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Need to Know: Another Code Red coming up for the Redskins

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Need to Know: Another Code Red coming up for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, November 10, five days before the Washington Redskins host the New Orleans Saints.

Might as well go ahead and call another Code Red

Jay Gruden isn’t calling it a “Code Red” again, but Sunday’s game against the 4-5 Saints is every bit as critical as the pre-bye game against the Bucs.

The Redskins sit at 3-5 with a game in Charlotte against the undefeated Panthers following the Saints game. If they lose to the Saints, a three-game losing streak seems very likely. While the team has yet to put together a winning streak this year, they have managed to avoid a prolonged losing streak. They lost two games in a row in Weeks 5 and 6 and that is the worst that they have had this year.

But a loss to the Saints following the defeat at the hands of the Patriots on Sunday could be the start of the type of extended skid we saw last year. In 2014 they entered the midpoint of the season at 3-5. But they lost their next six games and instead of having meaningful games in December they were playing out the string.

With the NFC East melting into a mass of mediocrity this year, the Redskins have a legitimate shot at the division title. If they are truly an improved team from last year, at the very least they should be able to remain in contention for the playoff spot and the home playoff game that goes with it until late in the season.

Yes, the Saints can score some points. They are sixth in the NFL with an average of 26.8 per game. But they have a leaky defense; they are 31st in the league in scoring defense, giving up 28.9 points per game. In a more advanced way of viewing it, Football Outsiders has the Saints ranked dead last in defensive DVOA at 16.9 percent. And that was before they gave up 371 yards and four touchdown passes to Marcus Mariota on Sunday.

The Redskins, however, can’t worry about all of that. They are currently 28th in the league points scored. Sure, they need to figure out how to exploit the specific weaknesses in the Saints’ personnel and scheme. But the Redskins can’t go in thinking that they’re facing a bad defense because, in many ways, they are a bad offense.

Gruden, of course, isn’t about pull out the “Code Red” terminology he used before the Bucs game, even though it worked. You can only go to that well once a year or so, certainly not twice in a three-game span.

No doubt, the players understand the urgency, regardless of what Gruden may or may not say. They say they are a different group from the one that is around last year with some new faces and improved holdover players. Maybe the Redskins have changed but if they get the same results they got a year ago it will be all the same to the fans of the team.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Player meetings, no player availability.

Days until: Saints @ Redskins 5; Redskins @ Panthers 12; Giants @ Redskins 19

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Don't count out a third straight franchise tag for Kirk Cousins, and here's why

Don't count out a third straight franchise tag for Kirk Cousins, and here's why

For the second straight season the Redskins placed the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins. While the two sides are speaking amicably about a long-term deal, the July 15 deadline for those negotiations continues to inch closer without much expectation that contract will get signed. 

A second year on the tag is unprecedented for a quarterback. In 2016, Cousins made nearly $20 million playing on the tag. In 2017, that figure goes up to $24.

If the Redskins don't get a deal done with Cousins, many think the organization would not again go with the franchise tag because the price tag jumps to an exorbitant $34 million. 

Think again. 

Asked on Monday if another franchise tag would be an option for Cousins in 2018, Redskins team president Bruce Allen was clear.

"Yes," he said. "In the collective bargaining agreement, we really have one year and an option that we can do at the end of next season if we don’t get a contract."

Those options include the exclusive franchise tag, the non-exclusive franchise tag and the transition tag. Both franchise tags carry the same cost, but the non-exclusive allows Cousins' representatives to shop his services around the NFL. If a deal gets struck, and the Redskins don't match the contract, Washington is due two first-round draft picks as compensation for losing their franchise player. 

The transition tag carries a $28 million price tag, and the Redskins can match another contract but risk only receiving a possible 2019 third-round compensatory pick if Cousins walks.

Considering those options, another year on the non-exclusive tag might make sense. The NFL salary cap will be at least $168 million, which means Cousins at $34 million would account for about 20 percent of the Redskins' salary cap.

That's a crazy allotment for one player. Crazy. The Redskins do have about $54 million in cap space for 2018, so technically, another franchise tag could work. 

But the entire manner of the contract dealings with Cousins and the Redskins has been quite unconventional. The Redskins have already made history by franchising Cousins a second-straight year. 

"I think even Kirk said it, there’s a lot of players round the league who are on a one-year deal. It’s the nature of it, we’d like to get him a long-term deal and I think he should want to get one," Allen said. "Kirk’s played well on a one-year contract the last two seasons."

At this point, it doesn't require a degree in advanced mathematics to understand that the Redskins and Cousins have a different picture of the quarterback's long-term value. That could change by July 15th, it could, but it doesn't seem likely. The Cousins camp has little incentive to bend, as $24 million fully guaranteed for 2017 represents a great payday.

And maybe the Redskins don't plan on bending because the option of a third-straight franchise tag doesn't worry them. Or at least the option of letting Cousins shop his services on a non-exclusive tag, and then making a decision to match a deal or receive compensation seems a worthwhile endevaor. 

For Cousins, he's not counting out any possibility. 

"People, I’ve heard say, ‘There’s no chance they franchise tag him or even transition tag him the following season,’ and I chuckle because if the team has franchise tagged me for two years in a row," Cousins said to an ESPN podcast in March. 

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Redskins' offseason program ramps up with start of OTAs today

Redskins' offseason program ramps up with start of OTAs today

The Redskins’ offseason starts to move into high gear today as organized team activities, better known as OTAs, get underway at Redskins Park.

Players have been participating in workouts at Redskins Park since April 17. The first phase of those session consisted of strength and conditioning. In the second phase, they were permitted to run plays but not with the offense lined up against the defense. Finally, in OTAs, they will go offense vs. defense.

RELATED: Who are the Redskins' roster locks?

The practices, however, will not resemble an August scrimmage in Richmond. The players wear helmets but no pads and contact is not permitted. While players do block other players and there are collisions between players going after passes, the action is more like pushing and shoving that it is hitting.  

The part about no contact should be taken seriously. Seattle ran afoul of the no-contact rule last year and it cost them. The Seahawks were fined $400,000, lost their fifth-round pick in this year’s draft and they will not be permitted to hold their first week of OTAs this year. The Redskins will be very careful to keep within the rules.

MORE REDSKINS: Allen says new stadium ahead of schedule 

OTAs will be held on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in each of the next three weeks. The sessions will be open to the media on Wednesday of each week. While player attendance is strongly encouraged the practices are voluntary.

The week after OTAs end the team will hold its minicamp on June 13-14. Minicamp is essentially a continuation of OTAs but player attendance is mandatory.

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.