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Need to Know: Redskins 3 and out—Measuring fan optimism, Cousins contract offer

Need to Know: Redskins 3 and out—Measuring fan optimism, Cousins contract offer

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, March 31, 27 days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/17) 17
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 42
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 54
—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 106
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 154

Three and out

1. I did a Twitter poll yesterday to gauge the optimism level of the Redskins fan base after I wrote about Jay Gruden ticking off a list of reasons why people should be excited about his team.

It’s kind of a split result. The plurality is on the optimistic side, with 41% at “somewhat optimistic”. Overall, however, adding up both replies on the pessimistic side shows a slight endge in favor of the pessimistic veiw (somewhtat and very pessimistic totaling 51%) with those seeing things in a more positive light.

The takeaway here is that while what I see on Twitter and Facebook and hear on talk radio is more negative than positive, that doesn’t reflect the fan base as a whole. However, the Redskins had better pay attention if half of their fans are pessimistic about the future. Often the next step from pessimism is apathy and that is a feeling that few sports franchises can withstand.

Finally, I got a lot of tweets like this in response that seem to sum things up:

2. Every offseason a few rather obscure backups become fan favorites. One of this year’s faves is ILB Zach Vigil. I’ve seen a few tweets like this during the offseason.

Vigil made the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent out of Utah in 2015. He played 16 games as a rookie, starting two. But last year he was on and off of the Miami game-day roster and was released after Week 15. The Redskins claimed him and saw some action on special teams in the final two games.

This is from his NFL.com draft profile: “One of the most productive linebackers in college football. Never quits on a play. Active pass rusher who worked well in team blitz scheme. Team leader.”

That was from the “strengths” area. Under weaknesses: “Gets overwhelmed by offensive linemen. Not a take-on linebacker and below average at slipping blocks.”

I haven’t seen enough of his play to add much to that. But he sounds like a “football player” and if he responds to coaching he could get a shot at some snaps on defense.

3. A site that could work for a new Redskins stadium appears to be opening up for development.

This site happens to be about 10 minutes from my house. It’s adjacent to the Silver Line Metro Station, which is good. Another positive is that there are plenty of roads leading there so not everyone would be coming from the same direction. The down side is that it is a long way from DC and an even longer way from the Maryland suburbs. But a tract of land big enough that is close to the population center may be too costly to make the project work.

As I said here recently, I think that a stadium announcement could come this year, before Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe is term limited out of office. There are still a lot of moving parts and then a long way to go after something gets announced.

Out—Albert Breer of MMQB reported a contract offer to Kirk Cousins that was for five years beyond this coming season. But beyond the $23.94 million he is already guaranteed for this season there are no financial terms reported by Breer. Allen told Breer that the offer is “proof” that the team is serious about keeping Cousins for the long term. But the length of the deal is only a part of getting something done, perhaps a small part.

While the length of the deal may provide two pieces of bread, you need to see the meat to evaluate the sandwich. The team’s offer of $20 million per year that was reported during the NFL Combine is like a slice of baloney. This sandwich needs to be piled high with lots of quality cold cuts, to the tune of at least $24 million per year with at least $52 million fully guaranteed. Otherwise, it’s a Blues Brothers wish sandwich.

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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In case you missed it

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How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

Do the Redskins have a draft need at running back? It depends on who you ask.

Jay Gruden seems to be very happy with incumbent running back Rob Kelley. Here is what he had to say last month about the second-year back, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Tulane, last month:

“Oh, man, I love Rob Kelley,” Gruden said. “I thought he played great. You throw a rookie free agent into the fire like that and see him play and compete. Not one time did I feel like it was too big for him. Not once. That’s a hell of a thing to say for a kid out of Tulane who only had a couple of carries his senior year. He came right in, he competes on every play.”

[Related: Full Redskins Seven-Round Mock Draft]

Kelley played in 15 games last year and rushed for 704 yards and scored six touchdowns. He started the last nine games and if you project his numbers in this games out over a 16-game season you get about 1,050 yards and 11 touchdowns. That’s not Ezekiel Elliott or Le’Veon Bell production but it’s good for a team that is going to rely mostly on the pass.

Gruden also praised third-down back Chris Thompson and backup Mack Brown. In a telling sign, he acknowledged that 2015 third-round pick Matt Jones is still on the roster but he didn’t have much good to say about him.

Why, then, do you see so many draft analysts listing running back as one of the team’s most urgent needs? Mark Maske, who is the Post’s national NFL writer but also a former Redskins beat reporter, has them taking Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey in his mock draft. “There certainly are issues on defense for the Redskins,” writes Maske. But there also is a need at running back.”

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com said that the Redskins “obviously” need a running back as his rationale for mocking Florida State’s Dalvin Cook to Washington at No. 17.

So, what is it? Is Kelley adequate for the Redskins’ needs considering they call pass plays on over 60 percent of their offensive snaps? Would they run more often if they had a back like McCaffrey or Cook? And if they did run more would the offense improve?

I think that running back is like several positions with the Redskins. If they have to get through the 2016 season with what they have they will be OK. But if there is an upgrade on the board when they are on the clock they won’t hesitate to make the pick if he’s the best player available.

We will see what happens if, say, McCaffrey is still on the board when the Redskins pick at No. 17 and top defensive targets like Rueben Foster and Haason Reddick are off the board. That will be the true test to see how committed Gruden and the rest of the organization are to Kelley, Thompson, and company. 

More Redskins: When the talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags before

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When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

A four-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champ, Aqib Talib has a long and checkered past, which includes multiple arrests and failed PED and drug tests. The problems aren't new either, the talented cornerback was first arrested as a high school student. In college at Kansas, Talib was suspended multiple times and had multiple positive tests for marijuana use. 

Why does this matter for Redskins fans on the eve of the NFL Draft?

Despite all the trouble, Bruce Allen drafted Talib 20th overall in 2008 when the current Redskins general manager was in the same role for Tampa. While Talib's legal troubles and suspensions continued in the NFL, he also proved to be a highly capable cornerback in the pro game. 

The lesson for those trying to determine the Redskins draft board: Allen might be willing to look past red flags if a player presents good value. Talib did in 2008, and there could be opportunities for Washington in 2017.

Reuben Foster jumps to mind, as the talented Alabama linebacker will enter the league in the substance abuse program. While Foster's issues pale in comparison to other allegations about some draft prospects, players like Joe Mixon, Gareon Conley and Caleb Brantley will also present unique circumstances for NFL teams to evaluate. 

GMs are thrust into the unenviable task of determining a player's character, often in short periods of time. As 'Skins director of college scouting Scott Campbell explained, the team grades every player for their football skills first, and only later adds in character information. From Campbell's comments:

When you start to evaluate guys in the beginning, you don’t factor in the character. You don’t grade character, you grade talent. So you don’t throw away somebody early that may have some redeeming quality, or there’s a side to the story you don’t know about. You grade football players as football players first on talent, and then when it comes closer to the draft, you start weeding all that, getting more information, deciding, ‘OK, this guy’s not our kind of guy, this guy’s not a Redskin, this guy could be drafted, but good luck to him.

Thursday night the Redskins will be forced to make a determination on the right player for the team. That decision could include judging a player's character, and that could mean balancing legal or substance abuse troubles with talent and ability.

Talib is only one pick in Allen's long personnel career, but it's one worth noting. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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