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Hunkering Down

Hunkering Down

Hunkering Down

The clock is ticking at Redskins Park with a week left to go before free agency. That happens every year in late February, but the difference in 2006 is that nobody knows what’s going to happen when the clock strikes midnight.

Vinny Cerrato said a lot about the Redskins cap situation on Thursday by saying very little on WTEM in Washington.
If there is a Collective Bargaining Agreement, we can answer a lot of our questions in free agency. If there's not a Collective Bargaining Agreement, which we should know hopefully in the next few days, then we'll be doing most of our [player acquisitions] in the draft.
In other words, the Redskins will have plenty of cap room to spend should the CBA get extended. An extension would likely carry the dual benefits of a higher cap, probably in the neighborhood of $110 million, and an easier environment in which to redo contracts. Washington could file a little paperwork, perhaps release a player or two and then start the preflight checklist for Redskin One to start ferrying prospects to Ashburn

Without a new CBA, however, the Redskins will be severely pinched to squeeze in under the cap as we talked about here earlier this week. First the Turk, normally a staple during training camp, will be making premature visits to perhaps as many as a dozen players, telling them that the coach wants to see them and, oh yes, bring your playbook. Players’ agents will be in the lobby and on the phone, as they try to hammer out new deals that will shuffle enough money in the right way so as to provide cap relief but still remain within the guidelines of the CBA. It will take every bit of creative accounting to get the Redskins under the cap and have enough room to sign their draft picks and leave room for an injury replacement or two.

If one were to listen to what NFLPA chief Gene Upshaw said today it’s would appear that the latter scenario is the one that the Redskins will be dealing with. After speaking with a group of player agents today, Upshaw seemed quite pessimistic that a deal would be reached:
Unless something is going on ... that I've not seen in the last day or two, we're just not there yet. I'm not putting a lot of faith in that we're going to reach agreement in the next couple of days.
Of course, all of that talk could be just that, talk, a negotiating tactic. There are rumors that the deal is close and it would take just one breakthrough to get it done

Complicating the matter further is the fact that the NFL has yet to announce exactly what the salary cap for 2006 will be absent a new CBA. It could be anywhere from $92 million to $95 million. Those three million dollars make a big difference for a team that will be needed to squeeze every dime. On top of that, every contract signed and renegotiated will have ramifications through future years. The 2007 season may be uncapped, it may not be if a CBA is reached sometime in the next few months. The Redskins will have to take their best guess at what will happen down the line.

All of this means that the Redskins not only have a Plan A and a Plan B, but because of all of the possible dimensions and permutations their stacks of plans likely run through most of the alphabet. The Excel spreadsheet used to calculate the cap must have entries in Row 782, Column CZ.

And those are just the contingencies dealing directly with the salary cap. Cerrato, Joe Gibbs, and the rest of the scouts and coaches have to evaluate free agents that the Redskins may or may not be able sign and start figuring out how to replace players that they may or may not have to cut.

Some are seeing other teams releasing players and redoing contracts already and wondering why the Redskins have yet to announce anything more than the signing of long snapper Ethan Albright. The complexity of the Redskins’ situation dictates that virtually everything takes place at the last minute. The elements of each plan are intertwined and it’s likely that very few if any potential moves are common to all of the plans. There is no point in playing your cards early when the potential gain is minimal and the possible consequences of making the wrong move are very damaging.

Those of you who have been complaining that it’s been too dull be patient. Things will begin to heat up in the next several days as the clock keeps ticking.

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Redskins bring former starting center back to active roster

Redskins bring former starting center back to active roster

The Redskins officially brought Kory Lichtensteiger back to the active roster, and while the move is now for depth, it could have other ramifications down the road. 

The move is on the NFL's transaction report for Saturday. To make room for Lichtensteiger, the team released defensive lineman A.J. Francis. 

Dealing with injuries up and down the line of scrimmage, Lichtensteiger's return could give the offensive front more flexibility. When Lichtensteiger got injured Week 3 and sent to the injured reserve, third-year pro Spencer Long stepped in and performed well at center. Last week in Arizona, Long sustained a concussion.

