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Need to Know: Cousins-Redskins deal becomes more of a long shot by the hour

Need to Know: Cousins-Redskins deal becomes more of a long shot by the hour

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, July 15, 13 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 187 days ago. It will be 59 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Preseason opener @ Falcons 27; Final roster cut 50; Cowboys @ Redskins 66

Deal with Cousins looks more unlikely with each 

—The odds that the Redskins and Kirk Cousins getting a long-term contract done have been long for a while now. Today, on the morning of the deadline to get a deal done, those slim chances are rapidly turning to none. Although things can happen at the last minute, as I noted yesterday we probably would have started to hear some rumblings from the two sides by now and it seems like we’re headed into just another Friday at Redskins Park.

—Some are wringing their hands over the prospect of Cousins going into 2016 on the tag. For one thing, they are afraid that it will become a “distraction”. Ever since I’ve heard talk of this I’m trying to figure out how a quarterback being on a one-year contract or, essentially being on the last year of his contract is a major distraction. Sure, he’ll get asked about it in the initial press conference in Richmond and may be from time to time. But once the season starts it becomes about the next opponent is and who’s injured and how many games they are into or out of a playoff spot. Remember the huge RG3 distraction that consumed last year? Yeah, me neither.

—There also is some concern, expressed in an article by colleague JP Finlay, that going into 2017 with Cousins unsigned could take away the franchise tag as a tool that could help in the retention of Junior Galette if he has a big 2016 season. You can only use it on one player a year and if they have to tag Cousins again they wouldn’t be able to tag Galette. That may be an issue but I don’t think that it is worth making what you believe to be a bad deal with your quarterback to prevent. If they want to sign both Galette and Cousins next year they can sign one before free agency starts and tag the other. Or sign both and not use the tag. In any case, it’s a bridge they can cross in 2017.

—Although I believe that it would be better for them to get a deal done this year, it’s hard for me to be too rough on the organization for being cautious. This is the same bunch that everyone has been highly critical of for impulsive spending. Maybe this strikes some as being an odd time to suddenly reign in the fiscal madness but you have to start somewhere. If they start by needing to see another season of Cousins as the man behind center I can live with that.

—So let’s say they could sign Cousins for $21 million per year this year and if he plays well it will cost them $25 million per season next year. I’m not going to pretend that $4 million a year isn’t a lot of money. But it’s just 2.4 percent of the 2017 projected cap of $166 million. Sure it could make a difference but I think that is an amount that the collective IQs of Eric Schaffer and Scot McCloughan can maneuver around. No deal does not mean imminent salary cap hell.

—Finally, I’m not completely ruling out a deal happening here. I’d say the chances have shrunk to around one percent but, yes, I’m saying there’s a chance (and, no, I'm not going to link to the Dumb and Dumber scene).

Tandler on Twitter

I did some Q&A on Twitter last night; here is one exchange.

In case you missed it 

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Accentuating the negative leads to positive results for Chris Thompson

Accentuating the negative leads to positive results for Chris Thompson

Some NFL players ooze confidence. They thrive on emphasizing what they do well and not speaking about weaknesses. In a game as tough and physical as pro football, some players need to feel bulletproof to survive.

Chris Thompson is not like that. He was one of the stars in the Redskins’ 27-20 win over the Rams on Sunday. He rushed three times for 77 yards and two touchdowns and caught three passes for 29 yards. And while he enjoyed the win, he did not revel in his performance as he made a glaring mistake.

RELATED: JAY GRUDEN NOT INCREASING THOMPSON'S WORKLOAD

In the third quarter, quarterback Kirk Cousins threw him a perfect pass over the middle. The speedy Thompson had nothing but green grass and white stripes in front of him. But he dropped the pass, turning what likely would have been a 62-yard touchdown into an incompletion.

That play stuck with him despite his touchdown runs of 61 and seven yards.

“I’m not going to lie to you,” he said. “On the plane ride, getting dressed after the game, this morning watching film, when I was outside at practice, I was thinking about that one play. My first thing I wanted to do when I got out there in individuals with the quarterbacks was to run that route again and catch the ball.”

FANTASY: TO START CHRIS THOMPSON OR NOT?

Instead of reliving his glory, he went to work to correct one mistake.

