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Like all NFL teams, Redskins play a zero-sum game in free agency

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Like all NFL teams, Redskins play a zero-sum game in free agency

Saints coach Sean Payton recently talked about the challenges the team faces in trying to keep pending free agent tight end Jimmy Graham on their team.

“The first thing that comes to my mind with free agency is your own roster,” Payton told Fox Sports 1 (via the Times-Picayune). “I think often times that gets overlooked. The most challenging part of your job as a coach, and I share that with [Saints G. M.] Mickey ]Loomis] or anyone that has been with an organization as long as we have been, going on year nine, is some of the tough decisions that have to be made with regards to your cap with the ability that you possibly can sign Jimmy Graham.”

Teams all around the NFL are making similar choices. In many ways, the NFL’s salary cap creates a zero-sum game. Money that is paid to one player can’t be used to attract or retain another player.

The Redskins are not in quite as tough a situation as are Payton and the Saints. New Orleans is about $12 million over the 2014 cap so they will have to release some players and restructure others just to be able to afford the $6.8 million tight end franchise tag for Graham.

Washington has some $30 million in salary cap space and the key player there is Brian Orakpo. Although he isn’t quite in the top tier of NFL pass rushers he’s pretty good and the Redskins believe they need him if they are going to turn around their defense.

But using the franchise tag on Orakpo will eat up almost $11 million in cap space and even a long-term deal with him won’t take up very much less than that. That’s over a third of their available space with major holes on both sides of the ball yet to be filled. That may force the Redskins to let go of some veterans and it certainly will prevent them from signing any other big names in free agency.

It’s about choices and if the Bruce Allen and company choose to keep Orakpo they will close off other options that may have helped the team. This will require them to be resourceful, find some lower-priced free agents to fill some holes, develop some of the 24 players they drafted from 2011-2013 who are still on the roster, and draft well.

It's important to note that even if the Redskins do decide to let Orakpo walk there still will be choices to make. Who replaces him, how much do you pay that player, how do you best utilize the money saved? The resources are still finite.

Redskins fans need to hope that they choose well.

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Play of the day: Doctson goes deep

Play of the day: Doctson goes deep

Each day during training camp, Redskins Insider Rich Tandler will pick out a play from practice to break down in some detail. The focus will be on plays that can give us some hints as to what we can look forward to this season.

RICHMOND—The Redskins were running a drill featuring one-on-one coverage with defensive backs and receivers. Josh Doctson was lined up wide left and Bashaud Breeland was covering him. As Doctson ran a go pattern he built some separation between himself and the defender. But the pass, which traveled about 40 yards downfield, was a little short and Breeland was able to knock it down.

Here is the end of that play, captured by USA Today Sports Images:

A few plays later, Doctson was up again. This time the cornerback was Quinton Dunbar. Doctson again got separation quickly and took off on the go pattern. This time the pass was on the money and Doctson hauled it in at almost the exact spot where he couldn’t get the handle on his previous play.

One camera was in the perfect spot to capture the play.

(Seeing this, I’m wondering if Doctson had control throughout the process of the catch as it came loose in the end zone. But who knows what a catch really is, right? In any case, we’re calling it a catch.)

When most fans think about what Doctson’s contribution might be this year, they think of him being a big target on third and six and catching passes in the red zone. However, the long ball will be part of his game as well.

RELATED: Redskins camp hot topics

Nobody will be looking for him to replace DeSean Jackson as the team’s deep threat. He ran a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash at the combine, a respectable time but far from “blow the top off the defense” speed. However, he is quick enough to beat a cornerback off the line and his large catch radius can be an asset deep downfield as well as it can in tight traffic near the line of scrimmage.

Even if he doesn’t go deep often, if teams need to respect the long ball Doctson will find more room to operate underneath.

MORE REDSKINS: Live practice report, Day 1

Doctson appears to be fully healthy after being a non-factor as a rookie due to an Achilles injury. And last March he started seeing a specialist who he hopes will help keep him on the field.

“He just realigns my body, my hips, align my hips, make sure by back is all right,” said Doctson. “I was off balance a little bit, my right side was longer than my left and it starts to overcompensate, works hard and little things start to wind down and it was my Achilles that was affected by all of it.”

It’s been so far, so good with the new program.

“Nobody wants to be injured, ever,” said Doctson. “You want to be available for your teammates, for yourself, for the organization. This year is totally different, I don’t feel anything wrong with my body, so I’ll be ready to go.”

We still have a long grind to go before the start of the season so it’s perhaps premature to celebrate having a healthy Doctson on the field for games that count. But if he proves to be more versatile than many are thinking right now he could be a great asset to the offense and lots of fun to watch.

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: Redskins camp hot topics—Mbu first team, Smith dropping pounds

Need to Know: Redskins camp hot topics—Mbu first team, Smith dropping pounds

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, July 27, 36 days before the Washington Redskins cut their roster to 53 on September 2.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 207 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 45 days.

Today’s schedule: Walkthrough 10:35; Josh Norman press conference 11:30; Jay Gruden press conference 2:45; Practice 3:00; players available after both practices.

Days until:

—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 13
—Preseason vs. Packers at FedEx Field (8/19) 22
—Sunday night Raiders @ Redskins (9/24) 58

Hot topics from Redskins camp

RICHMOND—Some news and notes from around Redskins training camp.

—Don’t look now but Joey Mbu is the starting nose tackle for your Washington Redskins. To be sure, being first-string at a position on the first day of camp when he was on the practice squad last year doesn’t mean he’s a lock to start Week 1. But it’s a better spot to be in than second- or third-team. At this point it’s something to keep an eye on. We’ll have to see what happens when they put the pads on Monday.

—Preston Smith dropped about seven pounds during the offseason. He went from a guy who looked like he had nearly zero fat on his body to looking like he has even less. The third-year OLB said that he stopped eating fried foods, baked goods, and other such tasty delights. Smith said that he hopes to be quicker after going from about 269 at the end of last season to about 262.

—I wouldn’t look for Jordan Reed to be back anytime real soon. In one answer at his press conference on Thursday, he said that it should be “about a week or so” before they get him on the field. But then in answer to another question Gruden said, “We will be extra cautious with Jordan.” A week does not seem to be “extra cautious.” The Redskins are off a week from today before having a single practice on Saturday, August 5. Although Reed may be activated by then it seems unlikely that he will be putting in any full-go work until after they get back from their first preseason game. In short, think later rather than sooner when it comes to Reed returning to action.

—E.J. Bibbs, signed to give the Redskins some additional tight end depth with Reed on the shelf, has just one NFL catch for seven yards. He’s the ultimate long shot to make the roster but he does appear to have practice squad eligibility so it’s certainly worth his while to come in and see what kind of impression he can make.

—Kirk Cousins says that it will take some more practice to adjust to throwing the ball to his taller receivers, Josh Doctson and Terrelle Pryor. “Height is an advantage if you can use it to your advantage, I guess,” he said. “You know, you’ve got to be able to put the ball in the right spot where your guy can catch it, and he’s got to be able to adjust to the football and make those tough catches at a high point. So, that’s what the reps in practice are all about is developing that rapport.” We haven’t seen much high-pointing the ball either in the offseason practices or in yesterday’s practice. But we can assume that it’s coming.

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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