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Need to Know: Free agency begins with Redskins relatively tight on cap space

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Need to Know: Free agency begins with Redskins relatively tight on cap space

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, March 9, the day NFL free agency starts.

Redskins fans should tamp down their expectations

It used to be that the day that free agency started was like Christmas Day for Redskins fans. There would be all sorts of presents under the tree—a safety here, a guard there, maybe a running back and a big defensive lineman. And all paid for out of Dan Snyder’s checkbook (and before that they were courtesy of Jack Kent Cook or his foundation).

On closer examination, however, everyone found out that the new toys were not all shiny and new. That safety had lost a step from when he was in Toys R Us and he had a slightly damaged shoulder. The running back who used to be able to break long runs with regularity was getting caught from behind after just a few steps. The D-lineman just didn’t move like he used to.

By midseason the fans had lost interest in the new toys because, well, they weren’t really new and they weren’t much fun. The talk turned to their wish list for the following Christmas, assuming that the team could somehow work its budget to make it happen.

I think that this point most fans are wise to the false hope that that the NFL sells at this time every year. And even if the Redskins were still interested in buying those beat-up toys that are on the market their team really doesn’t have the means to do so.

Right now they are sitting on about $20 million in salary cap space. That sounds like a lot but it’s not. There are 16 teams that have more to spend than they do. Of those, 14 have $30 million or more to spend. It will be easy for many teams to outbid them for players.

And that money will go fast. It will cost about $3 million to bring back Mason Foster, probably another $4 million for Junior Galette. The will need a starting nose tackle, which will run about $4 million and a mid-range strong safety, which will run about $3 million. Oh, and don’t forget that Kirk Cousins is the only QB on the roster. Colt McCoy or another veteran backup will cost at least $3 million.

So that totals $17 million. So you’ve got $3 million left to pay players on injured reserve and injury settlements and pay your practice squad. That could get tight.

Sure, they can create more room by letting go of players like Perry Riley and Andre Roberts. But instead of buying more false hope in the form of free agents with that money, how about taking care of Jordan Reed and locking him up for next several years rather than having him hit free agency in 2017?

There will not be many new toys under the tree this year. That’s not how Scot McCloughan likes to build. Christmas will have to wait until April 28 when the NFL Draft gets underway.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 59 days ago. It will be about 186 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 40; 2016 NFL draft 50

In case you missed it

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Jay Gruden disappointed by firing of Scot McCloughan, yet optimistic for 2017

Jay Gruden disappointed by firing of Scot McCloughan, yet optimistic for 2017

It's never easy to say goodbye to a well-liked coworker, especially when that employee has been fired. In the NFL, that's no different. Redskins head coach Jay Gruden opened up about the departure of former GM Scot McCloughan while speaking with reporters at the NFL Owners Meetings in Phoenix.

"I was disappointed. I liked Scot. I liked working with Scot. He’s a good person, and a great talent evaluator," Gruden said.

The highly publicized demise of McCloughan as Redskins general manager made plenty of headlines, but as far the organization goes, Gruden believes the team is still in good shape.

"Any time you lose somebody that you become close with, whether it’s a coach or a GM or a player it's disappointing but at the end of the day in pro football, anybody that’s been around it long enough understands, change is going to happen and you have to react and adjust to it and move forward with a positive outlook," Gruden said.

Part of that positive outlook stems from moves the team has made this offseason.

Offensively the franchise brought in a big new weapon in receiver Terrelle Pryor. Paired with 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson, assuming he's healthy, the Redskins could have two dynamic pass catchers to offset the loss of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. On the defensive line, Gruden thinks new players Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee can emerge as solid players with high upside. Further, Gruden made clear he thinks new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula will make the players on the 'Skins roster into better defensive linemen.

For many fans it's hard to remain optimistic after the controversy that surrounded McCloughan's ouster, but on the field, there's little reason to expect the 'Skins to slide.

In 2016, the team finished one game out of a playoff berth, losing a disappointing final game to the Giants to seal that fate. In 2017, Gruden expects to be right back in the playoff hunt.

"I think everybody in this organization has a positive outlook," Gruden said. "We are going to miss Scot, obviously, but we’re also positive that we can get things we need to get done to be successful."

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Peter King, Ian Rapoport say Redskins can't afford to let Kirk Cousins get away

Peter King, Ian Rapoport say Redskins can't afford to let Kirk Cousins get away

After he signed the franchise tag a couple of weeks ago, the speculation, rumors and, for some fans, panic around Kirk Cousins has largely quieted down.

The Redskins can ink their quarterback to a long-term deal any time between now and July 15, but talks may not pick up until summer rolls around. A trade can also occur, but no recent reports have indicated that one is in the works.

Therefore, it currently looks like Cousins and the franchise that drafted him back in 2012 will be together for at least one more season. And according to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, that's a wise choice by the Burgundy and Gold.

"I think they did the absolute right thing in making sure Kirk Cousins is gonna be their quarterback this year," King told CSN Redskins Insider JP Finlay at the NFL owner's meetings in Phoenix. "I absolutely, unequivocally would not trade him. That's a white flag." 

As for why King wouldn't move on from No. 8, his explanation was very simple.

"You don't get rid of a guy who's got the second-most passing yards in football over the last two years," he said.

MORE REDSKINS: WILL JAY GRUDEN'S ROLE IN DECISION-MAKING EXPAND THIS YEAR?

Finlay also gathered input on the Redskins' and Cousins' relationship from the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, who's another major voice in the league's media. Rapoport first stated that he would be "beyond stunned" if the 28-year-old was not in D.C. for the 2017 campaign and then laid out how he envisions the year unfolding.

"I do not believe he will sign the extension before the season," he said. "So, he's going to go out there, play on another one-year deal, bet on himself like he did last year. You hope it's the same thing. And then we'll see, because I know there's some talk about him not signing an extension — I'm not so sure about that. Everyone has a price, right?"

"If they offer him $25 [million] a year, Andrew Luck's deal, I would imagine plans would change pretty quickly, right?" Rapoport continued. "So you get to the end of the season, assess where you are, assess the value and see if you can make a business deal. It's terrible to have to pay so much money to your quarterback. The only worse thing is not being able to pay so much money to your quarterback." 

King and Rapoport are clearly both in agreement that losing their rising signal caller would be a huge blow to the Redskins. But while King says Washington should keep Cousins because of his production, Rapoport took a different route when concluding how the negotiations will end up.

"Really good quarterbacks never leave their team. It just never happens," he said. "So I would think there's a way to work this out."

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