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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.

In case you missed it 

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Redskins Playbook: After worst to first in 2016, how strong will NFC East be?

Redskins Playbook: After worst to first in 2016, how strong will NFC East be?

When the Redskins won the NFC East in 2015 with a 9-7 record, most critics dismissed the division as weak. That theory was largely proved right when the Redskins got stomped at home in the first round of the playoffs by the Wild Card Green Bay Packers.

In 2016, however, the NFC East largely looked like the best division in football, or at least among the best divisions. Dallas won 13 games and took the NFC East title, the Giants won 11 and took the NFC's top Wild Card spot. The Redskins had a chance to make the playoffs in Week 17, but unceremoniously lost and fell short.

Still, Washington won eight games and Philadelphia won seven. In fact, the NFC East was the only division in the NFL without a team that lost 10 or more games. The AFC West - a division that some would argue was tougher than the NFC East - still had the Chargers and their 5-11 record.

What does it mean for 2017? If anything the only team expected to regress would be the Cowboys, and their regression could easily still have them looking to win around 10 games. 

The Eagles have improved with young, star QB Carson Wentz. New York will be interesting, as they have some age at various spots on their roster but still feature a two-time Super Bowl winning QB in Eli Manning and one of the best defenses in the NFL.

As for Washington? The defense should be much improved. It almost has to be as the 2016 version struggled significantly. If the defense can just be average (and I'd argue it could push for Top 15) the offense should continue to move the ball well. Producing in the red zone needs to look different than last season too.

The NFC East looks like a beast yet again. It would be no surprise if both NFC Wild Cards come from the division.

Let us know what you think in the comments. 

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Need to Know:Redskins faced one of the toughest schedules in NFL in 2016

Need to Know:Redskins faced one of the toughest schedules in NFL in 2016

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 28, 16 days before the Washington Redskins start their mandatory minicamp on June 13.

Timeline

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/27) 60
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 74
—Season opener Eagles @ Redskins (9/10) 105

Note: I am on vacation this week in the Outer Banks. Need to Know will be a mix of new content and some of the most popular posts of 2017.

Redskins faced one of NFL’s toughest slates in 2016

(originally posted January 28)

As the Redskins came off their 2015 playoff season and looked towards 2016, one thing jumped out. Even before any games were played it looked like their path to a repeat playoff appearance would be difficult, more so than it was when they went 9-7 and took the NFC East title.

The 2015 schedule looked fairly easy when applying the eyeball test. They played just two games against teams that made the playoffs and those teams, the Patriots and Panthers, plus the Jets were the only teams they faced that finished the season with winning records.

The eyeball test was borne out by the numbers. According to the stat gurus at Football Outsiders the Redskins faced the 28th toughest schedule in terms of the DVOA of opposing defenses and the opposing offenses added up to the 24th most difficult.

The going was considerably tougher in 2016. The Redskins played seven games against teams that were in the playoff field. The defenses they faced stacked up as the toughest group of any NFL team. They played nine games against teams that finished in the top 11 in defensive DVOA. The offenses they faced were a little better than average, ranking 13th as a group.

While the Redskins’ season was widely regarded as a disappointment, it would be reasonable to say that given vastly improved quality of the competition that they did well in only having their record drop by half a game.

Of course, the goal is to be good enough to prosper and make the playoffs no matter what mix of teams the luck of the draw happens to put on the schedule. They will need to get there in a hurry. Awaiting the Redskins on their 2017 schedule are seven 2016 playoff teams plus one more that finished the year with a winning record.

The fortunes of NFL teams can’t always be predicted in advance, especially more than seven months before the season kicks off. But it’s safe to say that the 2017 slate will be challenging. If they are going to improve their record they are going to have to improve their level of play dramatically.

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.