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Do the Redskins have any candidates for early contract extensions?

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Do the Redskins have any candidates for early contract extensions?

The Eagles have been quite busy the last few days signing players to new contracts. Two of those players, left tackle Jason Peters and center Jason Kelce, were not set to be free agents until next year. This is the way the Eagles and some other teams, notably the 49ers, have operated for a number of years. By locking up their best players in advance of their free agent years, those teams are able to map out their cap strategies and personnel needs years in advance.

Can the Redskins pursue the same strategy? Could they take some of their roughly $30 million in salary cap room and make an investment in 2015 and beyond?

The short answer is yes but the longer answer is that they don’t have very many candidates for a long-term extension right now.

Before you jump in with the names of Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris, neither one of those players is eligible for an extension. Part of the 2011 CBA agreement that brought sanity to the rookie compensation system prohibits any player from renegotiating his deal before finishing three years in the league. So the quarterback and running back have to go on the back burner until after this season.

The players who remain on the roster from the draft class of 2011 are eligible for new contracts as they enter the last year of their rookie deals. The problem there is that there are few who the Redskins would want to lock up at this point. We’ll look at Ryan Kerrigan in a minute. But the second- and third-round picks from that year, Jarvis Jenkins and Leonard Hankerson, have both lost substantial time to injury and, in Jenkins’ case, suspension. Even at their better moments, neither has played well enough to warrant a new deal.

Perhaps a role player like Roy Helu Jr. might be a target for an extension. But with a new offense coming in this year it would be wise for both parties to wait.

Although Kerrigan would be a prime candidate for an extension, he is a different case from the rest of his draft classmates. Since he is a first-round pick, the Redskins have a 2015 option that they almost certainly will exercise. Kerrigan was taken outside of the top 10 so the option would be worth a salary equal to the averages of the top 25 players at his position with the top three excluded. That number is hard to nail down in advance but as of now it look like it will come to around $4 million for the season. After that he would be a free agent.

Since Kerrigan essentially has two years left on his contract due to the option, the Redskins can wait another year and still work something out with Kerrigan prior to the free agency deadline pressure. There is incentive for Kerrigan to wait as well,

Another player who could wait a year is Trent Williams. He has two years left on his rookie contract from 2010 with a cap hit of about $10 million this year and $14 million in 2015. Like with Kerrigan, this one should probably wait a year.

We will have to wait another year, then, to see if the Redskins want to get into the business of locking up their younger, key players in advance of them becoming free agents. With Morris, Kerrigan, and Williams all set to become free agents in 2016 and Griffin going into his option year then, next spring would be a good time to start.

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Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 23, four days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 10
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 31
—Training camp starts (7/27) 95
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 140

In search of someone, anyone, to stop the run

One of the areas the Redskins needed to improve last year was their rushing defense on first down. In 2015, they gave up a league-worse 5.0 yards per carry on first down. That was the worst performance in the league. It’s pretty tough to play defense when a handoff makes it second and five. The Saints, who had a historically bad defense that year, were second, fiving up 4.8 yards a pop.

Well, it was no better for the Redskins defense in 2016. Again, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down, again the worst performance in the league.  Remember, this is on first down, when teams are most likely to run.

The Redskins’ problems on third down were well known. They were dead last in the league allowing first downs on 46.6 percent of third-down attempts. For context, an average performance on third down is allowing about 38 percent and the best teams are around 35 percent.

That doesn’t tell the whole story, however. The Redskins weren’t very good at getting teams to third down. They allowed first downs on 33.8 percent of their opponents’ second-down plays. That put them in the bottom third of the league. Again, you don’t have to look too hard to connect the dots to link that back to the five yards per rushing play on first down. Second and five is a piece of cake most of the time.

You don’t need an advanced degree in statistical analysis to figure out that the Redskins defense isn’t going to get much better if they can’t stop teams from running the ball on first down.

It’s easy to point to the defensive line, which has not been very good, and say that the problem is there. That certainly has something to do with it. But the Redskins didn’t have a very good D-line in 2014 and they allowed 4.1 yards per first-down rushing attempt, a performance that was right at the league average.

The factor that was common in 2015 and 2016 and was different in 2014 was the defensive coordinator. It’s possible that opposing teams found a flaw to exploit in Joe Barry’s scheme that wasn’t there in Jim Haslett’s (which surely had flaws in other places).

But X’s and O’s can only get you so far. The Redskins will be looking to take a defensive lineman early and perhaps use an additional pick or two at the position later in the draft. While getting one who can rush the passer would be a plus, they need a run stuffer who can take snaps on first down and bottle up the ground game.

The focus in the draft will be on the first-round pick but, as has been discussed here many times, that pick is unlikely to be a defensive lineman. There isn’t likely to be one at 17 who would represent good value. That could mean that the Redskins’ second- or third-round pick, perhaps an interior lineman like Caleb Brantley of Florida, Larry Ogunjobi of Charlotte, or Montravius Adams of Auburn, is just as important to the team’s success as the first-round pick.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 22, five days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 20
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 32
—Training camp starts (7/27) 96
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 141

The Redskins week that was

Redskins full 2017 schedule released—Even with the Caps and Wizards in full playoff mode, the DMV stops to take a look and see when the Redskins will be playing. The Thanksgiving game was surprising. It’s another working day but I worked at various places since I was 14 and last year was the first time I’ve had to work on Thanksgiving so I can’t complain too much about working two in a row. It’s a small price to pay for having the best job in the world.

Don't count out any RB for Redskins at 17—Yeah, I know that NFL teams aren’t supposed to take running backs in the first round any more. But that is one of those trends that comes and goes. In 2013 and 2014 there were no RBs taken in the first. Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott in the last couple of years began to shift the thinking. If the Redskins think that Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey can help them win games more than any other player on the board they should pull the trigger.

Rise of Patrick Mahomes could bring big payoff for Redskins—It seems likely that quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky will be taken before the Redskins pick at No. 17 goes on the clock. That means that two players in whom the Redskins might be interested will be available, pushed back by the quarter backs. Could Mahomes, out of Texas Tech, push a third player back to Washington. The buzz is that a team might grab him in the first half of the first round.

The Redskins' five best salary cap bargains for 2017—When I started pulling the numbers for this post I thought I’d find more key players with salaries of under $1 million. I only found three and one of them is the kicker. This means that they don’t have very many late-round or undrafted players who are contributing a lot of value. They need more out of players like Anthony Lanier, Matt Ioannidis and Maurice Harris. That is how a team thrives in the salary cap era. A couple of Saturday picks could make or break this draft.

Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often—There are a lot of ways the first 16 picks of this draft can work out. It seems almost certain that everyone’s favorite first-round pick, a stud defensive lineman, won’t be a realistic option on the board. This could send things in an odd direction for the Redskins. It’s fun to do a mock and I’ll do one or two more prior to draft day but there are too many variables to think that it has a high degree of accuracy. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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