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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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Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

The Redskins offense performed at a high level in 2016, moving the ball well though the unit struggled in the red zone. Much of the success comes from Kirk Cousins' ability to quickly advance through his progressions and release the football before he takes too many hits.

Expect more of that in 2017, especially early in the season.

The Redskins don't face their first Top 5 sack defense until Week 9 when they travel to Seattle. From there, Cousins will face another Top 5 sack team when the Vikings visit FedEx Field in Week 10. 

After that, Washington's schedule doesn't feature a Top 5 sack defense until nearly Christmas. Unfortunately for Cousins, those two teams will come back to back in December when the Redskins host the Cardinals and the Broncos.

Sacks should not drive too much worry for Redskins fans. The Washington offensive line only allowed 23 sacks last season, two less than the Cowboys vaunted offensive line gave up on Dak Prescott. Cousins quick release and mastery of Jay Gruden's offense helps too. 

The Redskins have plenty to worry about in 2017, though facing fierce sack opponents shouldn't be too high on the list. 

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Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 25, 32 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 175 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 77 days.

Days until:

—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/17) 22
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 46
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 69

The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here are the five running backs on the Redskins’ schedule who gained the most yards in 2017. We looked at the top QBs last week.

Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys, 1,631 yards in 2016—The NFL’s leading rusher didn’t pop for a big day against the Redskins as a rookie last year. He still did plenty of damage in two games with a combined 180 yards and three touchdowns. We’ll find out in Week 8 just how much the Redskins’ rushing defense has improved.

David Johnson, Cardinals, 1,239 yards—Yeah, him again. He chewed up the Redskins in Arizona last year, picking up 84 yards rushing and another 91 yards receiving. I think I might pick Johnson over Elliott in a draft simply due to Johnson’s versatility.

LeGarrette Blount, Eagles, 1,161 yards—Blount picked up those yards with the Patriots last year and rushed for 18 touchdowns for good measure. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry, 27th among qualifying running backs. It should be noted that the Eagles probably have a better offensive line than the Patriots do. It’s safe to say Blount is one dimensional; none of the top 50 in rushing yards had fewer than his seven receptions.

Mark Ingram, Saints, 1,043 yards—While Ingram had a good year, the Saints apparently weren’t overly impressed. They signed Adrian Peterson as a free agent and they drafted RB Alvin Kamara in the third round. We’ll have to see who is healthy and on the field in Week 11

Melvin Gordon, Chargers, 997 yards—The 2015 first-round pick missed the last three games and most of another one with an injury. When healthy, he was very effective. His stats projected over 16 games come to over 1,300 yards.

Best of the rest: Carlos Hyde of the 49ers just missed the top five with 988 rushing yards last year Besides Kamara, the only running backs drafted in the first three rounds the Redskins will face are Dalvin Cook (Vikings) and Kareem Hunt (Chiefs). It will be interesting to see if new Rams coach Sean McVay can revive Todd Gurley, who followed a 1,100-yard rookie season with a 4.8 per carry average by gaining 885 yards with a paltry 3.2 average in 2016. Marshawn Lynch comes to town with the Raiders after spending a year in retirement; with the Seahawks, he picked up 111, 72, and 132 on the ground against the Redskins. 

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.

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