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Need to Know: The Redskins' top five offseason moves

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Need to Know: The Redskins' top five offseason moves

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, July 18, 10 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 190 days ago. It will be 56 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Preseason opener @ Falcons 24; Final roster cut 47; Cowboys @ Redskins 63

—Former Redskins offensive tackle George Starke, the leader of the original Hogs, was born on this date in 1948.

Three and out

Top five offseason moves

When the deadline for Kirk Cousins to sign a long-term contract came and went last Friday the business phase of the Redskins’ offseason came to an end. So with the big deals (and non-deals) in the book, let’s take a look back at the top five moves (and non-moves) so far in 2016.

Instead of ranking them, we'll go chronologically:

Cousins tag saga—This chapter essentially started and ended early March. The team applied the tag on March 1 and Cousins signed it a couple of days later. The Redskins and Cousins’ camp had four and a half months to work on a long-term deal but they never came close to an agreement. It appeared that both sides were perfectly content to let Cousins play the year on the tag. The immediate impact is that Cousins is behind center at a cost of $19.95 million, all of which hits the cap in 2016. Looking forward, it means we could go through the same song and dance in 2017.

Robert Griffin III released—A few days after locking up Cousins, they let go of the quarterback they drafted 100 spots ahead of him in 2012. A year earlier such news would have been shocking but with Griffin not having played a single snap in 2015 and with the team obligated to pay him $16 million to keep him on the fifth-year option letting him go was the only sensible way to go. The moment to move was made the three first-round picks and the second-round pick that it cost to add Griffin officially turned to vapor.

Two defensive starters released—The same day that Griffin was shown the door, DE Jason Hatcher, who started 14 games in 2015, and S Dashon Goldson, who started 15, were released. The moves cleared a lot of cap space but they left the team thinner in some areas where they are not exactly brimming in talent. The Redskins also lost a lot of leadership; Goldson was the defensive captain and Hatcher led the D-line unit.

Josh Norman signed—This one came completely out of the blue. Carolina had him tagged as their franchise player but on April 20 they decided to rescind the tag. That made the All-Pro cornerback a free agent. After a whirlwind recruitment process that lasted about 48 hours, the Redskins signed him to a five-year, $75 million contract. The deal improved an area of weakness for the Redskins but at the cost of some big chunks of cap space including $20 million next year. One ripple effect was the release of CB Chris Culliver on May 2, a move that cleared $8 million in cap space.

Jordan Reed gets a contract extension—The tight end had a year to go on his rookie contract. The news of the extension came out of the blue about two weeks after Norman signed. The deal keeps Reed in Washington through the 2021 season and pays him $46.75 million. Part of Scot McCloughan’s philosophy is to prioritize retaining the team’s draft picks who perform. It started last summer when Trent Williams and Ryan Kerrigan signed extensions.

In case you missed it 

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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!