Washington Redskins' 2018 free agency: LB Pernell McPhee provides quality depth

A breakdown of the Washington Redskins' 2018 free-agent signings.

Pernell McPhee

The Washington Redskins signed linebacker Pernell McPhee, who played the past three years for the Chicago Bears. Here’s a closer look at the signing:

Grade: C+. The Redskins needed to find a quality backup outside linebacker after losing Trent Murphy to Buffalo and deciding to move on from Junior Galette. McPhee qualifies as a quality backup.

What it means: The Redskins now have depth and insurance at outside linebacker behind starters Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith. They also have second-year player Ryan Anderson, who made little impact as a pass rusher his rookie season. His development would help Washington, but it’s not pivotal because there are other options. At nearly 280 pounds, McPhee provides strength to play the run and help harass the quarterback. He’s recorded 31 career sacks, with 17 coming in his first four years with Baltimore. He’s not explosive like Galette was off the edge, but McPhee provides more versatility and flexibility. He does have 23 career starts.

What’s the risk: Health. McPhee has missed 12 games combined the past three seasons. He ended the 2017 season on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. There was also the knee surgery after the 2015 season that cost him the first six games of ’16. And then there was surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder last offseason. At 29 years old, McPhee is in a stage where it becomes harder to stay healthy. It helps that he won’t be a starter in Washington and, therefore, provides excellent depth. But the Redskins made the decision to pay him rather than Galette. If McPhee misses time, then Anderson must be in position to contribute more. Kerrigan and Smith both stayed fresh last season because they were able to rest. That needs to continue.


Orlando Scandrick, CB

The Washington Redskins signed Orlando Scandrick, who spent the past 10 years with the Dallas Cowboys. Here’s a closer look at the signing:

Grade: C. Scandrick signed a two-year deal worth up to $10 million. The Redskins had also talked with another veteran cornerback, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but his price tag remained too high. Scandrick gets placed in the savvy vet role.

What it means: The Redskins wanted veteran insurance at corner and will give Scandrick a chance to win the job opposite Josh Norman. If Scandrick is beaten out, he’d still likely cover in the slot, which is where he helped develop his name with Dallas. Scandrick is considered a smart player, something the Redskins were hoping to land. That’s why they also looked at savvy safety Kurt Coleman before he signed with New Orleans. The Redskins have second-year player Fabian Moreau, a third-round pick in 2017, and Quinton Dunbar on the outside as well. Scandrick provides insurance if Moreau isn’t ready.

What’s the risk: Scandrick became a full-time starter in 2013, after being a standout in the slot. But injuries impacted his game the past three seasons. Last year, he was eventually placed on injured reserve because of two transverse process fractures in his back. The Cowboys also had a desire to use younger players who factored in their future. Scandrick, 31, missed all of 2015 after tearing his ACL and MCL, and he also missed four games in 2016 with hamstring issues. The risk here is if Scandrick doesn’t stay healthy and the others -- Dunbar and Moreau -- aren’t yet ready for full-time duty.


Paul Richardson, WR

The Redskins agreed to a five-year, $40 million deal with Richardson, who played the past four years in Seattle. Here’s a closer look at the move:

Grade: B. The Redskins wanted -- and needed -- to add more speed at receiver opposite Josh Doctson. With new quarterback Alex Smith on board, the Redskins sought more weapons, hoping to replicate what he had in Kansas City.

What it means: The Redskins wanted someone who could stretch the field or clear out lanes for others. They used DeSean Jackson in that role for three years, but missed that at times in 2017 after the receiver went to Tampa Bay. Richardson provided that for Seattle, and it’s how he’ll be used in Washington. Think crossers, go-balls and comebacks. In 2017, the Redskins ranked 13th with 33 catches by a wide receiver for 20 yards or more; in 2016 they were sixth with 46, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Of Richardson’s 44 catches last season, 13 went for at least 20 yards. He was targeted 19 times on throws that traveled 20-plus yards in the air and caught eight. Two years ago, Jackson was targeted 32 times on such throws. Richardson’s presence means Jamison Crowder will return to more full-time slot duties, where he’s most effective.

What’s the risk: Health. Richardson suffered two torn ACLs in his left knee -- in January 2015 with Seattle and at Colorado in 2012. After he returned in the 2015 season from his surgery, he suffered a torn hamstring that ended his season after just one game. But along with his health, Richardson is coming off his lone productive full season. He caught 51 passes his first three seasons combined. The Redskins might have overspent a little bit, and the way the contract is structured will keep him around at least three years, so they need him to stay healthy. If he does, he greatly lessens the risk of this move.