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Stability, But With Change

Stability, But With Change

You can reach me by email at rtandler@comcast.net

Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs’ Washington Redskins.

In an extended session with the press on Monday, Joe Gibbs talked in broad terms about the team's plans for the offseason. The following quotes are from articles by Nunyo Demasio in the Washington Post and by Jody Foldesy in the Washington Times.

After addressing his players yesterday, Gibbs today will begin a week-long analysis of the team. He intends to have a depth chart by Friday that will rank the players at each position, providing a blueprint for the offseason to owner Daniel Snyder and Vice President Vinny Cerrato.Right off the bat this is not good news. Not the fact that Gibbs and company are breaking down the team's personnel strengths and weaknesses; that's standard operating procedure in the NFL. No, it's the fact that the blueprint will be presented to the tag team of Snyder and Cerrato. It doesn't appear that a real NFL General Manager will be shepherding the team through the ’05 offseason.

Among the issues Gibbs addressed in wide-ranging comments was the status of left tackle Chris Samuels, whose hefty contract has created speculation about his future. Building on complimentary quotes that followed Sunday's 21-18 win over the Minnesota Vikings, Gibbs made clear that Samuels will be around next season.

"Chris Samuels played his rear off," Gibbs said. "We're going to respect that. We think a lot of Chris Samuels. Chris Samuels is going to be a part of this thing. We just need to get [a contract extension] worked out."

It’s good that Gibbs added that final qualifier. If there is no extension worked out, there would be cap charges for Samuels of some $9.6 million next year and of over $11 million in 2006. Those are hard numbers to swallow for any player, much less a solid but not stellar offensive tackle.

Wideout Rod Gardner had his worst season, and the trade rumors that have followed him in his Redskins career may finally become fact.

It’s official—Rod Gardner is a bust. His nickname on the team is “50/50”, based on his chances of catching a given pass. The odds of him remaining a Redskin seem to be considerably longer than that.

A replacement for Garnder could come via the NFL draft. Washington will draft ninth in the first round and receivers such as Michigan’s Braylon Edwards and former USC receiver Mike Williams are likely to be available and attractive at that spot.

(Linebacker Antonio) Pierce remains an important part of Washington's plans, and he said he has a meeting scheduled with coaches this week to discuss his future. The Redskins have been working to retain Pierce for several months, but he recently switched agents and probably won't sign for at least a few more weeks.It’s possible that Pierce canned his old agent because he wasn’t getting a deal with the Redskins done quickly enough. On the proverbial other hand, it could be that Pierce thought that his former agent wasn’t being forceful enough with the team and wanted the player to sign a deal for far less than his market value. Stay tuned.

Holding a more uncertain future is cornerback Fred Smoot, whose contract talks are at an impasse. Although Gibbs said the club wants to keep Smoot, the coach also made clear there's a maximum price.

"We've got a certain number of bucks to spend," Gibbs said. "My motivation is the core group. ... There may come a situation, hopefully not, where we've got to look out for the core group. If one person ... becomes unreasonable, we've got to protect the core group."


The emphasis was added to that last part of the quote since gives a lot of credence to reports that Smoot is looking for guaranteed money in the neighborhood of $15 million. That’s a lot for a corner who has never been to a Pro Bowl and who never intercepted more than five passes in a season despite playing opposite Champ Bailey for his whole career. For that matter, so is $10 or $11 million that the Redskins reportedly are offering. According to Cerrato, the offer on the table would make Smoot one of the 10 highest-paid corners in the league. Clearly, Smoot is a member of the “core group” that Gibbs would like to protect, but not at any cost. Again, stay tuned.

While in his last meeting with the players Gibbs promised a minimum of change in the coaching staff and in the roster. Still, Gibbs thinks that the team has room to maneuver if it wants to:

Complimenting owner Dan Snyder on his handling of the books and calling the club's cap cushion "substantial," Gibbs added: "We kind of know where we are. Obviously you project where the cap's going to be. And then [there are things] we can do to free up money in there. We've got a great plan."

The offseason retooling will involve more than personnel. Gibbs plans to look at his offensive schemes and fix whatever was broken enough to cause the team to rank 31st in the NFL in scoring with 240 points. "More than anything, we need to take a long, hard look at everything on offense," Gibbs said. "We're going to take it all apart and see if there's a way to upgrade what we're doing."Gibbs certainly wouldn’t be afraid to play the copycat game that is so popular in the NFL. "We're constantly looking to steal, borrow, whatever, what somebody else is doing," he said. A lot said by Gibbs in the 55-minute session, but not much concrete. The players seem to be as much in the dark about what may happen as the rest of us are. Said Lavar Arrington: I don't know. I'm part of the Redskins organization. That means anything can happen during the offseason.

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Projecting the Redskins 2017 roster—Offense

Projecting the Redskins 2017 roster—Offense

The Redskins are looking at potential free agents and continuing with the draft process as they try to move team from residing in the middle of the pack in the NFL to becoming annual playoff contenders.

The process is all about trying to build a solid 53-man depth chart.

Let’s get out the crystal ball and see what that depth chart might look like.

