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Gano gets first chance in kicking battle

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Gano gets first chance in kicking battle

When the Redskins open the preseason Thursday in Buffalo, a number of players who are engaged in position battles will get their first chance to make an impression.Incumbent kicker Graham Gano is one of them.Through two weeks of training camp, Gano has acquitted himself well as he attempts to fend off Neil Rackers, the veteran signed this offseason to challenge him. Gano and Rackers both are unofficially 16 for 19 in the three head-to-head field goal competitions thus far.But, as Gano and special teams Coach Danny Smith conceded this week, practice means relatively little when determining which kicker makes the 53-man roster. It really will come down to what transpires during the teams four preseason contests, beginning with the Bills.Thats what separates everybody; its execution under pressure, Smith said Thursday in his first public comments since training camp began. Were going put them in those pressure situations and see who executes the best.Smith said his biggest challenge as a position coach will be to ensure that both Gano and Rackers get equal opportunity to show what they can do. To accomplish that, Smith said he plans to have the player who kicks a field goal or point after to also take the ensuing kickoff, as to simulate a normal game routine.On Thursday, Gano will go first if the Redskins kickoff to start the game, Smith said. If not, it will depend on which kicker finished the first half.By the end of the four exhibitions, Smith said it will be obvious to everyone which kicker has the edge.Its going to be on production, solely, Smith said.Gano would seem to have the advantage entering the preseason. At 25 years old, hes 10 years younger than Rackers. Hes got the stronger leg and is familiar to the coaching staff after spending the previous three seasons in Washington.That said, Gano connected on 75.6 percent of his field goals, which ranked 29th in the NFL. That number, of course, was negatively impacted by five blocked attempts.I met with the coaches and they said there wasnt anything I could do anything about it personally, Gano said of the blocks. You dont want blocks at all. But last year, thats the past.Smith declined to say what exactly went haywire on so many attempts in 2011. He did, however, concede that there was plenty of blame to be spread around, beginning with him.We had a lot of issues, to be honest, Smith said.If Gano is going to retain his job, Smith said he wants to see more consistency and focus.Day in and day out you got to do it, Smith said. Just because we do it for a couple years doesnt mean we have it. As a coach in this league, you get new coaches and they get their first contract and they think they arrived. I dont think they arrived until you get another contract. Its the same with a kicker.As for Gano, he said hes not feeling any additional pressure because he used to fighting for his job in camp.But he also said he likes his chances.Im feeling pretty good, Gano said. Im starting to hit my stride and Im looking forward to Thursday.

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RB Matt Jones reportedly not part of Redskins' 2017 plans

RB Matt Jones reportedly not part of Redskins' 2017 plans

Matt Jones entered the 2016 season as the Redskins undisputed starter at running back.

That lasted seven games.

By Week 8, Jones landed on the inactive list, and he never took another snap all year.

With OTAs beginning for the 2017 season, it looks like Jones might not play with the team. 

NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT?

In April at the NFL Draft, reports surfaced that Washington was trying to trade Jones.

Weeks before that, at the NFL Owner's Meetings in Arizona, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden had to be reminded that Jones was still on the roster as the coach talked about the running back situation for this fall.

Robert Kelley surpassed Jones as the top running back on the team last season with Chris Thompson secure in his third down back role. 

Mack Brown even moved past Jones on the depth chart. When the Redskins drafted Samaje Perine in the fourth round, that signaled even bigger trouble for Jones' roster situation.

The Redskins will likely only keep four running backs this fall, and with Kelley, Perine, Thompson and Brown, it sure seems like Jones is the odd man out.

It's remarkable considering Jones has size, speed and an NFL resume that has three 100-yard games on it in just 20 games. The Redskins spent a third-round pick on Jones in 2015, and he largely ousted fan favorite Alfred Morris from the RB1 role as a rookie. 

Life comes at you quick in the NFL.

Jones is a clear example of that. 

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ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

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Need to Know: Can the Redskins really afford to franchise tag Kirk Cousins in 2018?

Need to Know: Can the Redskins really afford to franchise tag Kirk Cousins in 2018?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, May 24, 20 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp on May 22.

Timeline

It’s been 143 days since the Redskins played a game. Their season opener against the Eagles at FedEx Field is in 109 days.

Days until:

—Redskins minicamp (6/13) 20
—Training camp starts (7/27) 64
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 78

Is the 2018 Cousins tag threat a bluff?

On Monday, Redskins president Bruce Allen reiterated that the team is willing to use the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins for the third straight year.

“In the collective bargaining agreement, we really have one year and an option that we can do at the end of next season if we don’t get a contract,” said Allen when asked if the team would use the franchise or transition tag on Cousins in 2018. He has said something similar on previous media interviews this year.

This year Cousins is getting the tag for the second time in his career. That gives him 120 percent of his 2016 salary which comes to just under $24 million. A third franchise tag in 2018, which would either give the Redskins exclusive negotiating rights or a possible choice between matching an offer sheet from another team or getting draft pick compensation, would get Cousins a 144 percent increase over this season, or a whopping $34.5 million.

The franchise tag would give the Redskins the power to unilaterally lock up Cousins for the 2018 season. It is expensive, by design. Could the Redskins afford to wield that power? Or is Allen just bluffing?

A look at the numbers makes it look like Allen is bluffing.

According to Over the Cap, the Redskins have $127 million in salary cap commitments in 2018. Based on recent growth trends the salary cap will be an estimated $178 million. That gives the Redskins $51 million in cap room.

Cousins’ $34.5 million salary for a third tag would hit the 2018 cap all at once as soon as the tag is applied. You don’t have to be a master capologist to do the math and figure out that such a move would leave the Redskins with $16.5 million in salary cap space.

A look at the top-line number doesn’t seem that bad. Eight teams would have less cap space than Washington so others, like the Cowboys, Eagles, and Chiefs, would be worse off.

But the problem with the Redskins’ situation is twofold. First, 21 of their current players are slated to be unrestricted free agents in 2018. Not all of them are key contributors. But they would have to squeeze to bring back the likes of Zach Brown, Terrelle Pryor, Spencer Long, and Bashaud Breeland. If they don’t re-sign them they will have to go to the free agent market for replacements and that will tough to do with so little money to work with.

The other issue is that they don’t have any fat to cut from their cap. They could save from $4.5 million to $8 million by cutting one of the four players with the highest cap numbers. But they aren’t going to be better if they cut loose Josh Norman, Jordan Reed, Trent Williams or Ryan Kerrigan.

Going down the list of top cap hits, they would save no money by letting Brandon Scherff go since his salary is fully guaranteed. Washington would take a net loss of cap space by cutting Morgan Moses and releasing Vernon Davis would save just $1.1 million. In fact, other than the top four mentioned above there are no players the Redskins could release who would save more than $1.6 million in net cap space.

The Redskins could create more cap room by restructuring some of their highest-paid players. But a simple restructure, where salary is converted to signing bonus, spreading the cap impact over the remaining years of the deal, doesn’t save any real money. The cap hit is merely pushed back into future seasons. Bruce Allen has been reluctant to do this and he is right to think that way. Restructures should only be used in a “break glass in case of emergency” situations, not as a regular way of doing business.

In short, tagging Cousins for $34.5 million would force the Redskins to lose quality players or to use cap management tactics that run against their philosophy, or some combination of both. While you can’t rule out the tag on Cousins, there is enough there to make the possibility remote.

Mike McCartney, Cousins’ agent, can look at these numbers and figure out that Allen is bluffing about a 2018 franchise tag as well as I can. It will be close to a non-factor in negotiations.

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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