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Grading the Redskins at the bye: Offense

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Grading the Redskins at the bye: Offense

How have the Redskins done this year going into the bye? Over the next three days Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir grade the team’s performance unit by unit. Today, we look at the offense.

Tandler’s grade: B+

For the first time since 2005, the Redskins have an offense that can consistently put points on the board. The main reason is, of course, the play of Robert Griffin III, who has given Redskins fans something to cheer for at the position for the first time in  years. He has been operating without his top receiver, Pierre Garçon, for most of the season and yet he continues to produce and give the Redskins a chance to win week after week.

RG3 isn’t the only bright spot on offense. Alfred Morris is among the league’s leading rushers and runs with a style that is fun to watch. Trent Williams is having a Pro
Bowl type season at left tackle and Will Montgomery is putting in a solid season at center.

And you have to give Mike and Kyle Shanahan some credit here. After many said they wouldn’t (looking at you, McNabb!), they have tailored their offense to suit Griffin’s unique skill set. The result is a scheme that has confounded opponents and it has been interesting to watch it unfold.

El-Bashir’s grade: B-

Two weeks ago, Robert Griffin III and the Redskins’ offense would have earned an ‘A.’ Because, let’s be honest here, no one anticipated this unit leaping from 18 points per game in 2011 to an average of 29.7 points per outing through this season’s first six games – even with Griffin under center.

But the offense hasn’t been so effective the past two weeks as the team produced 12 and 13 points, respectively. Some of the drop off can be blamed on poor execution (coaches aren’t to blame for the 10 dropped passes in Pittsburgh or, to a certain extent, the rash of drive-halting penalties against the Panthers). A bit of the problem seems to be injuries to key playmakers (top receivers Pierre Garçon and Fred Davis missed both games). But there’s also the sneaking suspicion that opposing defensive coordinators have caught up to Mike and Kyle Shanahan’s innovative offense.

In the long term, the unit is in good shape with Griffin, Alfred Morris, Garçon (assuming he gets healthy) and other emerging players. The short term, however, remains a concern on the back half of the season and the Shanahans can’t figure out how to resuscitate a once prolific attack. 

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Uncertainty around Kirk Cousins impacts Redskins' pursuit of free agent WRs

Uncertainty around Kirk Cousins impacts Redskins' pursuit of free agent WRs

This story originally published on January 4, but has fresh relevence as the Redskins are running out of time to decide what to do with Kirk Cousins. 

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Pending contract talks with Kirk Cousins will not only impact the Redskins salary cap, they will also impact the desire of free agent wide receivers looking to join the Burgundy and Gold.

That's the word from multiple sources as Washington brass again enters negotiations with Cousins after he played the 2016 season under the franchise tag.

It's understandable why receivers want to see what unfolds at QB for the Redskins.

With Cousins, the Redskins run a dynamic, pass-first offense capable of moving the ball among the best teams in the league. Should Cousins leave via free agency, it's unknown what happens for Jay Gruden's 2017 offense.

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 3.0

While it seems likely Cousins would at least return for 2017 under another franchise tag, if that doesn't happen, would the team turn to backup Colt McCoy? Bring in a veteran starter to compete with McCoy? Has rookie Nate Sudfeld developed to a point where he could compete? Questions like these make for uneasy conversations among wideouts looking at options. 

The Redskins not only need to make decisions with their own free agent receivers in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon, but the team also has shown interest in free agent Kenny Britt, recently of the Rams. Sources indicate Britt would be interested in Washington if Cousins is the quarterback, but the 29-year-old has at least seven other interested teams should the Redskins QB situation not get resolved before free agency opens. 

Jackson's return to Washington seems unlikely, as he will probably command more money than Garçon or Britt.

ESPN's John Keim reported that Garçon will not play for less than the $7.6 million he made this season, and sources have said Britt expects to make anywhere from $8 million to $12 million per season in a multi-year deal.

