There's still no movement on Kirk Cousins' contract, so let's turn to the other big topic this offseason: the Washington Redskins' defense. They've added two coaches and four starters. But questions remain -- was there some awakening by coach Jay Gruden? And why opt for two defensive linemen if they could have signed one player who is better?
John Keim: I like trying to combine questions and there were a few on defense. I can tie these topics together quite easily.
First, on Johnathan Hankins. The internal debate early in free agency was exactly that: Would you rather have two players or one? Gruden said at the owners meetings that because they needed a lot of help up front, they opted to sign two players (Stacy McGee; Terrell McClain) instead of one (Bennie Logan visited). The two players they signed will have a cap figure of approximately $6.9 million this season compared to Logan’s $7.953 million. I don’t know Hankins’ cap figure for this season, but I do know he received $15.9 million in guaranteed money, so my guess is it’ll be higher than the two Redskins.
Is that a mistake on Washington’s part? We’ll find out. I’m a big fan of both Hankins and Logan, but the Redskins just didn’t want to spend that sort of cash for players who couldn’t also push the pocket. Let’s see, too, how they address the front in the draft (Logan, for example, was a former third-round pick. Draft/develop. It can be done).
As for Gruden: I don’t think his grasping of the defensive philosophy was ever an issue. Nor was it in his power to commit resources, now or in the past. He clearly has a big say -- and should. But to think the defense was shortchanged in some ways because of him in the past? No. Scot McCloughan had a big say in who was pursued (he was not a dictator, though; he always sought input and group decisions) and Bruce Allen is the guy who controls the money.
But McCloughan was the general manager and, therefore, the architect. And his 2015 free agent defensive class did not help -- Terrance Knighton, Jeron Johnson, Chris Culliver, Ricky Jean Francois and Stephen Paea. Only Jean Francois lasted a second season. They didn’t get much help last offseason, either, until Josh Norman became available. Let’s be honest: McCloughan’s record here would be viewed differently had Kirk Cousins not played well (the offense largely was built before he arrived, save for receiver Jamison Crowder and guard Brandon Scherff. Both good players). And I respect the heck out of McCloughan’s knowledge (and, setting other issues aside, two years is not enough time to adequately judge what he did. Last year’s draft class, for example, could look a lot different this year and in two years than it did in 2016).
I do think they have a stronger defensive staff -- and I always emphasize the word "staff." Just having a big-name coordinator won’t get it done. Gregg Williams worked here because he had a terrific staff. His defenses have not been at that same level in the ensuing years, I think, in part because his staff wasn’t as strong. When Greg Manusky was hired, I always felt it wouldn’t make a big difference unless he hired a strong staff.
So it’s not just spending money on players, it’s about being able to then maximize their ability. The two biggest additions could be line coach Jim Tomsula and secondary coach Torrian Gray. It was not a good mix for the secondary and Perry Fewell last year. For whatever the reason, his style did not mesh with the defensive backs I’ve checked in with this offseason.