Late round draft picks only get one chance to make a first impression and rookie Richard Crawford made a strong opening argument for a spot on the Redskins roster Thursday night in Buffalo.Crawford notched a tackle, a drive-extinguishing interception and defended a pass, building on a strong first two weeks of training camp thats already opened eyes on the coaching staff.Its important to just to play well every time youre out there, Crawford said outside the visitors locker room at Ralph Wilson Stadium. But especially a guy like me, a seventh rounder.The 22-year-old also returned three punts for a total of 42 yards, including a pair of 17-yard run backs and an eight yard return.I actually do a pretty good job of looking downfield before I get the return and feeling who is around me, Crawford said. I knew I had room. My returning is rule is: always make the first guy miss and make something happen, and thats what I did.Crawford is a versatile 5-11, 188 pounder out of SMU who boasts sure hands, decent speed and a strong work ethic that has endeared him to coaches.Listed on the Redskins most recent depth chart as the No. 3 left cornerback behind DeAngelo Hall and Cedric Griffin, Crawford is slowly progressing from training camp hopeful to a player solidly in the mix to earn a roster spot.Hes competing with Brandyn Thompson, David Jones, Travon Bellamy and Morgan Trent for a backup cornerback job.Im just trying to improve and learn from D-Hall, Josh Wilson, Ced, anybody I can, even Brandon Banks with the returns, Crawford said. Any way I can learn and get better, I will.
It seems almost inevitable that the Redskins will put the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins between now and the March 1 deadline. This will set the Redskins up to have a very top heavy salary cap structure.
As the website Spotrac noted yesterday, if the Redskins do tag Cousins, giving him a cap hit of $24.9 million, he, Josh Norman ($20 million cap number) and Trent Williams ($15.1 million) will account for a total of $59 million against the cap or 35 percent of the estimated $168 million cap for the 2017 season.
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That’s a lot of money to go to 5.6 percent of the players on the roster. To compare, the top three players on the Cowboys’ cap account for 34.2 percent of the cap. The top three with the Giants take up 29.7 percent and in Philadelphia it’s 17.8 percent. In fact, a check around the league shows that none of the 2016 AFC or NFC playoff teams has a higher percentage of their cap expended on its top three than the Redskins have on theirs.
This caused some consternation among Redskins fans and while it’s something to keep an eye on it does not present a big issue for the team at this time.
For one thing, the Redskins still have a good amount of cap room. If you assume the Cousins tag, they still will have about $40 million in cap space with the ability to create perhaps $10 million more by releasing some veterans and/or redoing some contracts.
Also, it’s a temporary situation. Let’s say that the Redskins hang on to Cousins with a long-term deal and he has a $22 million cap number in 2018. If that the case then Cousins, Norman ($17 million), and Williams ($13.9 million) would still be the top three players on the cap number list and they would total $52 million. On a cap that is projected to be $178 million that would be 29.2 percent of the total. That’s still on the high side but certainly manageable.
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And if you are going to have three players taking up a high percentage of the cap they should be your quarterback, left tackle, and No. 1 cornerback. Those, along with an edge rusher, are the most important players on the team and it’s appropriate to have them among you highest-paid players.
Still, the Redskins must be careful. Signing another free agent with a cap hit like Norman’s is out of the question. And as key contributors like Morgan Moses, Trent Murphy, Jamison Crowder, and Brandon Scherff become eligible for contract extensions or for free agency over the next couple of years, the organization needs to be sure that there is room to retain their own players when the time comes.
The good news for the 2016 Redskins was that they didn’t collapse after winning the division the previous season as has been their pattern in the past. The bad news was that they didn’t take the next step and improve from a franchise that can compete to make the playoffs into one that is playing multiple postseason games year in and year out.
That work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players. In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will examine the biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.
Will the Redskins make a change at left guard?
Tandler: When looking at the key plays that were responsible for the Redskins missing the playoffs you don’t have to go too far down the list to find the one in Arizona when Calais Campbell blew over left guard Shawn Lauvao and hit Kirk Cousins for a sack-fumble that was critical in Washington’s loss.
You don’t replace a starter based on one play but Lauvao did not have a good year. The sack was one of three allowed by Lauvao, the most in the interior line, and the 32 QB hurries he allowed were the most on the entire team. His run blocking was inconsistent. It’s clear that the position could use an upgrade.
Lauvao missed two games due to injuries and Arie Kouandjio filled in for him. Kouandjio was better in his second start than he was in his first, but he showed that he still has work to do. He is going into his third season and he has some room to improve but it remains to be seen if he can reach the point where he is a viable option as a 16-game starter.
The crop of free agent guards looks spotty (Chris Chester, anyone?) and there isn’t a guard worth of a first-round pick (for which Jay Gruden probably is grateful). Perhaps a second-round guard like Dan Feeney of Indiana or Taylor Moton of Western Michigan could start right away but other draft needs may have higher priorities.
It looks to me like they may get through 2017 with Lauvao and Kouandjio and perhaps find a mid-round pick who can develop into the 2018 starter.
Finlay: Points to Tandler for the guard jab. He likes that one. As for Lauvao, he drew the ire of many fans last season. Some of it was deserved, though he was playing with a variety of injuries in the second half of the season, but most of the offensive line was. It gets largely forgotten that he played very well early in the year.
If the 'Skins, and namely Bill Callahan, determine Kouandjio is ready to start, Lauvao could be in trouble. Cutting him would save $4 million against the salary cap. That will certainly be considered in this equation. That will take a big leap from Kouandjio this offseason though, as he needs to significantly increase his upper body strength and footwork.
More offseason questions:
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