All three pass-catchers had strong seasons in 2016, all eclipsing the 1,000 yard mark. Among the trio, Britt is two years younger than Garçon and Jackson, who will both turn 31 this season, and bigger. Britt goes 6-foot-3 while Garçon is 6-foot and Jackson 5-foot-10. Neither Britt nor Garçon can touch Jackson's speed, and few players in the NFL can match Garçon's toughness.

That said, Britt raised eyebrows around the NFL getting to 1,000 yards on an awful Rams team that suffered with poor quarterback play and a prehistoric offensive system. 

Another franchise tag for Cousins would not necessarily solve the Redskins issue with free agent receivers, at least long-term. Like all players, wideouts want multi-year deals, and a 2017 tag on Cousins makes it highly possible that Washington needs a new quarterback in 2018. 

Fans need to deal with the possibility that neither Jackson nor Garçon could return to Washington. It might not happen, but it certainly could. Much of that will be determined by money, but the contract status of Cousins will be a factor.

For wideouts, Washington is an attractive destination with Cousins. He's thrown for more than 9,000 yards in the last two seasons.

Without him, the landscape looks quite different. 

RELATED: Jameis Winston wants DeSean Jackson in Tampa

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Salary cap outlook: Redskins have cap room for a top free agent safety

Salary cap outlook: Redskins have cap room for a top free agent safety

The Redskins have found their offensive and defensive coordinators and they are ready to get on with the business portion of the offseason. The big question between now and the middle of March is how they will divvy up their $62 million in cap space. Here we’ll take a position-by-position look at the cap situation and explore some of the Redskins’ options. 

Cap info via www.OverTheCap.com

The Redskins currently have these safeties under contract.

—DeAngelo Hall, 2017 cap hit $5.1 million, under contract through 2017
—Will Blackmon, $1.1 million, through 2017
—Su’a Cravens, $1 million, through 2019
—Josh Evans, $775,000, through 2017
—Deshazor Everett, $615,000, through 2019
—Earl Wolff, $615,000, through 2018

Free agents: Donte Whither, Duke Ihenacho

RELATED: Cousins a "mercenary" and he should be

Notes:

—Cravens is on the second year of his four-year rookie contract. He will be eligible for an extension following the 2018 season.

—Evans had two stints on the Redskins roster last year but he played in only two games with no snaps on defense. When they signed him prior to their Week 17 game they tacked on a deal for this year so he will be around to see if he can get some run on defense.

Positional spending (all defensive backs)

2016: $7.7 million, 21st in NFL
2017: $8.1 million, 20th in NFL

Adding and subtracting:

—If Cravens can develop into a solid starter he would be a bargain for a couple of years. His cap number is $1.2 million in 2018 and $1.4 million in 2019. It could go up in 2019 as he will be eligible to have his deal redone. But getting productive seasons at a relative low rate prior to a second contract is one of the keys to success in NFL’s salary cap system.

—Hall has missed 31 games with injuries over the last three years. It is safe to say that he will not play this year for his contracted $4.25 million salary. He will either negotiate down to a lower salary or he will be released, which would save that $4.25 million off the cap. I would be leaning towards a release; even if he is willing to play for less money it would be hard to count on him.

—Assuming the Redskins do something with Hall’s salary they would have some cap room to work with to bolster this perpetually undermanned position. The median safety positional spending last year was around $10.5 million. If Hall is gone or his salary is reduced to $1 million, they would have room for a $7 million cap hit for a safety and still have spending at the position under control.

—That could mean they can afford someone like Cardinals safety Tony Jefferson, who is likely to get a deal somewhere in the $8 to $9 million range. The Redskins easily craft a deal like that with a $6 to $7 million 2017 cap hit.

—Drafting a safety such as Budda Baker in the first round would be a more economical route to take. The No. 17 pick will get a four-year contract worth $7.0 million with cap numbers increasing from $2.1 million in the first year to $3.7 million in 2020.

RELATED: #RedskinsTalk Podcast - Kicking around Kirk scenarios

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.