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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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Need to Know: Five Redskins under pressure vs. the Eagles

Need to Know: Five Redskins under pressure vs. the Eagles

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, December 6, three days before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Joe Barry news conference 12:40; Practice 1:05; Jay Gruden and Sean McVay news conferences and open locker room after practice approx. 3:00

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 11; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 16; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 24

Injuries of note vs. Cardinals:
Out:
G Long (concussion), S Blackmon (concussion), DE Baker (ankle), DE Jean Francois (knee/foot), G Lauvao (groin)
Limited: TE Reed (shoulder), G Scherff (ankle
Wednesday injury report

QB Kirk Cousins—It’s on his shoulders. Not just this game but the entire playoff run. He can’t have an off day, not even one like the Arizona game where he was off for just part of the game. Cousins doesn’t have to be perfect on every throw but for this team to win he has to be very good every quarter.

OT Trent Williams—Back from his four-game suspension, Williams can’t miss a beat in returning to his All-Pro form. Any mistake, much less any sacks allowed, will open him up to further criticism that he left the team in a bad spot. 

WR DeSean Jackson—The dynamic here has become more intriguing since media reports of mutual interest between Jackson and his former team have emerged. Jackson has done his thing the last two games, catching passes for long gains. But if he is going to be of value down the stretch (and of value to any other team next year) he is going to need to get his hands on some shorter and intermediate passes as well.

OLB Preston Smith—He was a regular on this list until he came up big against the Vikings. But he has since disappeared again and needs to come on strong for the team’s stretch run.

ILB Will Compton—He has been coming under fire lately for ineffective play, including missed tackles and being out of position on occasion. The Redskins need him to raise the level of his game if they are going to land in the postseason.

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Reed catches a pass. Staying away from contact. #Redskins

A video posted by Rich (@richtandler) on

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Long injury list hampers Redskins practice

Long injury list hampers Redskins practice

As Jay Gruden stepped to the podium to read the injury report, he warned, “This will be a while.”

He was right, as he rattled off one the longest injury reports of the season.

Out were G Spencer Long (concussion), S Will Blackmon (concussion), DE Chris Baker (ankle), DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee/foot), DE Anthony Lanier (lower leg), G Shawn Lauvao (groin), OT Ty Nsekhe (ankle), and S Donte Whitner (illness).

Of that group, all but Jean Francois, Lanier, and Nsekhe are starters. Between them and the limited players listed below it was difficult for the Redskin to conduct a normal practice.

“It was a challenge,” said Gruden of getting through it. “Practice was modified quite a bit today. We did more walkthrough today than we ever have on a Wednesday.”

“Sometimes you have to taper back just a hair to make it through practice, try to get the mental reps in with walkthrough and then hopefully the physical part will come maybe tomorrow. Friday we can open them up a bit.”

Limited in practice were TE Jordan Reed (shoulder), OLB Preston Smith (groin), ILB Will Compton (hip), G Brandon Scherff (ankle), and TE Derek Carrier (knee).

READ MORE: FULL UPDATE ON JORDAN REED

Reed returned to practice for the first time since suffering a Grade 3 sprain to the AC joint in his left shoulder in the game against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. He missed the game in Arizona. While his limited participation was a good sign for his return it’ is way too early in the week to say with any degree of certainty that he will be playing against the Eagles.