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#HailMail 1/23: Addressing Free Agency, The Draft And More


There's a long road between now and when the 2020 season kicks off in September, and there are plenty of decisions to be made along the way.

Some of the biggest surround free agency and the NFL Draft, which will take place in March and April, respectively. The Redskins have 21 players set to hit free agency, and they also have the No. 2 overall pick. The new coaching staff will have its hands full deciding what to do with both of those critical offseason events, as the outcome will have a long-lasting effect on the team.

The fans have questions, are we are here to answer. Here's what Redskins fans want to know in this week's mailbag.

How do you see the Redskins addressing the running back position this offseason? Will they rely on Derrius Guice or try to get a young guy in the draft? -- Todd G.

Out of all the positions on the Redskins' roster, running back is arguably one of the most stacked. They have Adrian Peterson, Guice, Wendell Smallwood, Josh Ferguson and Chris Thompson on the roster, all of which saw plenty of playing time last year. There's also Bryce Love, who missed his entire rookie year recovering from a knee injury.

Smallwood and Thompson are set to be free agents in March, while the Redskins have the option to bring Peterson back should the new coaching staff want to keep his services around in the new offense. It's unclear if Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner will decide to keep Peterson, but it should be noted that Peterson did perform well when it was asked of him. He rushed for 898 yards in 15 games last year and had five touchdowns on 4.3 yards per carry.

Guice and Love are both expected to be back for the 2020 season, so there is plenty of young talent in the position group. If Peterson does come back for his third season with the Redskins, fans should expect he and Guice to dominate the backfield in a similar fashion to when Guice returned from Injured Reserve. The combination worked well for them, as they won two out of the four games that both were on the active roster, and the rushing attack was as good as it was all year.

What will this new coaching staff do to make us competitive again? -- Debbie S.

Rivera and the rest of the coaching staff have kept quiet on how they plan to change the team from a personnel standpoint, mostly because they're still in the process of evaluating players and position groups. But Rivera did offer a few peaks at his vision during his introductory press conference. One of the biggest was that he wanted the team to have a "player-centered culture."

Rivera believes the team has plenty of raw talent. He has made that clear on multiple occasions. He believes there is potential to turn that raw talent into a winning team, but that has to be done with the players' interests in mind. That's how he did things with the Carolina Panthers, and he led that franchise to multiple playoff appearances and a Super Bowl berth.

Rivera also wanted to hire "great teachers" to his coaching staff, and he has certainly done that by bringing in the likes of defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and offensive line coach John Matsko. Those two pillars, quality coaches who will teach the game and create a player-centered culture, are what Rivera will use as the foundation to make the Redskins competitive.

How would going from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 benefit our team? How will these changes be implemented and how do our players feel about making this change? -- Robyn S.

Switching to a 4-3 will allow the defense to play to its strength, which is a solid interior defensive line with players like Ryan Kerrigan and Montez Sweat rushing the passer.

The Redskins have four former first-round picks in Kerrigan, Sweat, Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne on their defensive front, so it's clear that they have consistently placed high value in creating a strong front seven. Switching to a 4-3 will allow these players to do what they do best, which is tackle ball carriers.

The players themselves have not said much about the change, but some defensive players, including Allen and defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis, were front and center during Rivera's introductory press conference. Both of those players are tough-minded individuals who just want to win. They are known for being hard workers; Del Rio and Rivera both value discipline and results. That sounds like a good matchup.

Any chance of Ryan Kerrigan out as an OLB in the new 4-3 defense? -- Adam B.

As mentioned before, Rivera and Del Rio haven't answered many questions when it comes to evaluating the team. They're either still in the process or don't want to share that information with everyone just yet, so it's hard to say what exactly they plan to do with Kerrigan.

Del Rio likes what he sees out of Kerrigan, though; he called Kerrigan a "premier pass rusher" when speaking with Voice of the Redskins Larry Michael on "Redskins Nation." He also added later on that switching to a 4-3 defense will allow Kerrigan to play less in coverage and spend more time rushing the passer.

It's possible Kerrigan could still drop back and play coverage on occasion. He's been an outside linebacker since he was drafted by the Redskins in 2011, and defenses with Rivera as the head coach have used a variety of fronts. Still, Kerrigan is one of the best pass rushers in franchise history, so fans can still expect him to get after quarterbacks regardless of where he plays on defense.

How is this coaching staff going to change the atmosphere and work ethic? -- Vanessa M.

Rivera had a lot to say in his introductory press conference, and one of his best lines was that everything will start and end with one simple principle: discipline.

"It's expected from day one," Rivera said. "I have a philosophy that every player, every coach, everyone who works for this organization, they'll know it day one. You're not going to play for this team, you're not going to work for this team, if you don't have the discipline to give us everything you have. No exceptions, no excuses."

