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#HailMail: Goodbye Free Agency, Hello NFL Draft


With free agency three weeks old and the NFL Draft two weeks away, there's plenty of Redskins' news to discuss. Here's what fans wanted to know:

I was under the assumption that the Redskins had a decent amount of money to spend in free agency, and I don't understand why we didn't go after a star wide receiver or a top tight end. I'm happy they filled some needed spots, but fans were also looking for a "splash" move or two. A lot of fans are a little disappointed that more money wasn't spent. -- John M.

You're right; the Redskins entered free agency with about $61 million in cap space, which was among the top 10 in the NFL. And even after all of their acquisitions, they're still seventh in the league with about $24.6 million to spend, according to Spotrac.

The Redskins tried to make a "splash" move by signing No. 1 wide receiver Amari Cooper. Head coach Ron Rivera said as much during a video conference with reporters on Tuesday, explaining that they chased Cooper "very hard all the way up to the very end" and offered "substantial money" to acquire him. Ultimately, Cooper chose to return to Dallas, but Washington appeared all-in on the four-time Pro Bowler.

"We believe [Cooper] would've been a great veteran presence in the room, especially for those young guys that played last year and had success with this football team," Rivera said. "We would've felt good about having a veteran guy like that who's had success in this league as part of what you're trying to do."

The Redskins were also interested in adding Austin Hooper, the top tight end on the market. But they were not willing to pay him as much as the Cleveland Browns did, who made him the highest-paid player at his position with an annual salary of $10.5 million.

Had the Redskins landed either Cooper or Hooper, there would not be nearly as many complaints with the franchise's free agency moves. So just know that the Redskins tried to land these types of players, but for one reason or another, it did not work out.

Lately, all has been quiet on the Trent Williams front. I've seen no stories, no twitter posts, nothing about potential trade partners or likely landing spots. Is it safe to say that all trade discussions are now officially on hold until after the draft? Or are the Redskins still in trade discussions with potential suitors? -- Fran F.

Based on what I've read, there's still a chance Williams is traded before or during the draft, which spans April 23-25. Speaking with NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay, Peter King said the Redskins should be able to find a trade partner at some point over the next few weeks. He then gave two options: the New York Jets and the Seattle Seahawks. The Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Los Angeles Chargers and Cleveland Browns have also been talked about as possible destinations for Williams.

Not much has come of the Redskins allowing Williams to seek a trade last month, but as the draft approaches, teams could become desperate to add one of the league's best left tackles. So, do not be surprised if a deal gets done right before or in the middle of the three-day event.

I understand that Chase Young is good, but why do most commentators think he's better than the three picks we might get for him? The Redskins have multiple holes and a limited number of high draft choices. -- Rick A.

Perhaps NFL Network Draft Analyst Daniel Jeremiah said it best: don't trade off premier players at premier positions.

Young is widely regarded as a generational talent, a "perennial All-Pro" and "the best edge prospect in recent memory." He's not a game-changer but a game-wrecker, someone who can disrupt offenses and bolster defenses with his presence alone. How many players in this draft, or in any draft for that matter, have that type of ability?

Based solely on the Redskins' current needs, trading back is the obvious choice. Defensive line is perhaps their strongest position group, and they could use the extra draft capital to add weapons and protection for second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr..

But this is a long-term investment, and every indication is that Young will be one of the NFL's best defensive players for years to come. By selecting him, every defender's job becomes that much easier.

When asked about the No. 2 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, Rivera said that if you trade back, the player you select must at least be of equal value to the one you gave up. Otherwise, what's the value aside from a few extra selections?

"You've got to be able to sit there and say that the next guy that I'm going to take is going to be that high-impact guy, and that's what I'm looking for," Rivera said. "We need a guy that's going to come in and really change our football team. To me, there's a few guys on that board that are those kind of players."

Young is unequivocally one of those guys, and the Redskins are in prime position to bring him in.

If Chase Young is the pick, what will that defensive rotation look like? Who starts? - @Mr_Reynolds81

While we do not know for sure, I assume Young and 2019 first-round pick Montez Sweat will start at defensive end with 2011 first-round pick Ryan Kerrigan playing plenty of snaps as well. Ryan Anderson, who was often used as a pass-rusher in the Redskins' 3-4 defense last year, seems to fit better at outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio's 4-3 scheme.

At defensive tackle, I'm not going to pretend like I know which two will start between 2017 first-round pick Jonathan Allen, 2018 first-round pick Daron Payne and veteran stalwart Matt Ioannidis. Just know they'll be in constant rotation, with recently re-signed Caleb Brantley and Tim Settle serving as solid depth pieces.

That being said, I would not worry about who starts. The best part about this scenario is that the Redskins would have six quality starters competing for four spots, making for intense competition and unprecedented depth in the trenches.

