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Looking ahead to 2016: Six Redskins starters set to be free agents

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Looking ahead to 2016: Six Redskins starters set to be free agents

The Redskins have already taken care of two significant pieces of their 2016 offseason business. Just before they started training camp they signed linebacker Ryan Kerrigan to a five-year, $57.5 million contract extension. A few weeks later they locked up left tackle Trent Williams with $66 million over six years.

With those two big contracts out of the way the Redskins will be able to get to work on other free agents they want to sign once the season ends with certainty about the cap implications of those big contracts. As we noted yesterday they should have ample cap space to work with so lack of money to spend should not be an object towards them keeping any of their own players they want to keep.

Here is a look at the Redskins’ unrestricted free agents:

Starters

QB Kirk Cousins (age 28 at start of 2016 season, 2015 cap number $778,000)—This could be huge or it could be almost an afterthought, depending on how Cousins plays in the remaining nine games. If his performance is good enough to warrant starter status in 2015, he could get a deal something like Nick Foles’ extension with the Rams. In August, Foles, who was going into the final year of his rookie contract, signed for two years and $24.5 million in new money. $12 million is guaranteed and, in reality, that is the total value of the deal. There is no guaranteed money in the final year of the deal so the Rams could easily cut ties after 2016 with minimal cap pain. Cousins could get something similar if the Redskins want him to be their starter next year.

FB Darrel Young (age 29, $1.5 million)—He has played only 45 snaps on offense this year and although he is also a regular on special teams, you have to think that the organization can find someone younger and cheaper to fill that role. On the other hand, Scot McCloughan is going to keep a few veterans around to set the example for the younger players and Young is perfect for that. I think he’s back on a deal that’s shorter and slightly less lucrative than the one he’s finishing up (that one is 3 years, $3.9 million, $1 million guaranteed).

ILB Keenan Robinson (age 27, $765,000)—Even though he has fallen off from his high level of play he displayed last year, he is still a valuable member of the defense and not a player they want to let get away. Unless he really turns it on the last nine game he should get something in the neighborhood of the three-year, $12 million deal that Perry Riley got in 2014, with a couple of million added on due to cap inflation.

NT Terrance Knighton (age 30, $4.45 million)—This could get sticky. The Redskins are probably willing to give him an average of 4.5 million per year but probably for only a couple of years. Knighton’s camp will point to the deal that Dan Williams got from the Raiders and want more like four years, $25 million. A good solution would be to meet in the middle and go for three years, $17 million.

OLB Junior Galette (age 28, $745,000)—He didn’t start a game, of course, but he would have if not for the torn Achilles he suffered in August. Another “prove-it” deal at minimum salary for him? That’s doubtful. I think they give him a couple of years with a low guarantee that’s loaded with incentives and per-game roster bonuses. Let’s say two years, as low as $1 million per year and as high as $7 million if he stays on the roster for 16 games a year and cashes in on the incentives.

RB Alfred Morris (age 27, $1.6 million)—If I absolutely had to bet I think he plays elsewhere in 2016. The simple fact is that he has more value to a team that is committed to the zone scheme, like perhaps the Falcons. But you never know what will happen in the last nine games and you can’t rule out a re-signing.

Reserves

QB Colt McCoy (age 30) likely will re-sign to back up Cousins or whoever the starter is. I think CB Will Blackmon (age 32), DE Frank Kearse (age 27), TE Anthony McCoy (age 28), and LB Mason Foster (age 27) will be offered minimum-salary type deals to return to compete for jobs as backups. S Trenton Robinson (age 26) is currently a starter due to injury but he should be a backup and special teams performer. But with a safety shortage around the NFL, someone might offer him more money elsewhere. DE Kedric Golston (age 33) is a good locker room leader and capable reserve but the team may want to go the younger and cheaper route. Same with TE Logan Paulsen (age 29), although the shortage of tight ends might prompt the team to make him an offer. Unless Josh LeRibeus (age 27) really turns it on in what remains of his opportunity to start at center, he is likely to leave.

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Will Jay Gruden increase his 'big role' in the Redskins' personnel process?

