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Washington Redskins Targeting Defense Early In Free Agency

The Washington Redskins are emphasizing defense early in free agency.

Well, the new league year has begun and the the Washington Redskins are already busy adding pieces to their roster. Washington has struck deals with two defensive lineman Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain, as well as safety D.J. Swearinger. They also plan to meet with free agent receiver Terrelle Pryor Thursday night and Friday morning. 

Washington has plenty needs to address this offseason and most of them are on defense. After ranking 28th on that side of the ball last season and firing their defensive coordinator Joe Barry, it's no surprise that Washington is placing an emphasis on fixing those issues early in free agency. Below we'll give a few notes on each signing, as well as the potential signing of Terrelle Pryor. 

Stacy McGee, DT, Oakland Raiders (27 years old):

  • McGee is the lesser known player of the group Washington signed Thursday evening. He's only started 18 career games (4 years) and 9 of those starts came in 2016. Last season, at the age of 26, the light appeared to turn on for the former 6th round pick. He became a reliable run stopper and even registered 2.5 sacks -- forcing 2 fumbles in the process. The Redskins are banking on an ascending player here. He, at the very least, is a good rotational piece that can help against the run game. He flashed an ability to push the pocket at times in 2016. If he's able to do that consistently with the Redskins, then we could be talking about a key piece for the team. But that's a big "if." He needs to first prove that he can stay healthy. He also must prove that his performance in a contract year wasn't a fluke. 

Terrell McClain, DT, Dallas Cowboys (29 years old):

  • This signing reminds me a lot of the last two defensive lineman Washington signed from Dallas: Jason Hatcher and Stephen Bowen. I don't love this signing, but I don't hate it either. McClain has been around for 7 years and is on the edge of that 30-years-old mark, but he has low mileage. He's only started 27 career games and much like McGee -- has a history of injuries. McClain had his best season in Dallas last year registering 2.5 sacks. He flashed an ability to push the pocket, but don't get your hopes up on him having an impact on the pass game. He's not necessarily an upgrade over Chris Baker, who signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Thursday. I'm not even sure if this is a lateral move talent-wise. But it's a solid pick-up as Washington continues to place an emphasis on improving their run defense. 

D.J. Swearinger, S, Arizona Cardinals (26 years old):

  • Of the three signings, I like this one the most. I actually thought for sure he'd re-sign with the Cardinals because he seemed to really find himself there in Arizona. Swearinger is known as being a heavy hitter. He can at times be over aggressive, which gets him penalized. But contrary to popular belief, he is not necessarily a "wild tackler." He's not a head hunter like Brandon Meriweather was. Originally drafted by the Houston Texans in 2013, Swearinger had his best season with the Cardinals last year. He had a huge impact moving downhill making tackles. But he also was pretty solid in coverage. He may not be the rangy free safety that the Redskins need. But he has decent enough range to play the position well. He may actually be the most sure-thing safety Washington has had in a while. 

Potential signing: Terrelle Pryor, WR, Cleveland Browns (28 years old):

  • The former NFL quarterback had his first full season since changing positions last year. Pryor was able eclipse 1,000 yards with Lord-knows-who at quarterback, scoring 4 touchdowns in the process. He's a big, leggy receiver (6ft 6, 240 lbs) who you can tell is still learning the nuances of the position. But the super athletic former Ohio State star would be a solid pick-up for the Redskins. With the team losing both Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson to free agency, they need a veteran presence at receiver. Ryan Grant is entering only his fourth season with the team and is their longest tenured receiver. Not to mention, Jamison Crowder only has two season under his belt and is already the most productive receiver on the team. So adding another veteran to the mix wouldn't hurt. Especially a guy like Pryor who can both stretch the field and play the "big-man's" game. 

You can find Emmanual on Twitter @manny_benton.

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