Rivera wants players who are going to hold each other accountable and, more importantly, do things the way he and the rest of the coaching staff want them done. He demands excellence, and if things are done the right way, he will put all the success on the players. If things go wrong, he will take the blame.

Discipline will be the cog that makes everything work under Rivera's tenure. That will certainly affect everyone on the team.

Based on the draft class prospects, how aggressive will or should the Redskins be in free agency to fill key voids suchs at tight end, wide receiver and offesnsive line? -- Allen V.

One thing that has always been clear for every coaching staff is that teams have to use the draft and free agency to get better. Time will tell just how aggressive the Redskins will be in acquiring players this offseason, but each position will have differing levels of importance.

On the surface, it might appear as if receiver is an area that needs an upgrade, but Redskins got pleasant surprises out of Terry McLaurin, Steven Sims and Kelvin Harmon. McLaurin was one of the best rookie receivers last year, while Sims and Harmon both got significant playing time and proved to be solid contributors. So, the Redskins have a good core of young receivers they plan to help groom and mature for at least the next few seasons.

The other two positions, tight end and offensive line, have questions that need to be answered. Vernon Davis is set to be a free agent, while Jordan Reed missed all of last season with a concussion. On the offensive line, Brandon Scherff, Ereck Flowers and Donald Penn are all set to hit the open market.

The Redskins got virtually no production from their tight ends last year. That and the offensive line are likely the two positions where Rivera and the coaching staff could be more aggressive in filling open spots by either resigning players or looking to the draft. We outlined five players to watch during the Senior Bowl this weekend, which can be found HERE.

It is known to have a successful offense you need a running game. What are the plans in draft and free agency to bring on players that will give us a true running game? -- Bob L.

There are two main position groups that truly make a running game work; those are the running backs and the offensive line.

For running backs, the Redskins have a rare amount of youth, talent and experience at their disposal. Peterson is the second-oldest active running back in the league and is still producing, while Guice and Love are both on the roster. So, it looks like the team is set at that position.

The biggest question still remains with the offensive line, especially at the guard position. Flowers had a solid first season with the team, and Scherff made the Pro Bowl. Both are set to be free agents in March.

Even if the Redskins decide to bring both of them back, it would still be nice to have some depth at that position. If the team does decide to address the running game, it will likely be by shoring up the offensive line by either resigning players or bringing in new ones.

What are the plans for our players up for free agency? -- Robert P.

The Redskins currently have 21 players set to be free agents in March. That list includes Scherff, Flowers, Thompson, Colt McCoy, Case Keenum and Jon Bostic.

While it's unlikely that the Redskins will retain all of their free agents, they will certainly try to resign some of them. Players like Scherff and Bostic had good seasons and were mainstays on offense and defense. It is hard to predict which players will stick, though, because it will depend upon what this new coaching staff thinks of them.

Rivera has done his homework. Even before he was officially hired by the Redskins, he watched film from most of the Redskins' final games and has write-ups on every player. He already has a good idea of what he likes and doesn't like from this team.

It's possible some players will fit his system better than others, but the plan right now is what Rivera and the rest of the staff has said since day one. They are still evaluating and will address who to keep when that process is complete.

Why not trade the No. 2 overall pick or give it for a stud tight end that I think would really beef up the Redskins offensive attack? -- Gary T.

The Redskins are in a good position when it comes to deciding what to do with that No. 2 pick. They already have their quarterback in Dwayne Haskins, which frees them up to address other positions of need.

Trading down to acquire more picks is certainly an option. When the Cleveland Browns traded away their No. 2 pick to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016, they received three picks in that year's draft -- one of which was in the top 10 -- a first-round pick in 2017 and a second-round pick in 2018. They also got a conditional fifth-round pick for 2017. So, there is a chance for a massive haul should the Redskins decide to take that route.

However, players taken with a top five pick have the chance to immediately change the team that drafts them. Many draft analysts are predicting the Redskins to take Ohio State defensive end Chase Young, who would be a welcome addition to the roster.

Regardless of what they ultimately do with the pick, the team has the chance to get better.

I have heard a lot of people calling the Washington Redskins the Washington Panthers. Even with a lot Rivera's staff being the same, what are some things he will do differently here in Washington? -- Demetrius H.

It's true that much of the Rivera's coaching staff from the Panthers found their way to Washington. Rivera wants to hire people he trusts, which is typical of any head coach. He's also brought in coaches like Del Rio who he has never worked with, so that alone shows he is willing to make some changes.

Rivera was actually asked this question during his introductory press conference, and his answer was simple: win the Super Bowl. He didn't just say it because it was during his first press conference; he said it because he meant it. He wants fans to know that is what this team is going to work on going forward.

But Rivera knows everything he did in Carolina will carry over to his new job. He's more concerned about doing things the right way, and if something doesn't help achieve the ultimate goal of winning a championship, they are going to move away from it. As Rivera said, "That's as simple as it gets."

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