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Need to Know: McCloughan hopes Cousins is Redskins' QB for 'a long time'

Need to Know: McCloughan hopes Cousins is Redskins' QB for 'a long time'

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

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 193 days ago. It will be 53 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Preseason opener @ Falcons 21; Final roster cut 44; Cowboys @ Redskins 59

There are plenty of Redskins fans who are losing sleep over the recent report that the Redskins may try to find a younger and cheaper alternative to Cousins if they can’t come to a long-term deal that makes financial sense for the team. One of the concerns is that this will make Cousins feel like he is unwanted by the organization.

We’ll see about that. The Redskins won’t be able to get their Plan B quarterback until next year. Nate Sudfeld may be the very rare sixth-round pick who pans out but we’re a long way from him possibly casting any sort of shadow. Colt McCoy is a journeyman backup. I’m not sure how Cousins can feel threatened at this point in time.

In addition, Scot McCloughan has praised Cousins and has expressed his desire to get a long-term contract done with him virtually every time he has spoken to the media this year (emphasis added in all quotes).

At the combine 2/24:

“We’ve got to go with what we’re going with and you know, it’s not about the individual, it’s the sum of the parts like I always say. There’s 52 other guys that not saying same kind of talent level or same kind of financial investment, but I’ve got to make sure the organization is taken care of, but I want Kirk to be here and Kirk wants to be here. So, I think there’s a way we can get to that point.”

At the owners meetings 3/22:

“As you guys are well aware, I’ve already said it, I would love to have Kirk in a long-term deal and I think he would love to be on a long-term deal just to know, listen this is where you’re going to play and this is going to be where you are for a long time.”

To Bleacher Report 4/12:

“I told Kirk when he came in – and his wife must have hugged me for 10 minutes because he just went from making $600,000 to $19.9 million. I told him: ‘You take care of me and this organization, we’re going to take care of you, I promise.”

Pre-draft presser 4/25:

“We’re in contact – we would love to get something done prior to [the deadline].”

Post-draft presser 5/2

“Everybody in this building, if you ask to a man – players, coaches – we all want him here for a long-term deal. I would love to get something done, but you can’t force it. They have to agree to what we’re looking at, but he’s our leader on offense. He’s our quarterback. He won the East last year and that’s pretty cool because that’s what we need here. We need those types of guys.”

Sirius XM NFL Radio, 7/17 (via @dcsportsbog):

McCloughan said he feels “very positive” about Cousins’s leadership and confidence during this offseason, and that the team is “going to be fine” moving forward. He said Cousins is “a good quality person” and “a good football player,” and that “the players respect him.” He said both sides would have liked to get a deal done, and that “hopefully he’s our quarterback for a long time, going forward.”

I’m not sure how much more McCloughan can do to support Cousins. Eventually, he will have to show him the money. But giving Cousins the franchise tag was not a sign of disrespect or a slap in the fact. Letting him hit the open market like the Broncos did with Brock Osweiler would have been showing disrespect.

Giving Cousins $20 million for a “hey, we like what we saw but we want to see more” year is not insulting by any means. Cousins will get his chance to earn big money while making considerably more than the minimum wage.

Ultimately, Cousins' performance and money will decide how this plays out. There is no need for anyone to be concerned about bruised feelings.

 

In case you missed it 

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How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

Do the Redskins have a draft need at running back? It depends on who you ask.

Jay Gruden seems to be very happy with incumbent running back Rob Kelley. Here is what he had to say last month about the second-year back, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Tulane, last month:

“Oh, man, I love Rob Kelley,” Gruden said. “I thought he played great. You throw a rookie free agent into the fire like that and see him play and compete. Not one time did I feel like it was too big for him. Not once. That’s a hell of a thing to say for a kid out of Tulane who only had a couple of carries his senior year. He came right in, he competes on every play.”

[Related: Full Redskins Seven-Round Mock Draft]

Kelley played in 15 games last year and rushed for 704 yards and scored six touchdowns. He started the last nine games and if you project his numbers in this games out over a 16-game season you get about 1,050 yards and 11 touchdowns. That’s not Ezekiel Elliott or Le’Veon Bell production but it’s good for a team that is going to rely mostly on the pass.

Gruden also praised third-down back Chris Thompson and backup Mack Brown. In a telling sign, he acknowledged that 2015 third-round pick Matt Jones is still on the roster but he didn’t have much good to say about him.

Why, then, do you see so many draft analysts listing running back as one of the team’s most urgent needs? Mark Maske, who is the Post’s national NFL writer but also a former Redskins beat reporter, has them taking Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey in his mock draft. “There certainly are issues on defense for the Redskins,” writes Maske. But there also is a need at running back.”

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com said that the Redskins “obviously” need a running back as his rationale for mocking Florida State’s Dalvin Cook to Washington at No. 17.

So, what is it? Is Kelley adequate for the Redskins’ needs considering they call pass plays on over 60 percent of their offensive snaps? Would they run more often if they had a back like McCaffrey or Cook? And if they did run more would the offense improve?

I think that running back is like several positions with the Redskins. If they have to get through the 2016 season with what they have they will be OK. But if there is an upgrade on the board when they are on the clock they won’t hesitate to make the pick if he’s the best player available.

We will see what happens if, say, McCaffrey is still on the board when the Redskins pick at No. 17 and top defensive targets like Rueben Foster and Haason Reddick are off the board. That will be the true test to see how committed Gruden and the rest of the organization are to Kelley, Thompson, and company. 

More Redskins: When the talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags before

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When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

A four-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champ, Aqib Talib has a long and checkered past, which includes multiple arrests and failed PED and drug tests. The problems aren't new either, the talented cornerback was first arrested as a high school student. In college at Kansas, Talib was suspended multiple times and had multiple positive tests for marijuana use. 

Why does this matter for Redskins fans on the eve of the NFL Draft?

Despite all the trouble, Bruce Allen drafted Talib 20th overall in 2008 when the current Redskins general manager was in the same role for Tampa. While Talib's legal troubles and suspensions continued in the NFL, he also proved to be a highly capable cornerback in the pro game. 

The lesson for those trying to determine the Redskins draft board: Allen might be willing to look past red flags if a player presents good value. Talib did in 2008, and there could be opportunities for Washington in 2017.

Reuben Foster jumps to mind, as the talented Alabama linebacker will enter the league in the substance abuse program. While Foster's issues pale in comparison to other allegations about some draft prospects, players like Joe Mixon, Gareon Conley and Caleb Brantley will also present unique circumstances for NFL teams to evaluate. 

GMs are thrust into the unenviable task of determining a player's character, often in short periods of time. As 'Skins director of college scouting Scott Campbell explained, the team grades every player for their football skills first, and only later adds in character information. From Campbell's comments:

When you start to evaluate guys in the beginning, you don’t factor in the character. You don’t grade character, you grade talent. So you don’t throw away somebody early that may have some redeeming quality, or there’s a side to the story you don’t know about. You grade football players as football players first on talent, and then when it comes closer to the draft, you start weeding all that, getting more information, deciding, ‘OK, this guy’s not our kind of guy, this guy’s not a Redskin, this guy could be drafted, but good luck to him.

Thursday night the Redskins will be forced to make a determination on the right player for the team. That decision could include judging a player's character, and that could mean balancing legal or substance abuse troubles with talent and ability.

Talib is only one pick in Allen's long personnel career, but it's one worth noting. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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