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Need to Know: The Redskins are setting Cousins up for success

Need to Know: The Redskins are setting Cousins up for success

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, May 30, 59 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 141 days ago. It will be 105 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 59; Preseason opener @ Falcons 74; Final roster cut to 53 96

I’m enjoying a vacation week in the Outer Banks. While I’m gone I’m presenting a few of the most popular posts from earlier this offseason (Note: A few details may not be updated) as well as some posts looking back at some of the team’s best performances. Thanks for reading, see you again on Monday, June 6.

This article was originally published on April 3.

The Redskins are in the process of doing whatever they can to set Kirk Cousins up for success in 2016.

Despite the predictions of some, they kept veteran wide receivers Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson despite salary cap hits for the two that total over $19 million. Garçon was a big target for Cousins all year long. And Cousins’ transformation from a quarterback who was on the verge of being benched into a confident, competent passer largely coincided with Jackson’s Week 9 return to the lineup after rehabbing a hamstring injury. The absence of either player in 2016 would have made things more difficult for Cousins. They may add another wide receiver early in the draft.

Then they signed Vernon Davis to a deal that didn’t break the bank but is rather substantial for a 32-year-old tight end. He’s not the player he was even three years ago when he caught 52 passes for 850 yards (16.3 yards/catch) and 13 touchdowns for the 49ers but at 6-3 he is a substantial red zone threat. Between Davis and Jordan Reed, Cousins should never have a problem finding a target on third downs.

Although Davis should provide an upgrade when it comes to run blocking, the Redskins perhaps realize that their running game is not going to suddenly come together with Matt Jones and probably either a mid-round rookie or a C-list veteran. Cousins performed well last year despite the Redskins being ranked 29th in terms of yards per rush. It seems unlikely that he will have a top-notch running game to support him this year so the team wants to make sure he has an adequate supply of weapons.

This is shaping up to be a critical year for Cousins and for the future of the franchise. He could well be the first NFL quarterback to play out a season under the franchise tag. One of the reasons that may happen is that the Redskins are somewhat reluctant to pay Cousins over the long term based on one good year. If their quarterback posts a second stellar season like he did in 2015 they will be more than happy to open up the checkbook, believing that they will be set at the most important position on the field for at least the next several years.

With the additions of Davis and possibly an early-round rookie wide receiver to work with, Cousins will have a solid group of pass catchers to work with. Assuming they stay reasonably healthy his agent will not have any reason to complain about a lack of support in 2016 if they engage in contract talks prior to the 2017 season.

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Uncertainty around Kirk Cousins impacts Redskins' pursuit of free agent WRs

Uncertainty around Kirk Cousins impacts Redskins' pursuit of free agent WRs

This story originally published on January 4, but has fresh relevence as the Redskins are running out of time to decide what to do with Kirk Cousins. 

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Pending contract talks with Kirk Cousins will not only impact the Redskins salary cap, they will also impact the desire of free agent wide receivers looking to join the Burgundy and Gold.

That's the word from multiple sources as Washington brass again enters negotiations with Cousins after he played the 2016 season under the franchise tag.

It's understandable why receivers want to see what unfolds at QB for the Redskins.

With Cousins, the Redskins run a dynamic, pass-first offense capable of moving the ball among the best teams in the league. Should Cousins leave via free agency, it's unknown what happens for Jay Gruden's 2017 offense.

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 3.0

While it seems likely Cousins would at least return for 2017 under another franchise tag, if that doesn't happen, would the team turn to backup Colt McCoy? Bring in a veteran starter to compete with McCoy? Has rookie Nate Sudfeld developed to a point where he could compete? Questions like these make for uneasy conversations among wideouts looking at options. 

The Redskins not only need to make decisions with their own free agent receivers in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon, but the team also has shown interest in free agent Kenny Britt, recently of the Rams. Sources indicate Britt would be interested in Washington if Cousins is the quarterback, but the 29-year-old has at least seven other interested teams should the Redskins QB situation not get resolved before free agency opens. 

Jackson's return to Washington seems unlikely, as he will probably command more money than Garçon or Britt.

