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Redskins entering uncharted waters in Cousins contract situations

Redskins entering uncharted waters in Cousins contract situations

Last year, the Redskins gave Kirk Cousins the franchise tag on the last possible day. It looks like that is what will happen this year, with the deadline coming at 4 p.m. on Wednesday.

However, Cousins getting tagged and then signing the offer shortly after that was the end of the process. This year it looks like it could be the beginning of it. And when it starts, the Redskins will be going into territory where no NFL team has gone before.

It appears that the Redskins and Cousins will have difficulty coming to terms on a new contract. The gap between the team’s valuation of Cousins’ worth in a long-term contract and what Cousins believes he can get on the open market appears to be vast, perhaps several million dollars a year or more. And since Cousins likely will be on the open market in 2018 if he plays out this year on the tag there is no incentive for Cousins to compromise.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 4.0

This leaves the Redskins in a box. They can either pay Cousins a significant amount more than they think he is worth, a move that would hamper their ability to pay other players what they are worth. Or they can let another team pay him and move on at the quarterback position.

When faced with such choices in the past, NFL teams have just paid the quarterback whatever it took to get the deal done. The Redskins don’t appear to be inclined to do that.

Since it doesn’t look like they are willing to bite the bullet and pay Cousins they must figure out the end game. Their options are limited. Just letting him go into free agency does not appear to be a realistic way to go. They can franchise tag him, pay him $23.94 million in installments of $1.41 million due each of the 17 weeks of the regular season, and then figure out how to handle 2018 when it comes around. Next year they could let him walk, franchise tag him a third for whopping $34.5 million (unlikely) or give him the transition tag. That tag would be less expensive at $28.7 million and it would give the Redskins the right to match any offer sheet.

None of those 2018 options seems to be particularly attractive. The franchise tag is prohibitively expensive, the transition tag is only slightly less so but it gives the Redskins only the chance to match an offer made to Cousins without the option of taking draft pick compensation. And with either tag, Cousins could simply sign the tag, play out the year on it and become a free agent in 2019 with all tag options off the table.

Their other option is the tag and trade this year. This would entail Cousins getting tagged and then working out a trade that may bring less than the two first-round draft picks as compensation. In fact, it could bring a lot less.

No matter how they proceed, the Redskins will be in uncharted waters. No quarterback has played a second season on the franchise tag. And no quarterback who has thrown for over 4,000 yards in back-to-back seasons has played the next season for another team. So, either way the Redskins are doing something that never has been done before.

MORE REDSKINS: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice for his own good?

If the Redskins move on from Cousins, whether it’s this year or next, they will be saying no to the NFL conventional wisdom that says you pay whatever it takes to hold on to your quarterback. When, say, the Patriots do something unconventional or when the Seahawks don’t follow the NFL orthodoxy the assumption is that they know what they are doing and that everything will turn out fine.

However, the Redskins do not enjoy a sterling reputation for being smart operators. Their last major quarterback decision, trading three first-round picks and a second for Robert Griffin III, quickly turned into a disaster. They will get no benefit of the doubt no matter how they proceed here.

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.

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Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 23, four days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 10
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 31
—Training camp starts (7/27) 95
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 140

In search of someone, anyone, to stop the run

One of the areas the Redskins needed to improve last year was their rushing defense on first down. In 2015, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down. That was the worst performance in the league. It’s pretty tough to play defense when a handoff makes it second and five. The Saints, who had a historically bad defense that year, were second, fiving up 4.8 yards a pop.

Well, it was no better for the Redskins defense in 2016. Again, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down, again the worst performance in the league.  Remember, this is on first down, when teams are most likely to run.

The Redskins’ problems on third down were well known. They were dead last in the league allowing first downs on 46.6 percent of third-down attempts. For context, an average performance on third down is allowing about 38 percent and the best teams are around 35 percent.

That doesn’t tell the whole story, however. The Redskins weren’t very good at getting teams to third down. They allowed first downs on 33.8 percent of their opponents’ second-down plays. That put them in the bottom third of the league. Again, you don’t have to look too hard to connect the dots to link that back to the five yards per rushing play on first down. Second and five is a piece of cake most of the time.

You don’t need an advanced degree in statistical analysis to figure out that the Redskins defense isn’t going to get much better if they can’t stop teams from running the ball on first down.

It’s easy to point to the defensive line, which has not been very good, and say that the problem is there. That certainly has something to do with it. But the Redskins didn’t have a very good D-line in 2014 and they allowed 4.1 yards per first-down rushing attempt, a performance that was right at the league average.

The factor that was common in 2015 and 2016 and was different in 2014 was the defensive coordinator. It’s possible that opposing teams found a flaw to exploit in Joe Barry’s scheme that wasn’t there in Jim Haslett’s (which surely had flaws in other places).

But X’s and O’s can only get you so far. The Redskins will be looking to take a defensive lineman early and perhaps use an additional pick or two at the position later in the draft. While getting one who can rush the passer would be a plus, they need a run stuffer who can take snaps on first down and bottle up the ground game.

The focus in the draft will be on the first-round pick but, as has been discussed here many times, that pick is unlikely to be a defensive lineman. There isn’t likely to be one at 17 who would represent good value. That could mean that the Redskins’ second- or third-round pick, perhaps an interior lineman like Caleb Brantley of Florida, Larry Ogunjobi of Charlotte, or Montravius Adams of Auburn, is just as important to the team’s success as the first-round pick.

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.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 22, five days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 20
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 32
—Training camp starts (7/27) 96
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 141

The Redskins week that was

Redskins full 2017 schedule released—Even with the Caps and Wizards in full playoff mode, the DMV stops to take a look and see when the Redskins will be playing. The Thanksgiving game was surprising. It’s another working day but I worked at various places since I was 14 and last year was the first time I’ve had to work on Thanksgiving so I can’t complain too much about working two in a row. It’s a small price to pay for having the best job in the world.

Don't count out any RB for Redskins at 17—Yeah, I know that NFL teams aren’t supposed to take running backs in the first round any more. But that is one of those trends that comes and goes. In 2013 and 2014 there were no RBs taken in the first. Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott in the last couple of years began to shift the thinking. If the Redskins think that Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey can help them win games more than any other player on the board they should pull the trigger.

Rise of Patrick Mahomes could bring big payoff for Redskins—It seems likely that quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky will be taken before the Redskins pick at No. 17 goes on the clock. That means that two players in whom the Redskins might be interested will be available, pushed back by the quarter backs. Could Mahomes, out of Texas Tech, push a third player back to Washington. The buzz is that a team might grab him in the first half of the first round.

The Redskins' five best salary cap bargains for 2017—When I started pulling the numbers for this post I thought I’d find more key players with salaries of under $1 million. I only found three and one of them is the kicker. This means that they don’t have very many late-round or undrafted players who are contributing a lot of value. They need more out of players like Anthony Lanier, Matt Ioannidis and Maurice Harris. That is how a team thrives in the salary cap era. A couple of Saturday picks could make or break this draft.

Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often—There are a lot of ways the first 16 picks of this draft can work out. It seems almost certain that everyone’s favorite first-round pick, a stud defensive lineman, won’t be a realistic option on the board. This could send things in an odd direction for the Redskins. It’s fun to do a mock and I’ll do one or two more prior to draft day but there are too many variables to think that it has a high degree of accuracy. 

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.

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