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Part 1: Redskins GM Bruce Allen "chalk talks" Orakpo tag, draft, and free agency

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This week, Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen made clear that the Redskins intend to emphasis a return to the team-centered approach from which the organization drifted during last year’s’ disastrous 3-13 campaign. Allen touched on this and many other areas of interest to Redskins fans at this week’s Chalk Talk sessions at Redskins Park.

Allen spoke to the recent franchise tag designation given to Brian Orakpo. While the Skins GM understood the drawbacks of allocating so much money and cap space to a player with an injury history, Allen expressed appreciation for what Brian had accomplished as a Redskin, pointing to his placement already on the Redskins History Wall that players can see daily at Redskins Park, as well as his potential for success here as he enters what should be his prime playing days.

Allen indicated that this significant of a payday (in the $11 million range) for one player could have the wrong impact on current players, who Allen half-jokingly said know the salary cap and who’s getting paid what better than any NFL GM. Allen expressed his concern that if you overpay the wrong guys, you take the heart out of the rest of the team. He’s glad about Deangelo Hall’s new deal, one that he feels works well for both parties. Allen noted that rewarding Orakpo fits in with the organization’s planned focus on developing the players the Redskins draft rather than team-building via free agency.

The first fan question at the Chalk Talk I attended concerned the team’s offseason priorities. Allen indicated it’s clear that both the offensive and defensive lines need to be bolstered. On offense, boosting the line would obviously enhance the “skill position” players already in place. As a model, Allen pointed to Seattle’s rotation of seven defensive linemen, which added to overall health (which the Skins DL lacked last year) and helped the play of the team’s linebacking corps and secondary.

Allen said the Redskins would “dabble in free agency, but we’ve got to establish a new base here.” He said the team will see where the market goes, but that their draft picks and undrafted free agents will have to come in and develop. He said free agency decisions go back to the salary cap issues involved in trying to sign Orakpo: “Next year pays” for what happens this year. Allen emphasized that were they to exhaust all of this year’s available cap space, next year’s players have no chance of being rewarded (at least in a Redskins uniform).

As far as draft strategy, Allen stated that the front office works off of player grades and will not vary off the board and reach for a need, though they can select for need if there are players available of the same grade. The front office feels that there is wide receiver and defensive back depth throughout the upcoming draft. He also thinks there should be opportunities to trade down and accumulate later picks while still getting high-graded prospects. Allen says newly-hired Doug Williams, who he deems a great “reader of people” and carries current knowledge of today’s players with his college coaching experience, will be very helpful in the evaluation process of both college players and pro free agents.

When a fan asked whether the 3-4 should be the Skins’ preferred defensive alignment going forward when the team has some players like Orakpo who figure to excel in a 4-3 defensive scheme, Allen indicated that the 3-4 would be the preferred alignment, especially on early downs. As Allen said, “The 3-4 gives you options in run defense that the 4-3 doesn’t. We’ll be both, [and] we’ll get the players that fit both.” Allen said that on critical plays like “3rd and 5, 3rd and 7,” the defense will be rushing at least four players; “too frequently we only rushed three guys, and allowed [the opposition] to make plays.”

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