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Need to Know: McCloughan, Redskins play 3D chess in free agency

Need to Know: McCloughan, Redskins play 3D chess in free agency

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, March 26, 33 days before the NFL Draft.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 76 days ago. It will be about 169 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 23; 2016 NFL draft 33; Redskins training camp starts 124

Hot topics

A look at five of the most popular posts of the week here and on CSNmidatlantic.com.

Robert Griffin III signs with new team—It’s much easier to wish Griffin well in Cleveland, an AFC team. The Browns do appear on the Redskins’ schedule this year, a game that will be at FedEx Field. My prediction is that it would make for a good Week 2 Thursday night game. It has to be scheduled fairly early in the season because if the Browns draft a quarterback Griffin may not start for very long.

NFL Mock Draft 6.0: The two-round version—Our Ben Standig has the Redskins going with back-to-back defensive linemen with their top two picks. Considering the extent to which the team has neglected the defensive line in the draft in recent years decades, it would be hard to object too strenuously. However, I do think that the wide receiver position has been equally neglected so that should be some attention in the first two rounds as well.

You don't know pain until you see Alfred Morris Cowboys jerseys—It was one thing to have Morris leave and join the hated Cowboys. It was another to see No. 46 Dallas Jerseys with Morris’ name on them. It had many fans wishing him well—but not too well.

Saving cap dollars for 2017?—Scot McCloughan doesn’t like to do much in free agency as a rule. But he has been particularly quiet this year, signing just three players from outside of the organization. It appears that the strategy is to save cap money for 2017, when six key players are set to be free agents. It’s indicative of the multi-dimensional game of chess that building a team with a salary cap has become.

Redskins seem confident in Matt Jones as the No. 1 back—At the time this was written, I was reading tea leaves and my take was based on the fact that it looked like Alfred Morris was going to depart and no other back had been brought in as a free agent. Then at the owners meetings, Jay Gruden said that they were going to go with Jones. “We’re taking a bit of a gamble here, but based on our professional opinion, we believe he can handle it and be very, very effective at it, toting the rock,” said Gruden.

Stat of the day

The 2014 Redskins were outscored by 137 points; last year they outscored their opponents by nine points. The year-to-year improvement of 146 net points was the second best in team history.

In case you missed it

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The Final Countdown: Eli Manning goes deep for the Redskins 7th worst play of the year

The Final Countdown: Eli Manning goes deep for the Redskins 7th worst play of the year

As should be expected when a team goes 8-7-1, there were plenty of good moments and a lot of frustrating times during the Redskins’ 2016 season. Over the next couple of weeks, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will take detailed looks at the 10 best plays of 2016 and, to present a more complete picture of the season, the 10 worst.

No. 7 worst play of 2016

Giants at Redskins, Week 17

4:02 left in Q4, Giants ball 1st and 10 at their own 31, game tied 10-10

Eli Manning pass deep left to Tavarres King pushed ob at WAS 25 for 44 yards (Will Blackmon).

Related: The Redskins week that was

Tandler: It looked like the Redskins were on the verge of saving their season. They were down 10-0 in the third quarter but they battled back to tie it up in the late going. But after lulling the Redskins defense to sleep with running plays and short passes, Manning launched one deep down the left sideline. King, who had one reception for six yards on the season coming into the game, had a step on cornerback Greg Toler and he hauled in the pass for 44 yards. Four plays later Robbie Gould kicked a 40-yard field goal to give the Giants the lead.

More Redskins: Offensive coordinator situation set?

Finlay: In a terrible game that led to many more questions than answers for the Redskins, this play was just a huge, huge disappointment. Washington fought back to tie up a game that they had largely been outplayed in, particulrly in the first half. Remember, the Giants had nothing to play for while for the 'Skins, a win would put them in the playoffs. The New York offense was laregly nonexistent in the second half of this game, as it became obvious Eli Manning did not want to get hit. And still, the embattled Redskins defense gave up a long pass play to a dude that had contrbuted basically nothing all season. 

10 best plays countdown

10 worst plays countdown

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Report: One team Redskins need to watch out for when it comes to Kirk Cousins this offseason

Report: One team Redskins need to watch out for when it comes to Kirk Cousins this offseason

Mike Shanahan likes Kirk Cousins, both as a person and as a quarterback. The former Redskins coach has made no secret about that. Luckilly for the 'Skins, especially with Cousins staring at free agency, Mike Shanahan is no longer coaching in the NFL.

His son Kyle, however, seems highly likely to take over as San Francisco 49ers head coach. And soon.

Kyle Shanahan currently serves as the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, and once their playoff run ends, most expect Shanahan to be named Niners head coach. 

Why should Washington fans care? Allow ESPN's Adam Schefter to explain:

Kyle Shanahan is set to become the San Francisco 49ers' head coach after Atlanta's season ends. San Francisco needs a quarterback as much as any other team in the league. If Cousins is available, the 49ers would pursue him as hard as they've pursued Shanahan.

Even if Washington tags Cousins, San Francisco could attempt to pry him loose in a trade with a package that could include this year's No. 2 overall draft pick. And if Washington doesn't want to deal now, it could have issues later.

This news should not be a shock to Skins fans, but it should be taken seriously. Remember, Kyle Shanahan was part of the Washington organization when Cousins was drafted and the duo worked together in 2012 and 2013. Most quarterbacks would love to run Shanahan's No. 1 ranked offense from Atlanta, and the guess here says Cousins would probably jump at the opportunity. 

Still, much must be worked out.

While some in the Washington front office might have questions about what the long-term value should be in a Cousins contract, the team still has some control. They can place the franchise tag on Cousins this season, like they did last season, and work until mid-summer on a multi-year deal. Or Cousins can again play on a franchise tag in 2017, like he did in 2016 and passed for nearly 5,000 yards.

MORE REDSKINS: Kevin O'Connell to be hired as QB coach

What makes Schefter's report the most interesting is the mention of the No. 2 overall pick. Observing the Redskins in 2016, it became obvious the team needs more impact players on defense, and with the second overall pick combined with their own 17th pick and eight more after that, that could deliver an immediate boost. 

Whatever boost a package of draft picks might bring in will be hard pressed to match the production of Cousins. Finding a starting quarterback in the NFL is exceptionally hard, and while Cousins has shown flashes of a special player, he has certainly confirmed he is a capable player in two seasons at the helm of Jay Gruden's offense.

Scot McCloughan and the Redskins brain trust have a few more weeks before free agency, and with it, the deadline to again place the franchise tag on Cousins. It's nearly impossible to see a scenario where Cousins hits the open market this season, but if the No. 2 overall pick comes into play, other scenarios start to seem more possible. 

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!