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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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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!