On Bill Polian, free agency and the Redskins

March, 6, 2014
Mar 6
1:45
PM ET
Former Indianapolis Colts general manager, and current ESPN NFL Insider, Bill Polian said the NFL’s middle class will benefit from the increased cap space. That, of course, makes sense. And I wonder what that could mean for a player such as Perry Riley, who is not a high-profile linebacker nor is he a budding Pro Bowler. But he is in that middle class of free agents and he does play a position without a lot of depth. So it will be interesting to watch.

Polian also touched on several other matters during a conference call Wednesday that pertain to the Redskins and free agency:

Retaining your own players: “Free agency in and of itself is an overpayment situation. That said, if your own players are quality players and you believe they can help you win then it’s better off to pay them because they’re as good or better as you can find in the market and you know them better than you know a player from another team. You’re paying a premium, but you put it into a player you know and believe in. He has no adjustments coming into your system. It’s pretty seamless. When you have good players, when you’ve drafted well, it follows that the more you can keep the better off you are. That’s the right way to go rather than trying to get someone else’s players.“
My take: That’s partly why they placed the franchise tag on Brian Orakpo. And it’s why they’d like to re-sign Riley, albeit not at the price he’s currently asking. Look for a few others to return, notably guys like Santana Moss and probably a Reed Doughty.

Free agency in general: “The dangers are you don’t know the player as well as you know the player coming out in the draft and certainly not as well as your player. The best players are [already] signed. These are 'B' players whose agents are looking for 'A' money. That in itself is not the best of buys. You recognize that as a general manager. When the player changes teams and changes systems and changes local, he’s going to have an adjustment period. That is something that is missed by most analysts and most fans. Football is not a seamless transition. Basketball is; baseball is. Football is not. Systems change. People have a difficult time adjusting to begin with and then if the system changes or technique changes, it’s even worse. You typically find a player doesn’t play to his maximum in a new situation. It may take a year to get adjusted. That’s a year you lost but paid big money for.”
My take: There is more homework done on players entering the draft than on free agents. One benefit Washington had during the lockout three years ago is that it gave the front office more time to research free agents they wanted. But one reason you talk to so many potential draft picks is to have a book on them for when they do become free. Still, four years is a long time and things change.

Better to find a receiver in free agency or the draft: “Our philosophy was to build from within with those kind of players. You can add one or two special skill sets through free agency, but keep in mind the best players are not in free agency. They are tagged or signed. By definition you’re getting a guy who’s not someone else’s No. 1 and you’re probably overpaying for him. If you don’t have anybody it usually helps to get a veteran who can fill a hole in the short run in free agency. Then the question becomes how much do you pay for that player, how much tread is left on his tires and what kind of person is he?”
My take: It’s hard for young receivers to contribute immediately. The Redskins have enough holes here that they could sign a veteran (Hakeem Nicks, perhaps, for a medium- or low-end deal) and then draft one to develop. Again.

Signing offensive linemen: “The offensive line is the one area where maybe free agency can benefit you, or maybe you need to try and make it benefit you if you have a lot of spots to fill. Free agency is a good place to get specific veteran players who fit your parameters and who are a reasonable cost. You can find pretty good buys -- I put that in quotation marks because it’s all relative.”
My take: The Redskins need some help in the interior, but they also have some young options -- guys we really don’t know how they’d perform (though obviously the coaches have a good idea). But after three years, this is when one or two of them should be ready. So the Redskins have three option here: free agency, the draft or in house.

John Keim

ESPN Washington Redskins reporter

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