This is not a lone instance of Thompson focusing on negative plays that he made. He said that mistakes stick in his mind more than good plays. During a few minutes talking to reporters on Wednesday, he recalled going the wrong way on a choice route against the Dolphins in 2015, costing a possible touchdown, making a similar mistake against the Browns last year, and errors that led to sacks of Cousins last year and of Robert Griffin III a few years ago.

“All of those things that I look back at that I did wrong, it helped me become a better player this year,” said Thompson. “I’ve been able to go back and look at that and see what went wrong and fix it now. As of late as I’ve become more confident in what I’m doing and more confident in my abilities I’m able to play better.”

Whatever Thompson is doing to become a better player is working. He signed a two-year contract extension earlier this month. Jay Gruden sings his praises whenever he’s asked about him. His teammates almost universally admire and respect him. In his fifth NFL season, many analysts around the league are starting to recognize him as a main cog in the Redskins’ offense.

It is unlikely that he will change his approach.

“I had to mess up a lot in order to get where I am now,” he said. Thompson will continue to perfect his game by putting his imperfect moments under the microscope. 

MORE REDSKINS: FIVE UNDER PRESSURE VS. RAIDERS

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Redskins Playbook: Cousins, Gruden remain quite confident in offense. Maybe they're right

Redskins Playbook: Cousins, Gruden remain quite confident in offense. Maybe they're right

One of the best offenses in 2016, the Redskins early returns so far in 2017 rank somewhere between underwhelming and underachieving. That does not mean good games aren't coming in the future, however, at least according to head coach Jay Gruden and quarterback Kirk Cousins. 

"I would like to think that as the year goes on the offense gets better and better," Cousins said Wednesday. "Hopefully we take those steps going forward and we just hit our stride and play much better than we have the first two weeks."

RELATED: FIVE REDSKINS UNDER PRESSURE VS. RAIDERS

In the first two games of the season, a loss at home to the Eagles in Week 1 and a win in Los Angeles over the Rams, Cousins hasn't played particularly well. Against Philadelphia, he played poorly, accounting for three turnovers and completing just 57 percent of his passes. In LA, he showed progress. No turnovers and his completion percentage jumped up nearly 10 points. 

More importantly, Cousins shined on the final drive of the game, going 3 for 3 and throwing the game-winning touchdown. It was that drive, and a number of near misses in both games, that has Gruden optimistic. 

The coach called the Redskins passing game "very, very close" to hitting on all cylinders.

"There is a lot we can improve on in the passing game, from Kirk to the routes to the protection. It’s a work in progress, but we will get there," Gruden said Monday. "We have total faith that we will get it done and his numbers will get better."

Considered in a certain way, he's right. 

In Week 1, the Redskins offensive line struggled and Cousins was sacked four times. The run game got nothing going, generating just 64 yards on the ground. Cousins was able to throw for 240 yards, and despite all the turnovers, the offense still had a chance to steal a win late in the fourth quarter. 

In Week 2, the Redskins line blocked better and the run game produced at a high level. Cousins' yardage total was quite low, only 179 yards, but a big gainer got dropped and a few other opportunities were missed. 

Cousins supporters will scream about passes being dropped in Weeks 1 and 2. Cousins detractors will scream about passes missed in Weeks 1 and 2.

READ MORE: KIRK COUSINS' HITS AND MISSES FROM WEEK 2

The truth is likely in the middle. There is a solid baseline of production from Cousins from the last two seasons, and clearly Gruden expects that to come. Perhaps Week 3 against Oakland will be the opportunity. 

"We’re just going to keep sticking with the plan, getting these guys open the best way we can and hopefully we give Kirk the protection and he sees the throws and makes the throws," Gruden said. "But we’re right there, really. I like the group that we have."

The 2016 Redskins finished third in the league in total yards gained. Obviously the team lost a ton of production with the exits of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. Don't discount that, or the departure of former offensive coordinator Sean McVay. 

Despite all that, Cousins still has weapons. And talent. He knows he can be better, and knows he needs to be better.

"We have still done some really good things the first two weeks and have moved the ball, but I think there is more in the tank there that we have got to bring out,” Cousins said. 

To beat the Raiders, the Redskins will need to bring everything out of the tank. That likely means a 300-yard passing game from Cousins along with multiple touchdowns. 

The quarterback and the coach think the offense is ready, and close to a breakout game. Maybe they're right. 

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