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The Redskins have major needs in the middle of their defense

The Redskins have major needs in the middle of their defense

A Washington Post report cleared up some confusion and confirmed that Brandon Meriweather’s contract does void five days after the Super Bowl, making the Redskins’ starting safety an unrestricted free agent starting March 11. Let’s take a look at what this means for the Redskins’ salary cap and their depth chart.

The cap implications are straightforward. Meriweather was slated to make a salary of $3 million and he had a $400,000 bonus proration to make his cap number $3.4 million. When his contract voids, the $3 million will come off of the books but dead cap totaling $1.2 million will accelerate to this season. That leaves a net savings of $2.2 million.

Add that to the previous estimate of cap space and it gives the Redskins around $30 million in cap space for 2014. That number could increase further if the NFLPA decides to exercise an option that would add another $2 million to the cap. The Redskins also could create more room by releasing some veteran players.

A look at the depth chart shows very little depth left at safety. Meriweather, Reed Doughty, and E. J. Biggers, who combed to start most of the games at safety in 2013, are all free agents. Bacarri Rambo is the most experienced returning safety and the rookie had all of three starts and 340 defensive snaps in 2013. He struggles and was benched. Jose Gumbs started one game and played 84 snaps. Trenton Robinson, picked up during the season mostly to try to bolster special teams, played 34 snaps.

The best of the lot could be Phillip Thomas, last year’s fourth-round draft pick. But he spent the entire season on injured reserve after suffering a Lisfranc injury in the preseason. Even before he got injured he didn’t look like someone the team could count on to be a starter this year.

They almost have to jump into the free agent market to get immediate help while Thomas, Gumbs, Rambo and perhaps another draft pick get a chance to develop. The top names like Jairus Byrd of the Bills and Buffalo’s T. J. Ward are likely to cost too much. Last week we looked at a few names of some more moderately-priced options including Michael Mitchell of the Panthers and Chris Clemons of the Dolphins.

They could bring back Meriweather and Doughty but both of them are now on the wrong side of 30 and the team could use an upgrade.

But they have to do something. Looking at the big picture, the Redskins now have a huge hole in the middle of their defense. In addition to the situation at safety, neither of last year’s starting inside linebackers is under contract. London Fletcher is retiring and Perry Riley is a free agent. Although it seem likely that Riley will be back in the fold, how Bruce Allen handles this area will go a long way towards determining how successful the team will be in Jay Gruden’s first year on the job.

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You probably don't realize how effective Kirk Cousins is as a runner

You probably don't realize how effective Kirk Cousins is as a runner

Back at the 2012 NFL Combine, Kirk Cousins ran his 40-yard dash in 4.84 seconds.

Now, as far as QB 40-yard dashes go, that's not a bad number at all, but it's definitely not blazing, either. Defensive lineman Fletcher Cox, for example, ran his in 4.77 seconds that same year (while weighing 84 pounds heavier than the Michigan State signal caller), and 13 out of the 20 passers invited to the event topped Cousins' time.

That, plus the facts that Cousins isn't physically imposing and he clearly prefers to operate within the safe confines of the pocket, would lead you to believe that he's not much of a threat as a runner. But a stat — and this stat is far from an advanced one or a hidden one — indicates otherwise.

MORE: PLAYING OVER/UNDER ON SOME KEY KIRK COUSINS STATS

Over the last two seasons, Cousins has the third-most rushing touchdowns amongst quarterbacks. Cam Newton has 15 (not surprising), Tyrod Taylor checks in with 10 (also not surprising), and then there's Cousins, who rushed for nine scores in 2015 and 2016, which is good enough for a bronze medal on this particular podium (that's quite surprising).

Washington's starter has actually found the end zone with his legs more than peers like Andy Dalton (7), Alex Smith (7) and Aaron Rodgers (5) since taking over the primary gig in D.C., and all of those guys have reputations as runners that exceed Cousins'.

In fact, no one on the Burgundy and Gold has crossed the goal line as a ball-carrier more than the 28-year-old in the past 32 contests; Rob Kelley and Matt Jones are both three short of the man who lines up in front of them on Sundays.

Of course, Cousins isn't going to flatten defenders like Newton does, and he won't run around them like Taylor does. He also won't rip off big-gainers down the sideline when opposing team turns their back on him in man coverage.

But as the following highlights show, he hasn't just cashed in on one-yard sneaks the last couple of seasons, either:

All three of those plays were designed runs, and Cousins, while not exactly resembling Madden 2004 Michael Vickexecuted them perfectly. He doesn't really rack up yards — the numbers vary depending on which site you use, but the consensus is he's picked up about 150 total since 2015 — but Jay Gruden and Co. have developed a tremendous feel of when to use Cousins' feet instead of his arm in the red zone.

Sure, he's not going to show up on your Twitter timeline juking out a corner, and he won't scamper for much more than 10 yards at a time. But in a few games in 2017, Kirk Cousins is going to finish a drive with an impressive touchdown run instead of a throw, and that might shock you — even though it really shouldn't.

RELATED: RANKING THE REDSKINS ROSTER FROM BOTTOM TO TOP

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Cousins talk, back end of D

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Cousins talk, back end of D

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, July 22, five days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 202 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 50 days.

Days until:

—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 19
—Preseason vs. Packers at FedEx Field (8/19) 28
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 42

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics from the past week on www.CSNmidatlantic.com and on www.RealRedskins.com.

What would a fair Redskins contract offer to Kirk Cousins look like?  As it turns out, the offer the Redskins made fell below “fair” territory. But perhaps they recognized that a deal never was going to get done, not this year anyway. Cousins is content to see things unfold in 2017 and decide on a longer-term destination next year. So, the team’s offer was not high enough but there really wasn’t an offer that was going to be sufficient.

Cousins explains why he's not offended by Redskins statement—Bruce Allen raised plenty of eyebrows by detailing some of the team’s contract offer in a statement. Clearly the intent of the statement, which revealed some details that weren’t very impressive under closer inspection, was designed to turn public opinion in their favor. Cousins, appearing on the radio the next day, didn’t have a problem with it and said that Allen had told him that he would do it. As expected, plenty of fans and media types decided to be outraged in his place.

Redskins have plenty of 2018 cap room for possible Kirk Cousins offer—With the focus turning to 2018, the fact that the team will have about $60 million in cap space becomes relevant. It’s enough to give him the $35 million franchise tag and perhaps enough to match a front-loaded offer sheet if the Redskins use the transition tag. But the cautionary word is that they have at least a dozen starters and key contributors who also are set to be free agents next year. They will have to find money for them or their replacements somewhere.

Redskins depth chart preview--Safety—Cousins talk dominated the week but other topics did draw plenty of interest. The back end of the defense, with Su’a Cravens converting from linebacker and free agent D. J. Swearinger moving from being mostly a strong safety to playing free, will be under the microscope this year. Whether the defense gets better may hinge on the safety position. 

11 predictions for the 2017 Redskins offense—Does Trent Williams make the All-Pro team? How many yards for Rob Kelley? One prediction for each projected offensive starter here including how many non-receiving touchdowns for Jamison Crowder.

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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