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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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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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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.