If the Redskins take Chase Young (which they should) with the second pick, in what order would you place the following needs for the rest of the draft: CB, WR, TE and offensive line? -- Wayne A.

If you asked me this before Rivera's video conference, I would have said that tight end is the biggest draft need, followed by wide receiver, offensive line and cornerback. But then Rivera expressed optimism about newcomers Logan Thomas and Richard Rodgers. He also shot down the the notion that the Redskins will definitely target a tight end.

"Well it is a position we like. Can we target them? Yeah we could. But we also feel that there are some other positions in this draft that are available that would really fit some needs for us as well."

Equipped with this information, I'm changing course. Wide receiver will be the Redskins' No. 1 priority come draft time, and there are oodles of promising possibilities. Jeremiah told at the NFL Scouting Combine that the wide receiver position goes "infinitely deep," and he backed up that claim by including nine of them in his latest top-50 prospects list. In John Clayton's latest mock draft, he predicted seven wideouts to go in the first round and nine to be selected among the first 34 picks.

With their third-round selection (66th overall), Washington could have its choice between USC's Michael PIttman Jr., Boise State's John Hightower, Notre Dame's Chase Claypool and South Carolina's Bryan Edwards. Other wide receivers could also fall based on the volume of solid pass-catchers.

What are some positions on the team that you think Ron is comfortable with already and will not address in the Draft? Corner being my guess. -- @BurgNetworkPod

The Redskins seem most comfortable with their first-round filled defensive front, and if Young was not available at No. 2, there's a good chance they would stayed away from defensive linemen all together. But Young is there, and he's the overwhelming favorite to join the burgundy and gold.

Running back is another position that appears to be set. The Redskins parted ways with Chris Thompson, but they still have Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice, Bryce Love and Josh Ferguson and signed Peyton Barber and J.D. McKissic during free agency. Normally, teams do not carry more than four running backs on the active roster.

While the Redskins' solidified their linebacker corps and retooled their secondary, both positions could benefit from later-round selections to add depth.

Do you think the Redskins should consider drafting Chase Claypool out of Notre Dame? Is he worth a third-round pick? -- Richard M.

Claypool, who was mentioned above, is certainly worth a third-round pick if he's still available.

After missing out on Cooper, the 6-foot-4, 238-pound Claypool would be an ideal wideout to pair with rookie standout Terry McLaurin. Claypool does not get nearly as much separation as McLaurin, but he's a big, physical presence who excels at making contested tested. N Analyst Lance Zierlein compared him to 2019 third-round pick Miles Boykin, who compiled 200 yards receiving and three touchdowns for the Baltimore Ravens as a rookie.

"He's a vertical challenger outside, a possession receiver as a big slot, an outstanding run blocker and immediate coverage ace on special teams,"  Zierlein said in his draft profile of Claypool. "His elite traits and diverse skill set could allow him to create a unique footprint as a pro.

Many mock drafts have Claypool going towards the end of the second round, but if he falls, the Redskins would be smart to snag him.

Will the team draft any players to help strengthen the offensive line for pass protection? -- Pat A.

The Redskins signed three offensive linemen during free agency -- tackle Cornelius Lucas and guards Jeremy Vujnovich and Wes Schweitzer -- but they will assuredly target another tackle in the draft.

Third-round options include Georgia's Isaiah Wilson and Auburn's Prince Tego Wanogho, while Ben Bartch (St. John's Minn.), Jack Driscoll (Auburn) and Matt Peart (Connecticut) could all be available when the Redskins make their two fourth-round selections.

Any news on Dwayne Haskins? If he even talked about at all? -- Zach A.

Rivera did not mention Haskins in his video conference Tuesday, but he recently made his most definitive statement yet about the young signal-caller.

"We're going into camp believing Haskins is the starter]," **[Rivera said on a Charlotte radio station March 24**, "but they're going to compete."

With all the NFL team facilities closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Haskins has been training on his own to get ready for the 2020 campaign. He even got some work in with Guice earlier this week at Gainesville Middle School in Virginia.

Will the season start on time or will coronavirus have a major effect on the season? Does the league have any plans about the season? -- Cynthia H.

As of now, the NFL regular season opener is still set for Sept. 10. However, league officials understand that this could change.

On a conference call with reporters March 31, NFL executive vice president and general counsel Jeff Pash said that the league is focused on playing a full schedule in front of fans starting in September. Two days later, the league's chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, said that widespread testing would need to be available before reopening. He also clarified that just because the league is planning to have a 16-game season does not mean it will definitely happen.

"I would say that's everyone's hope, that we are in a position to do that," Sills said. "But the reality is none of us know those facts for certain right now. We hope and pray for the best and prepare for the worst, realizing that is one potential outcome that we will be back fully in business playing games as normal in front of fans on schedule."

For now, the NFL is getting ready for its "fully virtual" NFL Draft that will be held April 23-25. It will continue to adapt its league schedule as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses.

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