may sound like the same question, but the difference is important. Many fans equate disappointment with lack of free agency signings, and it often becomes frustrating to see previous star players – Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris – leave for other teams and watch your own stand pat, especially since they overhauled the roster last year (why aren't they doing it again?). This is free agency (lots of big names available all at once!) and it's only fair to get a little excited about, and then a little annoyed with, the possibilities followed by "missed opportunities."
ESPN released their Power Rankings for each NFL team post-free agency today(although the window is still open to sign players, the hubbub has died down since March 9). The Redskins sit at No. 17 on the list. It's not exactly a promising number, nothing flashy or something to boast about; nothing terribly wrong or embarrassment to feel either.
And while list makers get things wrong all the time, there is a tendency to overreact about why a certain team is in a certain position.
For reference, you can find the Redskins’ complete free agency journal here with a list of everyone the Redskins have signed or re-signed to the team in 2016. And when you examine it, sure, it doesn't seem that bold. The Patriots got Martellus Bennett. The Cardinals got Chandler Jones. The Jets got Matt Forte. They all currently sit above the Redskins.
But free agents do not Super Bowl teams make (OK, the Denver Broncos may be the one exception here). Over the last five years, the 10 most lucrative contracts in free agency only produced three players that made the playoffs with the team that signed them that year.
General manager Scot McCloughan is now in his second year with the Redskins and knows the figures. His success in Seattle and San Francisco came primarily with home-grown talent, the kind he could mold and control at cheaper costs that fit well with the systems his coaches had in place.
"That's how you start building things because you know how they are in the meeting rooms, on the practice field, in the locker room, in the weight room," McCloughan said at the owner's meetings. "That's what I believe in, that's why the draft is so important for us is the fact that we have to identify good football players but guys we want to get to second and third contracts and not live on the outside with guys that have gone to different organizations and haven't been taught being Redskin."
The chief concern remains the dollar figure.
"The thing that's scary about free agency is you always overpay," McCloughan said. "That's why I think it's important to draft well, so when you overpay you know who they are and what they are."
The Washington Redskins announced on Tuesday, March 15, 2016, the signing of safety David Bruton. Here's a gallery of photos from his career.
Yes, there are question marks at various positions for 2016, realizations that McCloughan has conceded a week ago. But so far, he has retained the players he feels strongly about. He has brought in players for low cost (David Bruton Jr., Terence Garvin, Kendall Reyes) that can add important depth and flexibility. He has eight picks in the upcoming NFL Draft that he would like to turn into 12.
And yes, the Redskins made the playoffs last year and are ranked 17th in ESPN's power rankings. But they also have a strong vision and template they're following that requires patience, especially for list makers who don't usually #trusttheprocess. Plus, teams need motivation.
"The Redskins' roster will head into next season mostly unchanged as the team tries to make the playoffs for the second straight year, something it hasn't done since 1990-92," goes the blurb on ESPN.
In other words, the Redskins will have consistency this year. And consistency starts with young players buying into the system and returning to the same one a year later.
"I've got to add to the core of the team and that's how you do it, through the draft," McCloughan said. "But the fourth through the seventh and the college free agents, but that's how you build the core of the team. Solid backups, possibly starters down the line, but really good special teams players. And that's when you get things rolling, that's when things are going the right way."
So breathe. Let's convene in a couple months and do this all over again.