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Need to Know: Five Redskins with a lot to prove as training camp approaches

Need to Know: Five Redskins with a lot to prove as training camp approaches

RICHMOND—Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, July 26, two days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 198 days ago. It will be 48 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Preseason opener @ Falcons 16; Final roster cut 39; Cowboys @ Redskins 54

Five Redskins with a lot to prove in 2016

QB Kirk Cousins—If you need any explanation here you haven’t been paying much attention this summer. He’s on a one-year contract that he could turn into a very lucrative long-term deal. Or he could end up being a journeyman.

RB Matt Jones—With four lost fumbles and a league low of 3.4 yards per carry last year, Jones didn’t really do much to justify getting handed the starting job. But that is what is happening so it’s up to him to keep it and perform up to his abilities. Either he establishes himself as a solid starter or the Redskins will begin the search for alternatives.

C Kory Lichtensteiger—It is likely that Lichtensteiger heard the talk that the Redskins would have drafted Alabama center Ryan Kelly if he had been available in the first round. Combine that with the fact that he missed 11 games with a neck and shoulder injury last year and you have a player who has to prove that he still belongs. He’s probably safe for this year but if he wants to continue his career beyond 2016 he needs to stay healthy and perform this season.

OLB Ryan Kerrigan—After signing a big contract extension just as training camp started Kerrigan struggled with an ailing knee and, later in the season, a broken hand. With Junior Galette now out for the season he will be under the gun to come up big to make sure that the Redskins keep the pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

S DeAngelo Hall—Hall is undergoing a position switch and he has a lot to learn. At age 32 he has two years left on his contract and with cap hits of $5 million per season his learning curve is expected to be short. This season will go a long way towards determining whether or not Hall can extend his career for a few more seasons or if this season will be the end of the line.

Note: When I wrote the first draft for this post yesterday afternoon I included OLB Junior Galette, who was on a one-year contract and out to prove that he had returned to his 2013-2014 form. Now he has to rehab a torn Achilles for the second offseason in a row.

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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.

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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.

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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.