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Need to Know: Redskins’ Gruden looks for a second-year leap from Spencer Long

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Need to Know: Redskins’ Gruden looks for a second-year leap from Spencer Long

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, March 27, 34 days before the Washington Redskins go on the clock at the NFL draft.

Question of the day

A few days a week I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

Today’s question is from Twitter but I don’t have the tweet to embed as I normally do. I made a note of the question but forgot to paste the link or get the questioner’s name. But I thought it was a good question so I’m going to roll with it.

The questioner wanted to know what was up with Spencer Long last year. It seemed that right guard Chris Chester was ripe to be pushed to the bench. But Long was unable to do so despite Jay Gruden seemingly leaving the door open for him virtually the entire year.

Was Long still injured? His senior season at Nebraska ended in mid-October with a knee injury. It can take a full calendar year to get back up to full strength after such an injury and it’s possible that it still affected his play.

But Jay Gruden indicated this week that the issue wasn’t so much Long’s knee in and of itself but that he was unable to get into top shape because of it.

Here was Gruden’s assessment of the right guard spot when he was asked about it at the owners meetings in Phoenix earlier this week.
“Well, Chris Chester is still on the team and we expect Spencer Long to have an excellent offseason, come in in better shape. You you come from your rookie to your second year, that’s the biggest jump you have to make as a football player. It’s a big jump to get your feet wet . . . all the things that go into being a professional football player you learn as a rookie. Then in your second year you feel more comfortable coming in. We’re hoping that [tackle] Morgan [Moses] and Spencer alike make the transition into their second year and compete.”
So, clearly there are expectations for both of last year’s third-round picks. His knee being 100 percent will allow him to get into better shape. The natural progression that comes between a player’s first and second seasons should help even more.

But nothing is guaranteed for Long. As Gruden noted, Chester is still on the team. It had to be tempting for the Redskins to release the 32-year-old and pocket $4 million in salary cap savings.

But there is faith that can do the job; he’s played nearly every snap since joining the team in 2011. There is no faith yet in Long and until he earns the trust of Gruden, offensive line coach Bill Callahan, and GM Scot McCloughan he will remain on the bench.

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Timeline

—It’s been 89 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 170 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 24; 2015 NFL Draft 34; Redskins training camp starts 125

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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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.