That injury opened the door for John Sullivan, who will start this week in Philadelphia with Long ruled out. Sullivan was brought in as a backup to Long once Lichtensteiger was put on IR. With Long now in the NFL concussion protocol, the Redskins need another center should Sullivan get hurt. Alas, Lichtensteiger's return from the IR. 

Left guard Shawn Lauvao also sustained an injured groin, and that's where things could get interesting. Long is capable of playing guard, as is Lichtensteiger in a pinch. Should Lauvao's injury persist, Lichtensteiger might be able to help there.

Against the Eagles, the plan certainly appears to be second-year man Arie Kouandjio starting in place of Lauvao. Kouandjio made one earlier start this season - Week 4 against Cleveland - and the results were mixed.

If Kouandjio stumbles and Lauvao needs more time, Lichtensteiger's return to the roster gives Jay Gruden and Bill Callahan more flexibility, especially when Long returns from injury.

In fact, once the team has Long, Lichtensteiger and Sullivan healthy, there could be a bit of a logjam roster-wise on the offensive line, but considering all the injuries, bumps and bruises that are part of O-line life by the last four games of the season, the Redskins staff likely won't mind figuring that out. 

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Redskins vs Eagles Preview: 5 things to know as Washington gets desperate

Redskins vs Eagles Preview: 5 things to know as Washington gets desperate

Losers of two straight games and for the first time in a month outside of the playoff picture, a desperate Redskins squad travels to Philadelphia for a 1 p.m. game on Sunday. All the action kicks off on CSN with Redskins Kickoff at noon, but to get ready for the action, here are five storylines to watch:

  1. Getting back to good, or at least decent - Two weeks ago the Redskins seemed like a dangerous playoff squad with a strong offense and an improving defense. After two straight losses where Joe Barry's defense has given up 62 total points, the questions are mounting for Washington. Can the defense get stops on 3rd down? Generate a turnover? The good news for the Redskins is that the Eagles are struggggggling. Their offense has not score more than 15 points in three straight weeks. 
  2. Feed the fat one - After giving Rob Kelley just 28 carries in the last two games, Washington offensive coordinator Sean McVay owned up to the Redskins lack of run game, "I definitely feel like I could’ve been more patient on some of those early down and distances where you get a little bit pass-heavy. And that’s something that as a decision-maker and as a coordinator, I have to do a better job." In a Week 6 win Kelley and Matt Jones piled up more than 200 rush yards against the Eagles. The 'Skins offense likely won't feature Jones, but expect McVay to feed Fat Rob plenty on Sunday.
  3. Playing in pain - The Redskins offense features a number of dynamic playmaking threats, but arguably the best is tight end Jordan Reed. On Thanksgiving in Dallas, Reed separated his left shoulder, and though he finished that game he was forced out of action in Arizona. Expect Reed to be back Sunday, and expect Kirk Cousins to look for him early and often. On the season, Reed has more than 600 receiving yards and five TDs.
  4. If it ain't broke - Kirk Cousins has had more success against the Eagles than any other team in the NFC East. In four career games against Philly, COusins averages 336 yards per game passing to go with a 101.3 QB rating. He's thrown 10 touchdowns against the Eagles to just two interceptions. The biggest win of his career came last year when Cousins and the 'Skins clinched the NFC East title at Lincoln Financial Field. Cousins suceeds against the Eagles, and there's no reason it should stop Sunday. 
  5. Don't fly away - Rumors are starting to circulate that the Eagles would like to bring back DeSean Jackson next season. It's well known that Jackson will probably hit free agency after this season, and if Philly did pursuit their former playmaker, it would make sense. But between now and then, Jackson has another opportunity to torch his former team and help the Skins pursue a Wild Card bid at the same time. In his past two games, Jackson and COusins have connected on deep patterns, and there's little reason to tbink the same won't happen Sunday.

Numbers & Notes

  • If tight end Vernon Davis catches three passes he will become the 12th tight end in NFL history to record 500 career receptions.
  • With two more catches, wide receiver Jamison Crowder will set a single-season career high in receptions. He caught 59 passes in 2015.
  • If the Redskins win would mark five straight victories against the Eagles for the Redskins for the first time since a six-game winning streak in the series across the 1981-84 seasons.

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!