At com­bine, Red­skins viewed by some as team ‘in dis­ar­ray’

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY MIKE JONES

in­di­anapo­lis — As the NFL Scout­ing Com­bine nears its close and the first rush of free agent shop­ping ap­proaches, con­fu­sion con­tin­ues to swirl around the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins and their ab­sent Gen­eral Man­ager Scot McCloughan.

In ho­tel lob­bies, along the halls of the In­di­ana Con­ven­tion Cen­ter, over meals in high-priced restau­rants and over drinks in dimly lit bars, op­pos­ing coaches, of­fi­cials and scouts, player agents and re­porters can’t help but ask about the ab­sence of Wash­ing­ton’s top tal­ent eval­u­a­tor at the league’s premier prov­ing ground event.

Red­skins of­fi­cials down­played the se­ri­ous­ness of the sit­u­a­tion — de­scribed only as “fam­ily mat­ters” — and ex­pressed con­fi­dence that they have enough peo­ple ca­pa­ble of con­duct­ing eval­u­a­tions to en­sure that they have all the in­for­ma­tion they need to com­pile their draft board once they return

to Ash­burn. It’s pos­si­ble that McCloughan will re­sume lead­ing draft-plan­ning meet­ings this com­ing week, team Pres­i­dent Bruce Allen said.

But many out­siders, namely agents of po­ten­tial free agent tar­gets, in­clud­ing some of Wash­ing­ton’s own play­ers with ex­pir­ing con­tracts, aren’t sold. They ex­pressed con­cern that there was more to McCloughan’s ab­sence than the Feb. 6 death of his 100year-old grand­mother. Peo­ple also wor­ried about the sig­nif­i­cance of the per­ceived or­ga­ni­za­tional dys­func­tion.

One agent who had con­tact with Red­skins of­fi­cials dur­ing the week in In­di­anapo­lis de­scribed his im­pres­sion of the fran­chise as “in dis­ar­ray.” An­other said, “I’m not ex­actly sure who’s in charge over there now.”

Two rep­re­sen­ta­tives of prom­i­nent free agents on other teams said the un­cer­tainty sur­round­ing McCloughan’s stand­ing within the or­ga­ni­za­tion, plus ear­lier re­ports of divi­sion in the front of­fice, would prompt them to steer their clients clear of the Red­skins.

Given that Wash­ing­ton of­fi­cials had al­ready in­di­cated a plan to pri­mar­ily pur­sue sec­ond-tier free agents, it’s pos­si­ble the un­cer­tainty sur­round­ing McCloughan might not have much of an im­pact on their plans. The play­ers Wash­ing­ton might tar­get would likely be less se­lec­tive in their de­sired des­ti­na­tions, in­stead more ea­ger for op­por­tu­ni­ties for big­ger roles.

That’s a pos­i­tive con­sid­er­ing the Red­skins en­ter free agency with a slew of needs — with de­fen­sive end, de­fen­sive tackle and line­backer lead­ing the way.

There still isn’t much move­ment on Wash­ing­ton’s own free agent play­ers.

Chris Baker, the team’s top de­fen­sive line­man the past two sea­sons, is a free agent, and there’s mu­tual in­ter­est in keep­ing the fifth-year pro in Wash­ing­ton. His rep­re­sen­ta­tives met with team of­fi­cials, ac­cord­ing to two sources, who de­scribed the talks as “en­cour­ag­ing.” How­ever, no of­fer was ex­tended.

Mean­while, as Tues­day’s start of the free agent ne­go­ti­at­ing win­dow ap­proaches, it ap­pears more likely that Wash­ing­ton could lose top wide­outs Pierre Gar­con and DeSean Jack­son.

The Red­skins have both pub­licly and pri­vately ex­pressed a de­sire to re-sign one or both of their 1,000-yard wide re­ceivers. But peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mar­ket call that un­likely.

Mul­ti­ple peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the Red­skins’ de­lib­er­a­tions say they be­lieve that Gar­con and Jack­son’s ask­ing prices could be too rich for the Red­skins.

The Red­skins didn’t meet with rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Gar­con de­spite the fact that since sign­ing a fiveyear, $42.5 mil­lion deal with Wash­ing­ton in 2012, he has served as the team’s most con­sis­tent re­ceiv­ing threat, av­er­ag­ing 75 catches for 909 yards and four touch­downs.

Gar­con has also ranked among the most pro­duc­tive re­ceivers on the free agent mar­ket. League in­sid­ers say they be­lieve he will draw of­fers of be­tween $7 mil­lion and $10 mil­lion per year.

Red­skins of­fi­cials were sched­uled to meet with Jack­son’s agent Satur­day. How­ever, peo­ple close to Jack­son say the nine-year vet­eran is likely to land more lu­cra­tive of­fers from out­side teams. Some league in­sid­ers say they be­lieve that Jack­son — who re­mains one of the fastest re­ceivers in the NFL and has av­er­aged 47 catches for 900 yards and 4.6 touch­downs in three sea­sons with Wash­ing­ton — could com­mand a pay­day worth $9 mil­lion to $12 mil­lion per sea­son.

If both wide re­ceivers leave, the Red­skins plan to go young.

Coaches would craft a more sig­nif­i­cant role for Jami­son Crow­der, who has started 15 of 32 games in his first two sea­sons in the league as a slot re­ceiver, com­bin­ing for 126 catches, 1,451 yards and nine touch­downs.

Crow­der prob­a­bly will move out of the slot, two peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion said. The Red­skins’ be­lief is that Crow­der has the abil­ity to play both out­side re­ceiver po­si­tions, but it re­mains to be seen how the 5-foot-9, 182pound former fourth-round pick will fare against the NFL’s top cor­ner­backs as op­posed to the nick­le­backs, lineback­ers and safeties he dealt with in the slot.

The de­par­ture of Gar­con and Jack­son would also trans­late into larger roles for fourth-year vet­eran Ryan Grant and sec­ond-year pro Mau­rice Har­ris. Both have played pri­mar­ily on the out­side, with Grant spell­ing Jack­son and Har­ris re­liev­ing Gar­con here and there last sea­son. How­ever, both have the abil­ity to play the slot re­ceiver po­si­tion as well.

The un­known is 2016 firstround pick Josh Doct­son, who missed all but two games last sea­son with Achilles’ ten­don in­juries. Doct­son has made his most sig­nif­i­cant progress in re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion the past month. He has re­sumed route-run­ning with­out any lim­i­ta­tion.

The Red­skins say they hope that Doct­son — re­garded by some as the best re­ceiver in last year’s draft — can de­velop into a ver­sa­tile pass-catcher who cap­i­tal­izes both on his size (6-2, 206 pounds) and speed (clocked at 4.5 in the 40). But un­til he prac­tices for an ex­tended stretch, coaches re­ally won’t know what to ex­pect.

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