Today we’ll look at the offense and project the defense in the next couple of days.

*Pending unrestricted free agent

— Quarterback: Kirk Cousins*
Backups: Colt McCoy, Nate Sudfeld

It’s not a sure thing that Kirk Cousins will be back under center but it’s very much more likely than not, either with a new long-term contract or via the franchise tag. McCoy is under contract and will continue to be the backup. I think they are happy with Sudfeld as their developmental guy although I wouldn’t be shocked if Scot McCloughan decided that a quarterback is the best available player sometime in the fifth round in April.

RELATED: REDSKINS RESUME - MATT CAVANAUGH

— Running backs: Rob Kelley
Backups: Matt Jones, Chris Thompson, draft pick

Gruden gave Kelley a vote of confidence in his final press conference but that could be fluid. If Jones can get things straight between his ears he has the physical tools to be a very good running back but they can’t count on that. There is some talk that the Redskins will look to take a back in the middle rounds if they can find one with some impact.

— Wide receivers: Pierre Garçon*, Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder (slot receiver),
Backups: Ryan Grant, Maurice Harris

Right now, it looks like it’s slightly better than 50-50 that Garçon will be back. If he’s not they will have to sign a starter in free agency; as we found out last year, you can’t count on a rookie receiver to produce, even if you take one high in the draft. If McCloughan does take a receiver in the later stages of the draft he likely will replace Grant, not Harris.

More Redskins: THE REDSKINS' WEEK THAT WAS

— Tight end: Jordan Reed
Backups: Vernon Davis*, Niles Paul

It seems likely that Davis will re-sign, although since it could be his last NFL contract I don’t think he will give the Redskins much of a hometown discount. The organization will pay, however, as it is apparent that the need a quality backup for Reed. I’m on the fence about Paul. On the one hand, I could see the organization looking for an alternative since he has finished each of the last two seasons on injured reserve. But he’s the kind of guy that McCloughan likes to have on the team.

— Offensive line: LT Trent Williams, LG Shawn Lauvao, C Spencer Long, RG Brandon Scherff, RT Morgan Moses
Backups: G Arie Kouandjio, T Ty Nsekhe, C John Sullivan*, 1-2 free agents/draft picks

Could it be that the Redskins are nearly set on the O-line with the exception of some parts further down the depth chart? Nsekhe is a restricted free agent and he will be back either on the tag or with a new contract. Maybe Kouandjio can challenge Lauvao for the starting job but both are likely to be on the 53. If they move on from Kory Lichtensteiger to save $3.5 million in cap room and if Sullivan opts to try to find a starting job elsewhere they could find a veteran center to back up Long.

RELATED: REDSKINS MOST IMPORTANT FREE AGENTS

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Need to Know: Redskins' cap room could be a dilemma for McCloughan

Need to Know: Redskins' cap room could be a dilemma for McCloughan

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, January 16, 52 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline

Days until:
NFL franchise tag deadline 44
NFL draft 101
First Sunday of 2017 season 237

A six pack of thoughts to start out the week

1. I think that by the end of the week the Redskins will have two new coordinators. It looks like Matt Cavanaugh will be the offensive coordinator. Haven’t heard why Bill Callahan isn’t getting the nod; it’s possible that he likes what he’s doing now and he’s getting paid as well as many coordinators.

2.  For a quick game with the $100 in imaginary casino chips on the defensive coordinator candidates, I’ll make Greg Manusky the favorite at $40 with Mike Pettine right behind him at $35. I’ll put $10 of the rest on Gus Bradley—we’ve heard of an interview with the Chargers but not anything like a hiring—and $15 on the field. The situation is fluid but that's the way it looks right now. 

Related: Redskins offensive coordinator resume: Matt Cavanaugh

3. On November 21, after the results of Week 11, the Redskins were 2.5 games ahead of the Packers. They were also a half-game better than of the Falcons. Those two teams are now playing for the NFC title. It’s not how you start, or even how you do in the middle of the season. It’s how you finish.

4. I’m not much of a hockey guy but I think I’ve got to get down to the Verizon Center to see the Caps. They are blazing hot and you can tell it’s a great atmosphere at the VC.

5. I have a feeling that an announcement about a new stadium for the Redskins is going to happen sometime in the next few months. Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe can’t run again; he is out of office about a year from today. He’s going to want a legacy item and a state of the art stadium in the commonwealth would fill the bill. The process of approval, financing, and construction will take up most or all of the 10 years that remains on the FedEx Field lease.

More Redskins: The Redskins week that was

6. Normally having a lot of cap space to work with is a good thing but it may not be for Scot McCloughan this year. If the Redskins trim some veterans from the payroll they could go into free agency with around $70 million to spend. McCloughan would prefer to build through the draft. But the current situation almost forces the Redskins to spend. McCloughan took some heat for going into the 2016 season with $15 million in cap space and some unfilled needs on the defensive line and at safety. If they have issues again in 2017 and there is, say, $30 million just sitting there the noise will get louder. And it won’t just be coming from fans and the media; plenty of it will come from the offices of Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder.

Tandler on Twitter

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Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.