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Need to Know: First thoughts on Redskins vs. Rams

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Need to Know: First thoughts on Redskins vs. Rams

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, September 16, four days before the Washington Redskins host the St. Louis Rams.

Five early thoughts on Redskins vs. Rams

—I’m not about to break out the “must win” label here but this is an important game for the Redskins. A loss puts them at 0-2 at home with a quick turnaround to play the Giants in New Jersey on Thursday. Then after a 10-day break the Eagles, who looked like the team most thought they were in the second half on Monday night, come to town. You have to think that the possibility of an 0-4 nightmare start with seven of the final 12 on the road is very real if they drop this one.

—Wide receiver Tavon Austin has not yet justified his status as the No. 8 pick in the 2013 draft. He had 658 receiving yards in his first two seasons combined and he had two catches for minus-2 yards against the Seahawks last Sunday. But he can return punts, as the Redskins learned last year when he took one against them 78 yards to the house. The Seahawks know it, too, as he returned on 75 yards against them. Tress Way had better not outkick his coverage. Better yet, he should angle kicks out of bounds and make Austin try to beat them as a receiver.

—Brandon Scherff did a good job against Ndamukong Suh last week. His reward is Aaron Donald who doesn’t have Suh’s paycheck but he is every bit as tough to handle. He went wild against Seattle, posting two sacks of Russell Wilson and recording a total of nine tackles. In all, the Rams recorded six sacks with Robert Quinn, who will line up against Trent Williams, also had two. And you know that left end Chris Long (vs. Morgan Moses) and right tackle Michael Brockers (Shawn Lauvao) want to catch up with their line mates in the sack department. Kirk Cousins’ ability to avoid taking sacks will be tested.

—The Cousins-Nick Foles duel in Philadelphia last year was entertaining, with the Redskins QB throwing for 427 yards and three touchdowns and Foles going for 325 and matching those three TDs. The Eagles prevailed 37-34; it will be a surprise if the game on Sunday is that high scoring. It should be remembered that the Rams thumped the Redskins at FedEx last year 24-0 with Shaun Hill at quarterback. I’m not as sold on Foles as some are but he’s certainly a significant upgrade over Hill.

—The chatter around town hasn’t started yet but the theme is going to be that the Rams beat the Seahawks so the Redskins have no chance against them. The Redskins may well lose but everyone should keep two things in mind. First, Rams-Seahawks was a division home game and strange things happen in such matchups. St. Louis has beaten Seattle at home three of the last four years under Jeff Fisher but they still don’t have a winning season on the books with him as the coach. Second, the NFL is a week to week league. You only have to go back to last year to remember the talk of how invincible the Cowboys were when the Redskins went there on Monday night. They were 6-1 and coming off of wins in Seattle and over the Giants. But the Redskins won. Again, the Rams could well win but any talk of the Redskins having no chance is silly.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Player meetings; no media availability

Days until: Rams @ Redskins 5; Redskins @ Giants Thursday night 9; Eagles @ 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.