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#HailMail: The Redskins Roster Is Starting To Take Shape

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With free agency entering its second full week, Redskins Nation has plenty of questions about the moves that have already been made and those that are yet to come. Here are what fans wanted to know:

After going 3-13, why are the Redskins reluctant to spend money to go after better players in free agency? They are just signing backups. -- Pat C.

This is a fair question. Of the eight official signings the Redskins have made as of Thursday, none were at the top of the free agent market at their respective positions. And while some of them will likely be starters -- namely cornerback Kendall Fuller, free safety Sean Davis and linebacker Thomas Davis Sr. -- their additions were not awe-inspiring.

But just because the Redskins have a lot of cap space big does not mean they should spend it. Head coach Ron Rivera and Vice President of Player Personnel Kyle Smith want "tough, hungry players" with positional versatility, and a lot of these signings fit that mold. Some are backups, sure, but others can develop into significant contributors.

The new coaching staff also wants to know what it has in the players currently on the roster, and what better way to find out than to bring in loads of competition at key positions? That way, they'll know exactly how each player fits into the team's future plans.

Free agency is about making splashy moves; I get that. But there are a multitude of ways to build a roster, and free agency is just a piece of it.

Why don't you spend your money on receivers instead on running backs? We've got Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice? -- Anonymous

The signings of running backs Peyton Barber and J.D. McKissic, which were officially announced Thursday, centered around depth and competition.

Entering free agency, the Redskins had four running backs on their roster: Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice, Bryce Love and Josh Ferguson. Peterson just turned 35 years old, and while he's been the Redskins' workhorse over the past two seasons, the team needs other options. Guice is the ideal every-down back, but he's played in five games since being drafted in 2018, while Love missed all of his rookie campaign recovering from a knee injury.

As for Ferguson, who was signed in October, he's amassed 34 yards over three seasons.

In a perfect world, Peterson and Guice would handle most of the rushing duties while Love flashes his potential in spurts. That could still be the case once the 2020 campaign begins.

But the Redskins also need reserves to step in when necessary and to push the proposed starters. Barber and McKissic will do exactly that.

Why did the Redskins sign Peyton Barber? -- Daniel L.

Speaking on Barber specifically, this is a player who has been the focal point of an NFL rushing offense before.

In 2018, he started all 16 games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and carried the ball 234 times for 871 yards. This past season, his 154 attempts totaled 470 yards.

Barber is an experienced rusher who's mere presence will motivate Guice and Love to work even harder. That's because if either struggles or suffers an injury, the Redskins have a replacement who has shouldered the rushing load before.

After Quinton Dunbar got traded and the several defensive backs got released, do you guys have a plan to address the secondary in free agency or the draft? -- Danny K.

With Quinton Dunbar traded and Josh Norman and Montae Nicholson released, the Redskins will return one starter from their 2019 secondary: strong safety Landon Collins.

Rivera said at the NFL Scouting Combine that he expects an in-house cornerback to replace Norman, which figures to be fourth-year pro Fabian Moreau. The Redskins have also Davis, who started 32 games at free safety for the Steelers over his first four seasons, and Fuller, who excels in the slot but can play outside as well. That leaves one starting position open for the following players: Jimmy Moreland, Greg Stroman and Danny Johnson.

If the Redskins pursue another corner in free agency, they could go after a former standout (Ronald Darby), a proven slot corner (Logan Ryan) or cheaper alternatives with ties to Rivera (Daryl Worley and Ross Cockrell). If they want another safety, Damarious Randall, Reshad Jones and Eric Reid are still available.

In terms of the draft, the Redskins could trade down and snag Ohio State's Jeff Okudah, select a defensive back with their No. 66 overall pick or wait until Day 3.

Are you looking to the draft to fill the TE position or are you working on an deal with a established veteran? -- Ian C.

The tight end position is tricky because while the Redskins have reportedly added two of them, neither of them are looked at as established veterans.

The team officially announced the signing of quarterback-turned-tight end Logan Thomas on March 23. Thomas, 28, played in all 16 games for the Detroit Lions last season but made just 16 catches for 173 yards and a touchdown. He's entering his fourth full season as a tight end, so there's a chance he could break out in Washington, but he's not a proven pass-catcher like former Redskins tight ends Jordan Reed (released) and Vernon Davis (retired).