Will Jay Gruden increase his 'big role' in the Redskins' personnel process?

While it hasn’t been the best offseason for the Redskins organization in many respects it has been a good one for coach Jay Gruden. In the midst of turmoil over the status of general manager Scot McCloughan, Gruden got a two-year contract extension.

Although the final agreement on the deal came on March 4 in a steakhouse in Indianapolis during the NFL Combine, team president Bruce Allen said that talk of extending Gruden started much earlier.

“It was after the season, Dan [Snyder], Jay and I got together and we talked about the game plan because we’d made some changes on the coaching staff as well following the season,” Allen told CSN’s JP Finlay at the owners’ meetings in Arizona.

Gruden became the team’s head coach in 2014. His original five-year contract was set to expire after the 2018 season but now he is in the fold through 2020.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

Gruden’s record in Washington is 21-26-1, not the kind of record that normally has an organization rushing to extend a head coach. But after a 4-12 inaugural season, Gruden has led the Redskins to records of 9-7 and 8-7-1 the last two years. While by many standards that is a modest achievement, it marked the first back-to-back winning seasons in Washington since 1996-1997. The hope is that Gruden will keep them moving in the right direction.

The extension is likely to be popular in the locker room as players have come to like Gruden’s style.  

“His directness, his sarcasm and at the same time he gets his coaching point in but the guys do like his sense of humor as well,” said Allen. 

It’s not known if Gruden’s extension gives him more authority over personnel. His original deal gave him very little, with first Allen and then McCloughan having the final say in personnel selection and control over who makes the 53-man roster. Some NFL head coaches have final say in free agency acquisition and in the draft while many have control over who makes the 53.

MORE REDSKINS: 3 takeaways from talking to Allen

Gruden does have some informal influence when it comes to the draft.

“He’s got a big role,” said Allen. “First of all, he coordinates all the coaches’ reports and when we set the draft board, Jay will be up there. He watches every player who will be on the draft board and he will have an opinion.”

There is a power vacuum at Redskins Park with McCloughan gone. A new general manager won’t get hired until after the draft and the authority of that GM will have will be a matter of negotiation. It would not be surprising to see Gruden ending up with roster control.

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: What is the Redskins' plan for QB Kirk Cousins?

Need to Know: What is the Redskins' plan for QB Kirk Cousins?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, March 28, 30 days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/17) 20
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 45
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 57
—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 109
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 157

Tuesday three and out

1. Maybe Bruce Allen and the Redskins have a master plan for saving the whole Kirk Cousins situation but right now it just looks like they’re stuck without a solution to paying $24 million to a quarterback who likely will be gone in a year. That’s money that could either be rolled over into future seasons if Cousins gets traded or used as a down payment on a long-term Cousins deal. Maybe there’s a master plan there somewhere but right now it looks an awful lot like the organization is just stumbling around in the dark, stubbing its toe while trying to find the light switch.

2. WR Brian Quick will cost the Redskins less against the salary cap than they are paying him. That’s because his contract takes advantage of the minimum salary benefit. He gets the sixth-year minimum salary of $775,000 plus an $85,000 signing bonus, a total of $860,000. Because of the minimum salary and low signing bonus the CBA rules allow the team to essentially discount the cap hit for the contract down to $695,000. The rule is designed so that younger players are necessarily cheaper, at least when it comes to the salary cap.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

3. Allen hinted that the Redskins won’t necessarily hire a general manager after the draft. While talking to colleague JP Finlay he said, “We’ll talk about what we need after the draft from a staffing standpoint.” Not “we’ll search high and low for the best GM in the business” but that needs will be examined. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

And out—Allen didn’t have much to say when JP asked about the stadium project that was a hot topic a year or so ago, only confirming that talks are ongoing. The fact that he had so little to say, not even some platitudes about the desire to build a great environment for the fans. Reading between the lines, this makes me think that a deal is getting close and the less that is said about it at this point the better. Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe will be term limited out of office next January and the feeling is that he will want to leave a Redskins stadium deal as his legacy.

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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