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Need to Know: Five Redskins who could have breakout seasons

Need to Know: Five Redskins who could have breakout seasons

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, July 21, 7 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

Nickel coverage

With the start of training camp a week away, much of the focus is on the newcomers to the Redskins’ roster. But let’s take a look at some players who were around last year but have a chance to break out and perform at a high level in 2015.

DE Chris Baker—This could be a rare case of a player getting moved out of the starting lineup but having his impact grow. The acquisitions of Terrance Knighton and Stephen Paea will have Baker starting most games on the bench after he started 12 games last year. But he should still play something close to the 500 snaps he played last year. Joe Barry’s defensive scheme features linemen attacking gaps rather than containing them much of the time. This suits Baker’s style of play much better than a two-gap system.

LG Shawn Lauvao—Just like the one gap will help Baker, power blocking will help Lauvao. That's the scheme he played for four years in Cleveland before coming to the Redskins. He also needs to upgrade his pass protection skills, something that Bill Callahan should be able to help him with. This is probably a make or break year for Lauvao, who is slated to see a salary increase to $4 million next year. If he doesn’t break out this year the Redskins could well go younger and cheaper at right guard in 2016.

CB David Amerson—Was last year a look at the real Amerson or was it just a sophomore slump? I think it’s the latter. The word is that he is taking preparation much more seriously this year and he has the physical tools to be a good cornerback. He will have to battle DeAngelo Hall for playing time but if he spends enough time in the film room he will find his way onto the field.

RB Chris Thompson—There is no doubt that the coaches are intrigued by his speed. They are also wary of his history of problems with staying on the field, stretching back to his days at Florida State. If he stays healthy he will get plenty of chances to show he can be a home run threat. For all the talk of Matt Jones serving as the third-down back Thompson is much more the prototype for that role. He could be all or nothing. If he stays healthy, he should have an impact. If not, the team will gladly keep Silas Redd and Thompson's future would be in doubt.

TE Jordan Reed—He already broke out once, with 45 receptions for 499 yards in nine games as a rookie. Than the injuries hit and he has been struggling to stay on the field and be productive when he is in the lineup. If he learns how to stay healthy—and that is something that can be learned—he become a go-to weapon in the Redskins offense. As with Thompson, it’s all about staying on the field.

Timeline

—It’s been 207 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 52 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 7; Preseason opener @ Browns 21; final cuts 44

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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.