The Redskins reportedly added another 28-year-old tight end in Richard Rodgers, whose father is the Redskins' assistant defensive backs coach. Rodgers' best season came in 2015, when he caught 58 passes for 510 yards and found the end zone eight times with the Green Bay Packers. He's played just eight games over the past two seasons due to injuries.

Aside from 35-year-old Delanie Walker, all of the pass-catching tight ends signed elsewhere, meaning the Redskins will likely target a tight end in April's draft and could use one with their third-round pick. Adam Trautman (Dayton), Harrison Bryant (Florida Atlantic) and Josiah Deguara (Cincinnati) could all still be on the board at that time.

When are we going to get a veteran receiver?

The Redskins reportedly added experience at wide receiver by agreeing to terms with Cody Latimer.

A second-round pick in 2014, Latimer enjoyed his best season as the professional with the New York Giants. In 15 games (10 starts), Latimer hauled in 24 passes for 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns. In his previous five campaigns, he made 46 catches for 635 yards and four touchdowns.

There has been a recent run of rookie wide receivers who have been productive right away. Are we confident the young up-and-comers will be able to handle the rigors of the NFL? And will you be addressing that need in the draft.

You're right in that rookie receivers performed very well last season, as nine of them hauled in at least 40 passes and seven of them surpassed 600 yards receiving. Tennessee Titans wideout A.J. Brown topped all rookies with 1,051 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.

The rookie class could be even better in 2020. Speaking at the NFL Scouting Combine, NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said the wide receiver group goes "infinitely deep." He included seven of them in his latest top 50 prospects list.

The NFL has suspended offseason workouts indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which could negatively affect rookie wideouts trying to grasp a new and more complex offensive scheme. But the talent is there, and the Redskins are in good position to take advance of it.

If they select a receiver with their third-round pick, they'll likely have a choice between USC's Michael Pittman, Boise State's John Hightower and Notre Dame's Chase Claypool, among others.

Are you guys planning to sign more players in free agency, or are you guys planning to rebuild in the draft? -- Andreas E.

As of Thursday evening, the Redskins officially signed eight free agents, traded for quarterback Kyle Allen, re-signed three others and franchise tagged guard Brandon Scherff.

Then there are four other players who have reportedly agreed to terms with the team: Rodgers, offensive lineman Cornelius Lucas, linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis and wide receiver Cody Latimer.

That's 13 newcomers and 17 players overall, so it does not seem like the Redskins will be making too many more additions. If they do, look for them to target another defensive back or a wide receiver.

I'm curious about the process of player evaluation during the COVID-19 pandemic. I understand film study, but do the coaches do video and FaceTime interviews with the prospects and their school coaches? Are there reviews of medical procedures done with the physicians who performed them? Are they sending out questionnaires to prospects? -- Chuck M.

The local media has not yet spoken to Rivera or any members of the scouting department, so those specific questions have neither been asked or answered.

However, Rivera went on a Charlotte-based radio station on Tuesday to discuss a variety of topics, including how the coronavirus will affect the NFL Draft, which is still on for April 23-25 despite apparent pushback. Rivera said that under these circumstances, franchises will have to rely on their scouting departments more than ever.

We all know that Trent Williams is more than likely going to play somewhere else next year. The Redskins are asking for a second-round pick for him. With all the teams that are showing interest, it would make more sense for the Redskins to get a lower draft pick and a player of need. Why can't the Redskins trade Trent Williams to the Browns for a third-round pick and David Njoku? That will give the Redskins a quality starting tight end and a second third-round pick -- Calvin M.

This is a quality strategy and one the Redskins could have tried to execute. And in the case of the Cleveland Browns and David Njoku, it makes a lot of sense.

The Browns need a left tackle and just made Austin Hooper the highest-paid tight end in the NFL. They have about $48 million in cap space and brought on renowned offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who coached Williams in Washington from 2015-18.

But even if the Browns are willing to give up their third-round pick (74th overall), they might not want to take on Williams' steep contract demands after signing right tackle Jack Conklin to a three-year deal worth about $42 million. There are also several top tackle prospects in this year's draft class; the Browns could take one with the 10th-overall pick.

If and when the Redskins deal Williams, it's looking less and less likely they'll be able to do so for a second-round pick. It may be a third-rounder and a player, just a third-rounder or a combination of later selections.

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