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Need to Know: Which Redskins stay and who goes?

Need to Know: Which Redskins stay and who goes?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, January 13, 115 days from the NFL Draft.

Nickel coverage

Of the Redskins' 18 unrestricted free agents, five of them were originally drafted by the team. Here are my odds on the Redskins keeping them after free agency starts on March 11:

1. LB Perry Riley—With the Redskins likely to stay in a 3-4 defense they need Riley to take over for London Fletcher calling signals. Inside linebackers generally don’t cost that much and Riley is likely to be much more valuable to the Redskins than to any other team. Chances of returning: 95%

2. LB Brian Orakpo—It seems likely that the Redskins will make  a very fair offer to the player who has been at least tied for the team lead in sacks every season he’s played for them except for the one where he missed 14 games due to injury. There is a chance, however, that another team could come in and make an offer that is well above market price. The Redskins could lose him if that happens. Another option is the franchise tag but the team will have to decide if he’s worth right around $10 million for the 2014 season. Chances of returning 70%

3. LB Rob Jackson—He finally got a chance to play regularly when Brian Orakpo was injured in 2012 and he played well. In 2013, however, Orakpo was back and Jackson played only 186 snaps. Stability in the defensive staff may help him here. His lack of 2013 action might keep down his demand league wide but Jim Haslett and Raheem Morris could push to get a deal done with him based on 2012. This one is hard to gauge. Chances of returning 60%

4. S Reed Doughty—He started nine games last year and like most of the defense he had his ups and downs. The Redskins hope to get better performance at safety than the had in 2013 (better than have had for the last six years, for that matter) so they may want to move on from Doughty. But he is versatile and the team might want to hang on to him if for no other reason that he is one of the few good special teams performers on the roster. Chances of returning: 40%

5. TE Fred Davis—If Mike Shanahan had somehow stayed on as coach the chances of Davis, who wound up in Shanahan’s doghouse for much of the season, would be near zero. But perhaps Jay Gruden sees a player who he can pair with Jordan Reed to so some of the things he did with Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert in Cincinnati (combined 85 receptions, 903 yards, 6 TDs). Davis coming back still doesn’t seem very likely to happen but, yes, I’m sayin’ there’s a chance. Chances of return 10%

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Timeline

—It’s been 15 days since the Redskins played a game; it will be about 237 days until they play another one.

—Days until: NFL Combine 37; NFL free agency 57; Offseason workouts start 84

In case you missed it

Do the Redskins have the players for a 3-4 defense

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Despite one-year contract, Gruden unequivocal about Kirk Cousins' position

Despite one-year contract, Gruden unequivocal about Kirk Cousins' position

RICHMOND - Looking at the contracts for the two most important people associated with the Washington Redskins, a clear discrepancy arises. The head coach, Jay Gruden, is under contract until 2020. The quarterback, Kirk Cousins, is only under contract for 2017. 

Some speculation suggested that, given the diverging deals, at some point Gruden might look to develop another passer that's locked in with the Redskins for the long-term. Backup QB Colt McCoy is under contract for the next two seasons, and second-year passer Nate Sudfeld is under team control through the 2019 season. 

Gruden made clear that isn't the case. Crystal clear. 

"We're focused on Kirk," the head coach said. "He's our starter and he's going to get all the starter reps. Period."

Cousins should obviously be the focus. In the past two seasons he's twice broken the Washington single season passing yards record, and his rise has coincided with the Redskins first back to back winning seasons in 20 years. 

As for practice reps, Cousins will get the vast majority. McCoy will get work, and Sudfeld too, but this Redskins team is focused on winning this season. 2018 contracts are not on the coach's mind in July of 2017, nor should they be. 

"Colt [McCoy] will take advantage of his reps, I'm sure he will. And Nate [Sudfeld] will get a few sprinkled in there. We're trying to develop Nate also for the future. But, this is Kirk's team right now, and it's our job to get him ready for Philadelphia and really surround him and make him feel good about the people around him. Trying to get him used to [Josh] Doctson, get him used to [Terrelle] Pryor, we have some new weapons around him, so it's a matter of getting him ready. But Kirk will get all of them."

With a rebuilt defense and plenty of options offensively, the Redskins should compete for a playoff spot this year. Is there a scenario where the team sputters and spirals into a lost season? Maybe. And in that hypothetical scenario, perhaps at some point it makes sense to see what another passer can do. It's a long shot. 

For Redskins fans, know that Cousins is the unequivocal starter. Period. 

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Focus will be on Redskins' tight end depth during Jordan Reed's absence

Focus will be on Redskins' tight end depth during Jordan Reed's absence

RICHMOND—The Redskins will be without Jordan Reed in training camp for an unknown period of time. Although his toe injury does not appear to be serious, others will have to fill the gap until he is able to return. And the Redskins just so happen to have one of the deepest tight end groups in the NFL and they added another one with NFL playing experience on Thursday.

Jay Gruden said that the Redskins needed to sign E.J. Bibbs, who has one NFL catch in his career, because Vernon Davis, the backup tight end, has “a little bit of a tweaked hamstring.” Davis, who caught 44 passes for 583 yards last year, seemed to me moving fine in practice after Gruden spoke to the media but he could need some reps off on occasion so they brought in Bibbs to fill in the gap. There is no point in pushing the 33-year-old Davis if it’s not necessary.

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The Redskins have even more options at tight end. Niles Paul is back and he appears to be fully recovered from the shoulder injury that sidelined him for the last eight games in 2016. Paul is going into his seventh season and while he is mostly relied on for special teams play he does have a 500-yard season on his resume (2014).

During offseason practices fifth-round rookie Jeremy Sprinkle looked like he had a lot to learn as he goes from a run-based offense at Arkansas to the Redskins’ sophisticated pass-first scheme. He will need to find his comfort level before he takes any snaps in Reed’s place.

The forgotten veteran is Derek Carrier, who now appears to be fully healthy after he missed the first half of last season with a knee injury he suffered late in 2015. He had just two receptions for 10 yards last year in limited playing time on offense.

MORE REDSKINS: Live practice report, Day 1

Joining Bibbs in the long shot category is Manasseh Garner, a first-year player out of Pitt. While neither player seems to have a shot at the 53-man roster, the Redskins could carry one of the tight ends on the practice squad.

Depth is a good thing to have and the Redskins have done a good job assembling a backup plan at tight end. But you just can’t replace Reed, one of the best few tight ends in the NFL, without a significant drop off in production. The Redskins will let the backups compete and learn in training camp and will keep Reed either on the sideline or doing very light work until he is fully ready to go (and then some).

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.