Coming off a 9-7 season as defending NFC East champions, the Washington Redskins will have 16 returning starters on board when third-year head coach Jay Gruden opens training camp July 27.
That includes 10 on offense, including the pass-catch tandem of quarterback Kirk Cousins, who is trying to prove he is the real deal, and wide receiver DeSean Jackson, coming off an injury-plagued season in which he totaled career lows of 30 receptions for 528 yards.
For Cousins, the real, real deal was accepting the one-year franchise salary of $19.95 million when he could not get a better long-term offer. Absent the distraction of RG III, teammates are confident Cousins is the man to lead their team. Cousins, who exudes confidence, is betting on himself and expects his pay day to arrive after this season.
The Redskins drafted some help for Cousins with the 22nd overall pick, taking TCU wide receiver Josh Doctson, although he was slowed this spring by injuries. The Redskins also signed free-agent tight end Vernon Davis, who made a fortuitous move from the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl championship-bound Denver Broncos last year.
The presence of Scot McCloughan as the general manager in the front office-heavy Redskins hierarchy is no coincidence in the signing of Davis. McCloughan was general manager for the 49ers when they selected Davis No. 6 overall in the 2006 draft. Davis responded with a display of athleticism that made him one of the most prolific tight ends in the NFL and before the 2010 season the 49ers gave him a five-year contract extension worth $37 million, including $23 million guaranteed.
But he faded from the offense in 2014 and was ready to be traded last year. McCloughan took another chance on Davis with a deal worth only $2.4 million for one year with $1.1 guaranteed and a $500,000 signing bonus.
McCloughan and the Redskins did open the bank account to get feisty free-agent cornerback Josh Norman (Carolina Panthers). Norman's battle against New York Giants star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. last season was epic. Norman will get paid $75 million with $36.5 million guaranteed and a $15 million signing bonus for the privilege to face Beckham Jr. twice a season for five years.
Here is a closer look at the newcomers and key players and how they should factor into the Redskins' 2016 team:
TRAINING CAMP SCHEDULE
SITE, LOCATION, ROOKIES, VETERANS
Washington, Bon Secours Training Center, Richmond, VA, 7/27, 7/27
2015 RECORD: 9-8
DIVISIONAL RECORD: 4-2
COACH: Jay Gruden
3rd season as Redskins/NFL head coach
13-20 overall; 0-1 postseason
16; 10 offense, 6 defense, kicker, punter
OFFSEASON STANDOUT: Outside linebacker Preston Smith.
--Last year's second-round draft pick had a great offseason program and built on his strong finish to last season. Smith finished his rookie season 2015 with eight sacks - five of them over the final three games and another sack/safety in a playoff loss to Green Bay. He lived up to that and more this offseason. Smith came in a few pounds leaner at 268 pounds. He served as a mentor to some of the rookies, especially 2016 second-round pick Su'a Cravens. And he performed on the field consistently. At Tuesday's minicamp practice, Smith read a pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins, crashing the line of scrimmage and leaping so high in the air the ball smacked into his forearms. It wasn't an unusual occurrence.
The draft -- A closer look at Redskins' picks (7):
--Round 1/22 - Josh Doctson, WR, 6-2, 202, Texas Christian
Tall receiver may have a slight build and lack prototypical speed, but he's a wizard in the air, taking full advantage of a 41-inch vertical jump. Very efficient at tracking balls down field. Does not lose many 50-50 battles with cornerbacks. However, a sore Achilles tendon and foot injury limited his on-field time during OTAs and minicamp so the Redskins haven't seen much of Doctson yet. They hope he is ready for training camp.
--Round 2/53 - Su'a Cravens, LB, 6-1, 226, Southern Cal
A hybrid safety-linebacker. The Redskins plan to use Cravens all over the field against pass-happy offenses, but early on he will be a linebacker in their dime packages. Cravens didn't take any snaps at safety during OTAs and minicamp.
--Round 3/84 - Kendall Fuller, CB, 5-11, 187, Virginia Tech
Three older brothers all went to Virginia Tech and have played in the NFL. Fuller is a local product from Good Counsel High in Olney, Md. His junior season was cut short by a torn meniscus and Fuller also needed microfracture surgery in his right knee. If healthy, he was considered a likely first-round pick. Fuller returned to the field sooner than expected and participated in team drills at OTAs and minicamp.
--Round 5/152 - Matt Ioannidis, DE, 6-3, 299, Temple
Washington needed to add youth and depth to its defensive line. Ioannidis provides both, plus the ability to play inside or out. The Redskins drafted him as a defensive end.
--Round 6/187 - Nate Sudfeld, QB, 6-6, 234, Indiana
A strong-armed developmental pick with the size NFL scouts dream about. Sudfeld threw 61 touchdown passes in his college career with 20 interceptions. The Redskins hope he turns into a quality backup.
--Round 7/232 - Steven Daniels, LB, 5-11, 243, Boston College
A thumper in the middle who plays better in coverage than his below-average 40-yard dash time indicates. Daniels ran one of the nation's best run defenses at Boston College at inside linebacker. Expected to also contribute on special teams.
--Round 7/242 - Keith Marshall, RB, 5-11, 219, Georgia
The fastest running back at the Combine (4.31 40-yard dash). Marshall's career at Georgia began with promise before a torn ACL ruined his sophomore and junior seasons. He returned in a complementary role as a senior. A true home-run threat in the backfield. Earned limited repetitions during OTAs and minicamp thanks to a lingering hamstring injury.
--S David Bruton Jr.: A special-teams ace in Denver who will have a shot to fight for a starting safety position.
--TE Vernon Davis: Traded by 49ers and was a non-factor in Denver's Super Bowl run. Unclear how much he has left.
--LB Terence Garvin: Signed to bolster special teams. Will fight for reserve role at inside linebacker.
--DL Ziggy Hood: Former first-round pick will get a chance to make roster, which needs big bodies in middle.
--CB Josh Norman: Star corner a surprise late addition to free-agent market. Aggressive Redskins quickly signed him.
--DE Kendall Reyes: Free-agent signing with starting experience in San Diego. Should fit as a role player on the line.
--CB Greg Toler: A D.C. native and former starter with Colts who should provide veteran depth at corner.
KEY LOSS: RB Alfred Morris (16/16)*
-- Although is numbers declined each season, he was reliable, if not a star, and a true professional in the locker room. They also haven't found a replacement yet to team with Matt Jones.
--T Tom Compton (13/1), CB Chris Culliver (6/6), S Dashon Goldson (15/15), QB Robert Griffin III (0/0), DE Jason Hatcher (15/14), LB Jackson Jeffcoat (6/0), S Jeron Johnson (14/2), DL Frank Kearse (4/0), NT Terrance Knighton (15/15), TE Logan Paulsen (0/0), RB Silas Redd (0/0), WR Andre Roberts (9/0), LB Keenan Robinson (12/8), TE Alex Smith (3/1), RB Pierre Thomas (5/0), CB Cary Williams (10/10), FB Darrel Young (16/3)*
Total games played/started lost: 159/91
*Number in parentheses is games played/games started in 2015
-- Frank Cooney, founder and publisher of The Sports Xchange and NFLDraftScout.com, is in his sixth decade covering football and 26th year on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. TSX's network of NFL insiders provided information for this report.