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Jay Gruden expects leadership from Kirk Cousins 'no matter what his contract status is'

Jay Gruden expects leadership from Kirk Cousins 'no matter what his contract status is'

Much like a middle school dance, the Redskins are stuck in an awkward phase with their courting of Kirk Cousins. Clearly, the team likes their passer, enough to pay him nearly $20 million last season and another $24 million this year. Yet, the team can't seem to agree on a price to keep Cousins around for the long-term. 

That leads to some interesting discussions. Earlier this offseason Cousins brought up that not only could his play improve with a multi-year contract, but his leadership as well. 

That is the benefit to the long-term deal. It’s okay, I’m the guy. I’ve got full freedom to lead, full freedom to just be the guy, to make this mine, and to get that permission, if you will. That’s where I think the leash comes off and you’re able to fully go, and I’m excited for that day to come, whether it comes this year or down the road. I can’t wait.

At the NFL League Meetings in Phoenix earlier this week, Washington head coach Jay Gruden was asked if a long-term contract would help Cousins. 

I think being a quarterback in the National Football League you should be a leader and feel good no matter what his contract status is. I think having a long-term contract maybe helps a little bit but I think when we get out on the field on the first game Sunday afternoon, people are going to look to him for leadership. He is going to provide it whether it's a one-year deal or a 10-year deal. I know he is going to play his butt off, compete, prepare and do all the things necessary whatever link the contract is and we are excited to coach him.

Gruden continued, explaining that though Cousins does not have the security of a long-term deal, he is taking home a lot of cash. 

I don't know how difficult it is really, he is making a lot of money and he is doing a nice job. He is having fun, the players love him, respect him and rally around him. The business side of it with the agent and our people is what it is and its thats way with a lot of guys. We are going to have a number of guys with one year contracts and I fully expect them coming in and working their tails off and doing everything right to try and win a championship. That is what it's all about and at the end of the year we will come back to our negotiating table and try to get something done. Ideally you would like everyone to be on their long term contracts but that is obviously not possible.

Fans should know that Cousins is not the type of player to allow his contract situation to create a disctraction. While some players would buck at the first franchise tag, Cousins has signed both tags in 2016 and 2017 without hardly a peep of consternation. His work ethic also cannot be questioned, as the 'Skins passer is already working out with new wideouts Terrelle Pryor and second-year man Josh Doctson along with slot star Jamison Crowder on his own dime and time in Florida. Cousins is not the type to miss any optional workouts or camps, whether or not others in his situation might try to send a message to their team. 

Leadership is an innate quality, important for quarterbacks. It can't be bought. Cousins has it. He showed it in 2015 when he made about $600,000. He will show it again in 2017, whether that's on the franchise tag or if the two parties can work out a long-term deal. 

A long-term deal might allow Cousins to feel more secure in his future in Washington, but on the field, in the film room, or in the locker room, Gruden expects to see no change from his quarterback. 

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Redskins draft countdown: Will some red flags push Alabama LB Reuben Foster to pick No. 17?

Redskins draft countdown: Will some red flags push Alabama LB Reuben Foster to pick No. 17?

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 28 days away and there is plenty of speculation as to what players the Redskins will select to wear the burgundy and gold. Between now and the draft we’ll look at some of the players who might be of interest to the Redskins and discuss how they might fit in Washington.

I am not a scout but I will pass along my observations from watching some game tape of each of the players profiled here.

Rueben Foster

Inside linebacker
Alabama

Height: 6-0
Weight: 229
40-yard dash: 4.72

Projected draft round: 1

What they’re saying

At a rock solid 6-1, 240 pounds with broad shoulders, a trim middle and well-built limbs, Foster offers prototypical size for an inside linebacker role. His greatest attribute, however, is his pure explosiveness. Whether it be his outstanding sideline-to-sideline speed or the impact he generates with his collisions, Foster is a heat-seeking missile hell-bent on destruction. Just as aggressive as he is athletic, Foster attacks would-be blockers in the running game, jolting opponents with a powerful punch that can leave them staggering.

Rob Rang, CBSSports.com

How he fits the Redskins: There have been some fan favorites at inside/middle linebacker for the Redskins over the years, guys like Neal Olkewicz and Kurt Gouveia. London Fletcher was excellent but not feared. The last intimidating linebacker the Redskins had in the middle of their defense was Sam Huff and he was on the back end of his Hall of Fame career by the time he arrived in Washington back in 1964.

Foster could be the next one. He’s a sideline to sideline defender who delivers rattling hits and can rush the passer and cover. The Alabama product could instantly make the Redskins’ defense better.

They currently have Mason Foster and Will Compton as the starters at inside linebacker. Both have their positive attributes but neither is a threat to make multiple Pro Bowl visits. Foster is.

Film review: vs. USC, vs. LSU

Foster is a bit over aggressive at times. On the first play of the second half vs. LSU he came flying in on a blitz and had a open path to the quarterback. But he overran him. Foster did, however, force the QB to step up and one of his teammates got the sack.

On one play against USC his sideline to sideline ability was on display as he tracked the runner on a sweep and at just the right moment exploded and knocked the runner down for a minimal gain. Jonathan Allen got the call on TV but it was Foster who blasted the runner.

And don’t stop the video there. On the next play the showed, Foster recognized something, communicated with the other inside linebacker, and shot into the backfield to make a tackle for a loss.

Played a lot of zone, effective tracking receivers running shallow crossing routes.

The Alabama front was very dominant at times and often kept blocks off Foster. But when linemen did get to them he showed a very good ability to shed them and stay in the play.  

Potential issues: As noted above, Foster is over aggressive at times. He relies on his speed and strength over instincts.

Some consider him to be an injury risk. Foster had rotator cuff surgery after Alabama’s season ended. He didn’t miss a game the last two seasons despite a concussion and a couple of stingers but the concern is that his style of play and unpolished tackling technique make him prone to such issues.

Then there was the incident where he was sent home from the combine after getting into a verbal altercation while waiting for a medical test. His agent sent out a letter to all 32 teams explaining the incident and he made himself available to teams who wanted to ask him questions about it. The consensus is that the confrontation was out of character for Foster.

At least one team drafting before the Redskins do, however, has taken Foster off its draft board.

“He already had immaturity, issues with life skills. This is the same guy,” an evaluator for the team told the MMQB. “We’re not in the market.”

Bottom line: There are two things to look at to see if Foster would be a realistic pick for the Redskins. Will he be there when pick No. 17 comes around? He’s Mike Mayock’s top inside linebacker and many mock drafts have him going in the top 10. But there is talk that some teams are concerned about the injury problems and the combine incident. It could only take a few downgrades to push him down the board to where he would be in the Redskins’ reach.

But if he does fall, will the Redskins have him on their board? Although it would be an exaggeration to think of Foster as fragile, the Redskins just went through the 2016 season with injury problems plaguing Josh Doctson, their top pick from a year ago. They don’t want to go two years in a row with minimal contributions from their first-round pick.

And then there is the fact that the organization just doesn’t seem to value the inside linebacker position very highly. They have not spent a first-round pick there at any time during the common draft era, going back to 1966.

The need for the Redskins defense is more urgent up front; Compton and Mason Foster could be adequate if the line can keep blockers off them. But if there isn’t one worthy of the No. 17 pick, Foster could be a solid option.

In his own words:

No setup needed for this quote, via The MMQB:

“There’s that moment,” Foster says though a smile, “when you first hit somebody and you get chills. You hear the crowd say Ooooh. And before that, when you put on your suit and you transform and you become a dog; you’re a beast. Just seeing all the other guys become a dog with you. No stress.”

Previously in Redskins draft countdown:

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.