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Redskins' defensive line must be helped by free agency, draft

The Washington Redskins know they must improve their defensive line, or any changes in the coaching staff won't lead to much improvement overall. It's not as if everything that went wrong was the fault of the line; not close. But they know they need to add talent up front, the best way to lead to a trickle-down improvement overall. They have good rotational players, but need more studs, something they'd privately mention during the season.

Here's a look at their line and the offseason:

On the roster: Ricky Jean Francois, Matt Ioannidis, Anthony Lanier, Phil Taylor, Joey Mbu

Free agents: Chris Baker, Cullen Jenkins, Kedric Golston, Ziggy Hood

Analysis: The Redskins have needed young defensive linemen to develop for a few years now, but haven’t drafted anyone above the fifth round, and their free-agent signings haven’t helped, notably Stephen Paea in 2015. I liked the signing at the time; his 2014 film was good, showing quickness and strength and he was productive. He just didn’t play well here. But now the bottom line is they lack young players. Perhaps Ioannidis and Lanier will develop. Or they might not. But they need to add more, especially if you want to improve this defense.

How to address: Free agency and the draft. Washington has the cap space to afford a quality signing and it has nine draft picks in a year when the line depth is excellent (just as in 2015). The Redskins need to find two starters but also get some youth. If they signed a free agent and drafted two? That’s a good offseason. If Baker is re-signed, then he would be a starter. Hood, if re-signed, would be a good rotation player.

Top free agents to consider: Philadelphia’s Bennie Logan, Baltimore’s Brandon Williams, Kansas City’s Dontari Poe and Carolina's Kawann Short. Of this group, Logan would be the most affordable; he’s a run-stopper first and foremost. The Redskins could always use more push inside, but they’ve been dreadful versus the run and that’s his specialty. He could help as a nickel tackle in their four-man fronts, where defending the run has been a big problem. Or he could play nose in their 3-4 base front. Plus, the Eagles are strapped for cap space so might not be able to keep him. Williams would be excellent, but the Ravens have called him a top priority to re-sign. Short could be franchised by Carolina, but is excellent.

The draft: ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said the defensive line depth in this draft is as good as any he’s seen. That means there’s a chance to find a couple players who could help, whether now or in the future. They’d have a good line coach in Jim Tomsula to work with, too. Stanford end Solomon Thomas and Michigan State’s Malik McDowell would be among the first-round options. But because there’s depth along the line in this draft, the Redskins don’t need to force a pick at No. 17. That’s why the smart play is to find legitimate help in free agency and pick, say, two linemen in the first four rounds.