ESPN's John Keim reported that Garçon will not play for less than the $7.6 million he made this season, and sources have said Britt expects to make anywhere from $8 million to $12 million per season in a multi-year deal.

All three pass-catchers had strong seasons in 2016, all eclipsing the 1,000 yard mark. Among the trio, Britt is two years younger than Garçon and Jackson, who will both turn 31 this season, and bigger. Britt goes 6-foot-3 while Garçon is 6-foot and Jackson 5-foot-10. Neither Britt nor Garçon can touch Jackson's speed, and few players in the NFL can match Garçon's toughness.

That said, Britt raised eyebrows around the NFL getting to 1,000 yards on an awful Rams team that suffered with poor quarterback play and a prehistoric offensive system. 

Another franchise tag for Cousins would not necessarily solve the Redskins issue with free agent receivers, at least long-term. Like all players, wideouts want multi-year deals, and a 2017 tag on Cousins makes it highly possible that Washington needs a new quarterback in 2018. 

Fans need to deal with the possibility that neither Jackson nor Garçon could return to Washington. It might not happen, but it certainly could. Much of that will be determined by money, but the contract status of Cousins will be a factor.

For wideouts, Washington is an attractive destination with Cousins. He's thrown for more than 9,000 yards in the last two seasons.

Without him, the landscape looks quite different. 

RELATED: Jameis Winston wants DeSean Jackson in Tampa

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Salary cap outlook: Redskins have cap room for a top free agent safety

Salary cap outlook: Redskins have cap room for a top free agent safety

The Redskins have found their offensive and defensive coordinators and they are ready to get on with the business portion of the offseason. The big question between now and the middle of March is how they will divvy up their $62 million in cap space. Here we’ll take a position-by-position look at the cap situation and explore some of the Redskins’ options. 

Cap info via www.OverTheCap.com

The Redskins currently have these safeties under contract.

—DeAngelo Hall, 2017 cap hit $5.1 million, under contract through 2017
—Will Blackmon, $1.1 million, through 2017
—Su’a Cravens, $1 million, through 2019
—Josh Evans, $775,000, through 2017
—Deshazor Everett, $615,000, through 2019
—Earl Wolff, $615,000, through 2018

Free agents: Donte Whither, Duke Ihenacho

RELATED: Cousins a "mercenary" and he should be

Notes:

—Cravens is on the second year of his four-year rookie contract. He will be eligible for an extension following the 2018 season.

—Evans had two stints on the Redskins roster last year but he played in only two games with no snaps on defense. When they signed him prior to their Week 17 game they tacked on a deal for this year so he will be around to see if he can get some run on defense.

Positional spending (all defensive backs)

2016: $7.7 million, 21st in NFL
2017: $8.1 million, 20th in NFL

Adding and subtracting:

—If Cravens can develop into a solid starter he would be a bargain for a couple of years. His cap number is $1.2 million in 2018 and $1.4 million in 2019. It could go up in 2019 as he will be eligible to have his deal redone. But getting productive seasons at a relative low rate prior to a second contract is one of the keys to success in NFL’s salary cap system.

—Hall has missed 31 games with injuries over the last three years. It is safe to say that he will not play this year for his contracted $4.25 million salary. He will either negotiate down to a lower salary or he will be released, which would save that $4.25 million off the cap. I would be leaning towards a release; even if he is willing to play for less money it would be hard to count on him.

—Assuming the Redskins do something with Hall’s salary they would have some cap room to work with to bolster this perpetually undermanned position. The median safety positional spending last year was around $10.5 million. If Hall is gone or his salary is reduced to $1 million, they would have room for a $7 million cap hit for a safety and still have spending at the position under control.

—That could mean they can afford someone like Cardinals safety Tony Jefferson, who is likely to get a deal somewhere in the $8 to $9 million range. The Redskins easily craft a deal like that with a $6 to $7 million 2017 cap hit.

—Drafting a safety such as Budda Baker in the first round would be a more economical route to take. The No. 17 pick will get a four-year contract worth $7.0 million with cap numbers increasing from $2.1 million in the first year to $3.7 million in 2020.

RELATED: #RedskinsTalk Podcast - Kicking around Kirk scenarios

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.