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Need to Know: Who are the top 2017 Redskins free agents?

Need to Know: Who are the top 2017 Redskins free agents?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, February 22, two days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Top five 2017 free agents

As the Redskins prepare to put the current draft class under the microscope at the NFL Combine and continue to make preparations for free agency it helps to be reminded that Scot McCloughan and company are playing three-dimensional chess. They much be mindful of the players who have contracts expiring a year from now. Here are the top five Redskins who will be free agents in 2017.

TE Jordan Reed—If the guy throwing him the ball wasn’t the team’s offensive MVP then Reed was. There has been plenty of talk about a contract extension for Reed at some point before the season starts. But that has been mostly fan and media chatter. It makes sense to lock him up now but we will see how the Redskins’ honchos proceed.

WR Pierre Garçon—If you take Garçon and Reed out of the lineup you’re missing the recipients of 42 percent of Kirk Cousins’ 2015 completions. Garçon will be 30, an age where his production will start to slide but he probably won’t be inclined to offer a discount of either the hometown or senior citizen variety.

WR DeSean Jackson—He was the prime receiver in 2014 and important cog when healthy last year. It will be interesting to see if he sets aside the reality TV series and becomes more serious about working to stay in shape and attending OTAs. Assuming he stays around this season—which seems likely but is not a given—his chances of being on the field in Washington in 2017 may well depend on what he does off the field this year. (Note: On paper Jackson is signed through 2017 but the last year of the deal will void after the season and he will be a free agent.)

DE Chris Baker—He was perhaps the team’s best defensive player last year, posting six sacks and being a consistently disruptive force. Although it seems likely that he would be amenable to returning, he will be going into his age 30 season and a big 2016 will mean he will be looking at his last chance at a big payday.

LS Nick Sundburg—He has been as reliable as they come since joining the Redskins in 2010. He seems to have cured the injury bug that cost him a combined 19 games in 2012-2013. In 2017 Sundberg will be entering his age 30 seasons and looking at it right now it seems likely that he will return.

Also slated to be unrestricted free agents in 2017: ILB Perry Riley, S Jeron Johnson, ILB Adam Hayward

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 43 days ago. It will be about 202 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 2; NFL free agency starts 16; 2016 NFL draft 66

In case you missed it

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Jay Gruden disappointed by firing of Scot McCloughan, yet optimistic for 2017

Jay Gruden disappointed by firing of Scot McCloughan, yet optimistic for 2017

It's never easy to say goodbye to a well-liked coworker, especially when that employee has been fired. In the NFL, that's no different. Redskins head coach Jay Gruden opened up about the departure of former GM Scot McCloughan while speaking with reporters at the NFL Owners Meetings in Phoenix.

"I was disappointed. I liked Scot. I liked working with Scot. He’s a good person, and a great talent evaluator," Gruden said.

The highly publicized demise of McCloughan as Redskins general manager made plenty of headlines, but as far the organization goes, Gruden believes the team is still in good shape.

"Any time you lose somebody that you become close with, whether it’s a coach or a GM or a player it's disappointing but at the end of the day in pro football, anybody that’s been around it long enough understands, change is going to happen and you have to react and adjust to it and move forward with a positive outlook," Gruden said.

Part of that positive outlook stems from moves the team has made this offseason.

Offensively the franchise brought in a big new weapon in receiver Terrelle Pryor. Paired with 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson, assuming he's healthy, the Redskins could have two dynamic pass catchers to offset the loss of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. On the defensive line, Gruden thinks new players Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee can emerge as solid players with high upside. Further, Gruden made clear he thinks new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula will make the players on the 'Skins roster into better defensive linemen.

For many fans it's hard to remain optimistic after the controversy that surrounded McCloughan's ouster, but on the field, there's little reason to expect the 'Skins to slide.

In 2016, the team finished one game out of a playoff berth, losing a disappointing final game to the Giants to seal that fate. In 2017, Gruden expects to be right back in the playoff hunt.

"I think everybody in this organization has a positive outlook," Gruden said. "We are going to miss Scot, obviously, but we’re also positive that we can get things we need to get done to be successful."

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Peter King, Ian Rapoport say Redskins can't afford to let Kirk Cousins get away

Peter King, Ian Rapoport say Redskins can't afford to let Kirk Cousins get away

After he signed the franchise tag a couple of weeks ago, the speculation, rumors and, for some fans, panic around Kirk Cousins has largely quieted down.

The Redskins can ink their quarterback to a long-term deal any time between now and July 15, but talks may not pick up until summer rolls around. A trade can also occur, but no recent reports have indicated that one is in the works.

Therefore, it currently looks like Cousins and the franchise that drafted him back in 2012 will be together for at least one more season. And according to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, that's a wise choice by the Burgundy and Gold.

"I think they did the absolute right thing in making sure Kirk Cousins is gonna be their quarterback this year," King told CSN Redskins Insider JP Finlay at the NFL owner's meetings in Phoenix. "I absolutely, unequivocally would not trade him. That's a white flag." 

As for why King wouldn't move on from No. 8, his explanation was very simple.

"You don't get rid of a guy who's got the second-most passing yards in football over the last two years," he said.

MORE REDSKINS: WILL JAY GRUDEN'S ROLE IN DECISION-MAKING EXPAND THIS YEAR?

Finlay also gathered input on the Redskins' and Cousins' relationship from the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, who's another major voice in the league's media. Rapoport first stated that he would be "beyond stunned" if the 28-year-old was not in D.C. for the 2017 campaign and then laid out how he envisions the year unfolding.

"I do not believe he will sign the extension before the season," he said. "So, he's going to go out there, play on another one-year deal, bet on himself like he did last year. You hope it's the same thing. And then we'll see, because I know there's some talk about him not signing an extension — I'm not so sure about that. Everyone has a price, right?"

"If they offer him $25 [million] a year, Andrew Luck's deal, I would imagine plans would change pretty quickly, right?" Rapoport continued. "So you get to the end of the season, assess where you are, assess the value and see if you can make a business deal. It's terrible to have to pay so much money to your quarterback. The only worse thing is not being able to pay so much money to your quarterback." 

King and Rapoport are clearly both in agreement that losing their rising signal caller would be a huge blow to the Redskins. But while King says Washington should keep Cousins because of his production, Rapoport took a different route when concluding how the negotiations will end up.

"Really good quarterbacks never leave their team. It just never happens," he said. "So I would think there's a way to work this out."

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