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Need to Know: Under the radar Redskins storylines

Need to Know: Under the radar Redskins storylines

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, July 4, 24 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Happy Independence Day!

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 176 days ago. It will be 70 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Franchise tag contract deadline 11; Preseason opener @ Falcons 38; Final roster cut 61

The Redskins week that was

Some under the radar storylines as we head towards the start of training camp.

Who starts at right DE?—There is plenty of chatter about what they are going to do at nose tackle but Pot Roast Knighton isn’t the only starting D-linemen gone from last year. Jason Hatcher was cut and he doesn’t have a ready replacement. Kendall Reyes took a lot of snaps there during offseason practices that were open to the media. It seems like the team would like Stephen Paea, who signed a four-year, $21 million free agent contract last year, to take control of the job. He could but we won’t know until they put on the Pads down in Richmond.

Who plays nickel cornerback?—It looks like it’s Kendall Fuler’s job to lose but he might lose it. His surgically repaired knee seems to be doing well but we will see how it holds up. Quinton Dunbar had a nice rookie season and he isn’t going to let Fuller move ahead of him on the depth chart without a fight. Dashaun Phillips got some snaps at nickel corner in OTAs and looked pretty good. And veteran Greg Toler isn’t going to fade into the sunset. It will be a fierce competition. Fuller is the favorite but he is by no means a lock.

How many O-linemen will they carry?—They’ve carried as few as eight in recent seasons and there were 10 on the roster last year. One of the determining factors will be who wins the competition at left guard. If it’s Shawn Lauvao then Spencer Long stays around as a reserve. If Long wins then they may not want to keep Lauvao (with his $5 million cap hit) around as a backup. It also will depend on whether they are comfortable with Ty Nsekhe as the lone backup tackle on the 53 or if they want to keep a second one like first-year player Takoby Cofield.

In case you missed it 

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Don't count out a third straight franchise tag for Kirk Cousins, and here's why

Don't count out a third straight franchise tag for Kirk Cousins, and here's why

For the second straight season the Redskins placed the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins. While the two sides are speaking amicably about a long-term deal, the July 15 deadline for those negotiations continues to inch closer without much expectation that contract will get signed. 

A second year on the tag is unprecedented for a quarterback. In 2016, Cousins made nearly $20 million playing on the tag. In 2017, that figure goes up to $24.

If the Redskins don't get a deal done with Cousins, many think the organization would not again go with the franchise tag because the price tag jumps to an exorbitant $34 million. 

Think again. 

Asked on Monday if another franchise tag would be an option for Cousins in 2018, Redskins team president Bruce Allen was clear.

"Yes," he said. "In the collective bargaining agreement, we really have one year and an option that we can do at the end of next season if we don’t get a contract."

Those options include the exclusive franchise tag, the non-exclusive franchise tag and the transition tag. Both franchise tags carry the same cost, but the non-exclusive allows Cousins' representatives to shop his services around the NFL. If a deal gets struck, and the Redskins don't match the contract, Washington is due two first-round draft picks as compensation for losing their franchise player. 

The transition tag carries a $28 million price tag, and the Redskins can match another contract but risk only receiving a possible 2019 third-round compensatory pick if Cousins walks.

Considering those options, another year on the non-exclusive tag might make sense. The NFL salary cap will be at least $168 million, which means Cousins at $34 million would account for about 20 percent of the Redskins' salary cap.

That's a crazy allotment for one player. Crazy. The Redskins do have about $54 million in cap space for 2018, so technically, another franchise tag could work. 

But the entire manner of the contract dealings with Cousins and the Redskins has been quite unconventional. The Redskins have already made history by franchising Cousins a second-straight year. 

"I think even Kirk said it, there’s a lot of players round the league who are on a one-year deal. It’s the nature of it, we’d like to get him a long-term deal and I think he should want to get one," Allen said. "Kirk’s played well on a one-year contract the last two seasons."

At this point, it doesn't require a degree in advanced mathematics to understand that the Redskins and Cousins have a different picture of the quarterback's long-term value. That could change by July 15th, it could, but it doesn't seem likely. The Cousins camp has little incentive to bend, as $24 million fully guaranteed for 2017 represents a great payday.

And maybe the Redskins don't plan on bending because the option of a third-straight franchise tag doesn't worry them. Or at least the option of letting Cousins shop his services on a non-exclusive tag, and then making a decision to match a deal or receive compensation seems a worthwhile endevaor. 

For Cousins, he's not counting out any possibility. 

"People, I’ve heard say, ‘There’s no chance they franchise tag him or even transition tag him the following season,’ and I chuckle because if the team has franchise tagged me for two years in a row," Cousins said to an ESPN podcast in March. 

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ROSTER BATTLESLeft guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

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Redskins' offseason program ramps up with start of OTAs today

Redskins' offseason program ramps up with start of OTAs today

The Redskins’ offseason starts to move into high gear today as organized team activities, better known as OTAs, get underway at Redskins Park.

Players have been participating in workouts at Redskins Park since April 17. The first phase of those session consisted of strength and conditioning. In the second phase, they were permitted to run plays but not with the offense lined up against the defense. Finally, in OTAs, they will go offense vs. defense.

RELATED: Who are the Redskins' roster locks?

The practices, however, will not resemble an August scrimmage in Richmond. The players wear helmets but no pads and contact is not permitted. While players do block other players and there are collisions between players going after passes, the action is more like pushing and shoving that it is hitting.  

The part about no contact should be taken seriously. Seattle ran afoul of the no-contact rule last year and it cost them. The Seahawks were fined $400,000, lost their fifth-round pick in this year’s draft and they will not be permitted to hold their first week of OTAs this year. The Redskins will be very careful to keep within the rules.

MORE REDSKINS: Allen says new stadium ahead of schedule 

OTAs will be held on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in each of the next three weeks. The sessions will be open to the media on Wednesday of each week. While player attendance is strongly encouraged the practices are voluntary.

The week after OTAs end the team will hold its minicamp on June 13-14. Minicamp is essentially a continuation of OTAs but player attendance is mandatory.

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.