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Need to Know: Redskins taking big risks either way with Cousins contract

Need to Know: Redskins taking big risks either way with Cousins contract

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, July 8, 20 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 180 days ago. It will be 66 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Franchise tag contract deadline 7; Preseason opener @ Falcons 34; Final roster cut 57

The Redskins are gambling on Cousins either way

Redskins fans have divided into two camps when it comes to a long-term contract for quarterback Kirk Cousins.

—The Redskins should do whatever it takes to sign him before the deadline (coming up on July 15, one week from today) because it will cost them a lot more if they wait and he has even a good year, let along a great one.

—The Redskins need to wait and see if Cousins really is the quarterback he was in the last 10 games of last year. Paying top-shelf quarterback money to a mid- to lower- level quarterback would be a salary cap disaster.

The thing is both sides have a valid argument.

—If they give in and pay Cousins what he wants now, something in the neighborhood of $22 million per year with some $50 million or more in guaranteed money, the Redskins risk overpaying their quarterback. That could leave them unable to acquire and/or retain the talent needed to win with a pedestrian QB.

—If they hold firm and then watch as Cousins plays well in 2016 they would be plunged into a quarterback market where contracts for even mediocre quarterbacks are high and getting higher. They could end up paying several million dollars more per season for Cousins’ services than they would have if they had just slightly overpaid him (from their perspective) in 2016.

So there are major risks either way the Redskins go. The way it looks right now, they are leaning towards holding firm, willing to take the chance that Cousins will have a full season like he had the last 10 games of 2015, potentially sending the cost of a long-term contract skyrocketing.

I have a hard time being too critical of them if they do stick with this stance. It is very rational for the organization to believe they don’t yet have a handle on his true value based on one season as a full-time starter and therefore a major, long term commitment right now would be unwise. They will be happy to pay a quarterback $20 million to $25 million, perhaps more, if they are sure that he is worth the money.

It should be noted that there are risks on Cousins’ end as well. If he doesn’t take the Redskins’ last, best offer he risks seeing that money vaporize if he plays poorly or gets injured. But if he takes it and leads the team on a deep playoff run he will have left millions of dollars on the table.

As we get closer to the deadline, the risks tend to get magnified. And as that happens, the pressure to make a deal increases exponentially. We will see if Cousins and the Redskins both stand firm as the pressure mounts or if one or the other gives way.

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Over/under: Redskins running backs in 2017

Over/under: Redskins running backs in 2017

Redskins running backs over-under

The Redskins’ running backs depth chart looks quite different from how it did a year ago. Rob Kelley, who was “ninth-string” back last year per Jay Gruden, is the starter. Samaje Perine enters the mix with expectations that exceed those normally assigned to a fourth-round pick. Chris Thompson is the constant as the third-down back. What kind of numbers will they put up this year? Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay go over-under on some Redskins running back stats. 

Rob Kelley, 1,000 rushing yards

Tandler: If you project Kelley’s production in the nine games he started over 16 games it comes to about 1,050 yards. He had his ups and downs in those nine starts and he will have them this year. But he should have enough ups to be able to average the 62.5 yards per game needed to hit the thousand-yard mark. Over

Finlay: Unlike wide receivers, where 25 guys broke the 1,000 yard mark in 2016, it's getting harder and harder for a running back to hit four-figures. In 2016, only 12 RBs ran for more than 1,000 yards, and only eight got over 1,100 yards. As the NFL becomes more and more of a passing league, less backs are getting the carries sufficient for a 1,000 yard season. The Redskins haven't had a 1,000 yard rusher since Alfred Morris in 2014. While I think Kelley gets the bulk of the yardage, I think it caps out about 900 yards and Chris Thompson and Samaje Perine creep into the total. Under

RELATED: Who's next at QB for the Redskins?

Kelley, 10 rushing touchdowns

Tandler: He scored six as the starter last year and doing the math that comes to 11 over 16 games. But last year there wasn’t a player like Perine, who could come into the game and vulture some touchdowns after Kelley did the work to get the ball in goal to go position. Under

Finlay: Sorry to keep going back to stats, but last year only seven running backs got to 10 TDs or more. Only seven! Hard to see Kelley getting there on a team that didn't run all that much, or all that well either, in 2016. Under

Samaje Perine, 500 rushing yards

Tandler: It tough to set a line for a guy who hasn’t played. I’ll go off Matt Jones’ 2015 rookie season when he gained 490 yards while sharing time with Alfred Morris. If Perine averages four yards per carry, which is not hard to do, he’ll need about eight carries per game to get to 500. It’s close but if Kelley is effective, as I believe he will be, Perine might not get enough carries to have a chance. Under

Finlay: Tandler's Matt Jones comp pretty much works for Perine, but Jones had explosive speed that Perine doesn't have. A better comp for me was Derrick Henry last year as a rookie with the Titans. DeMarco Murray was established as the top dog, and Henry worked for a productive 490 yards. Under

MORE REDSKINS: Offer to Cousins not nearly enough

Chris Thompson, 60 pass receptions

Tandler: His role is beyond just third down. If the Redskins are behind in the fourth quarter, Thompson is usually in there to try to help spark a rally. Along with TE Jordan Reed and WR Jamison Crowder, Thompson will benefit from Kirk Cousins’ familiarity with him. Over

Finlay: Thompson should be a strong contributor in 2017, but 60 catches is a lot for a running back. Only David Johnson (80) and Le'Veon Bell (75) went over that number in 2016, while James White had exactly 60 catches. Thompson grabbed 49 balls in 2016, an impressive total. I could actually see Thompson getting a bigger percentage increase in carries, he had 68 rushes last season with a very solid 5.2 YPC, than catches. Under

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

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!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

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#RedskinsTalk Podcast: Final refresh before 2017 season truly begins

redskins_talk_podcast-ep76-16x9.png

#RedskinsTalk Podcast: Final refresh before 2017 season truly begins

Rich Tandler and JP Finlay wrap up the Redskins offseason and prepare for what will be the most intriguing and the most overplayed storylines at training camp in Richmond.

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back