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Need to Know: Redskins, NFL get ready to embark on a busy March

Need to Know: Redskins, NFL get ready to embark on a busy March

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, March 2, eight days before the Washington Redskins and the rest of the NFL start free agency.

NFL calendar over the coming week

The NFL is moving into March and the business season starts to pick up the pace. Here’s a look at the league calendar over the coming weeks.

Today—At 4 p.m., the deadline to designate franchise players passes. This has no direct effect on the Redskins; they are not going to tag anyone. But there is some interest throughout the NFC East. The Cowboys are certain to hit wide receiver Dez Bryant with the tag. Giants defense end Jason Pierre-Paul also will get tagged according to some reports that came out last month. And keep an eye on the Eagles where there are conflicting reports on whether wide receiver Jeremy Maclin will get the tag or be allowed to test the free agent market.

Saturday—At midnight the so-called “legal tampering period” begins and teams can talk to agents about contracts for free agents from other teams. It’s called that to separate it from the illegal tampering period, which has been going on since before the NFL Combine. Players can’t talk to teams during this period and contracts can’t be finalized but agents can gauge the market and formulate a game plan for the start of free agency.

March 10—The league year starts at 4 p.m. Even though it’s not technically legal, expect to hear reports of free agent signings throughout the day. How active will the Redskins be under new GM Scot McCloughan? Although he has expressed a philosophy of building through the draft and a general distain for free agency it appears that the Redskins will have to fill a few holes in the open market.

Teams must be under the 2015 salary cap by the start of free agency. The Redskins have no issue here. After a few moves late last week they are about $25 million under the cap. As of today only the Patriots ($7.6 million over) and Saints ($20.9 million over) have work to do to get under the cap.

March 22-25—The owners meetings take place in Phoenix. The rules committee is usually the focus here and this will be no different this year. The Calvin Johnson rule over what is a catch, known in some parts of Texas as the Dez Bryant rule, will be scrutinizes but some are saying it is going to be tough to make substantial changes to it. They also will look at the possibility of expanding the playoffs to 14 teams, expanding the roster to 55 players, eliminating the inactive list for Thursday night games, and other changes.

Looking ahead to next month, the Redskins can start their offseason workout programs on April 20 and the first round of the NFL draft will get underway in prime time on April 30.

Timeline

—It’s been 64 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 195 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL free agency starts 8; Redskins offseason workouts start 49; 2015 NFL Draft 59

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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Redskins offseason questions: Can Kirk Cousins take the next step in 2017?

Redskins offseason questions: Can Kirk Cousins take the next step in 2017?

The good news for the 2016 Redskins was that they didn’t collapse after winning the division the previous season as has been their pattern in the past. The bad news was that they didn’t take the next step and improve from a franchise that can compete to make the playoffs into one that is playing multiple postseason games year in and year out.

That work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players. In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will examine the biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.

RELATED: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice?

Will Kirk Cousins take the next step in 2017?

Finlay: The better question might be what constitutes the next step for Cousins? And going one step further, will it be with the Redskins? Answering the second part first, Cousins will be the 'Skins quarterback in 2017. Taking the next step is trickier, since the passer has thrown for more than 9,000 yards in the last two seasons.

For me, Cousins can still get much better, particularly in the red zone. If the Redskins scored at the same pace they pile up yards, this team would have won 11 games in 2016. 

In 2016, Cousins ranked 3rd in the NFL in passing yards, yet outside of the Top 10 in TDs with 25. To really enter the next phase of his career, Cousins needs to lead an offense that scores more, and that means 30+ touchdowns. He can do it. 

Tandler: I don’t look at the next step for Cousins being about numbers. Sure, maybe he can throw for 5,000 yards and 30-plus touchdowns on year. But being a top quarterback is more than that.

I want to see him go into Seattle next year and rally the Redskins from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter. I want to see him go into a playoff game and, unlike what happened against the Packers after the 2015 season, will the team to a win when the Redskins aren’t playing their best and when a QB like Aaron Rodgers is on the other side. I want to see him glare at a lineman who missed an assignment and correct a receiver who went the wrong way on a route.

To be sure, he has led the team to some comeback wins and he has played very well in some key games, like the division-clinching win in Philadelphia in 2015. But a top-flight quarterback can’t essentially negate one of those with a play like the season-ending pick against the Giants. Sure, any quarterback is going to have an off day. But you have to have more pluses than minuses on the ledger.

Cousins has been a starter for just two years so maybe he can develop into a top-shelf quarterback. Putting up good stats is part of the picture but he won’t be there until he elevates and motivates those around him. Maybe he can take that next step but until he does there is no way of knowing if he will. 

More offseason questions: 

What are reasonable expectations for Josh Doctson?

— Will there be a surprise salary cap cut?

— Should the Redskins defense switch to the 4-3?

— Is Spencer Long the answer at center?

— How many D-linemen do the Redskins need?

— Should the Redskins draft another QB? 

— With Sean McVay gone, will the Redskins run the ball more?

— Can Cravens handle the transition to safety? 

— Will the Redskins re-sign Pierre Garçon? 

— Will Rob Kelley be the lead running back in 2017?

— Defense in the first round?

— Will they make a change at left guard?

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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

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Some good news from Redskins Park: Josh Doctson running, catching football (VIDEO)

Some good news from Redskins Park: Josh Doctson running, catching football (VIDEO)

There hasn't been much good news out of Redskins Park lately, as the team deals with pending free agency for QB Kirk Cousins and others combined with rumors of infighting among the front office. So video of 2016 first round pick Josh Doctson running and cutting comes at a great time for beleaguered 'Skins fans. 

Doctson posted the video to his Snapchat account. When he last spoke after the Washington season ended, Doctson made clear he was feeling much better and that '100 percent health' is his main goal this offseason.

His rookie year, however, was a different matter.

The receiver out of TCU missed all but the first two games of the year. Even in those games, he played a very reduced role. Drafted 22nd overall, he had just two catches all year as an obscure Achilles' injuries landed him on the injured reserve. His plight could not be figured out by a slew of doctors and specialists, and the team finally decided to sit down their prized rookie.

A breakout year in 2017 would serve Jay Gruden's squad well, as the team stands to lose DeSean Jackson and/or Pierre Garçon to free agency. It looks likely the 'Skins will lose at least one of their starting WRs, and losing both is a distinct possibility. That could result in more than 2,000 receiving yards leaving the Redskins offense, and the team will need Doctson to pick up a good chunk of that production.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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!