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Trent Williams: 20 in 20

Trent Williams: 20 in 20

As we count down to the first game of the Redskins season, Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler are going to be looking at some of the big questions facing the team and attempting to look into their crystal balls and answer them.

Question 16: Can Trent Williams go from being a good left tackle to being a great one?

The background: Williams was Mike Shanahans first draft pick with the Redskins, the fourth overall selection in the 2010 draft. He has tremendous athletic ability for a man his size (6-5, 328) and he is a perfect fit for the zone-blocking scheme. When he is focused he can dominate the man across from him. Last year he was starting to round into form as a top left tackle and then the four-game substance abuse suspension hit. This year, he is the highest-paid player on the team with a salary of 11 million. Can he stay focused and continue to progress on the upward path he was on last year? Or will he coast on a contract that pays him 34 million over the next four years and be happy to be average?

Tandler: Williams knows that he is under the microscope. Both Mike and Kyle Shanahan have spoken repeatedly about the need for Williams to step up and be the player he is capable of being. He is tasked with guarding the blind side of the franchise, Robert Griffin III. With the array of top pass rushers the Redskins face in the division and in many of their other games, Williams has a great responsibility. The good thing is that, unlike a year ago, he is not talking about taking the game more seriously; he is doing it. Williams has been the star of training camp so far and his willingness to tough it out for a half against the Bears and Julius Peppers with a bone bruise in his foot shows a new level of commitment and maturity. As long as he stays quiet and continues to get it done, he should continue to progress towards becoming one of the best in the business.

El-Bashir: Williams hasnt been the best offensive lineman in training camp. Until he suffered a bruised bone in his left foot, the 6 foot 5, 328-pound left tackle had been the best player at Redskins Park during the first two weeks of practice. At 24, the former first round pick finally seems to get it after nearly losing everything to a four-game drug suspension last season.

Another slipup would result a year-long ban and the possible end to a promising career -- and it seems to have scared him straight. This, no doubt, is a critical season for Williams, and thus far hes approaching it as such. But the question is whether he can blossom into an elite tackle on par with Clevelands Joe Thomas or the New York Jets DBrickashaw Ferguson. Like most things when it comes to Williams, thats entirely up to whether he feels like doing it.

20 questions in 20 days
20 Aug.20Will Jammal Brown play this year?
19 Aug.21Will Chris Cooley make the team?
18 Aug. 22Can Brandon Meriweather get he job done at safety?
17 YesterdayIs Garon a No. 1 receiver?
16 TodayCan Trent Williams got from good to great?
15 TomorrowCan DeAngelo Hall be a defensive playmaker?
14 SundayCan Santana Moss regain his old form?

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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.

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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.

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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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Report: New team emerges with interest in Kirk Cousins beyond Redskins, 49ers

Report: New team emerges with interest in Kirk Cousins beyond Redskins, 49ers

The Redskins intend to put the franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins. While the argument can be made whether or not Washington should sign Cousins to a long-term deal, the tag clearly shows the organization wants to keep their passer, at least for the 2017 season.

For weeks it's also been clear that the 49ers, with Kyle Shanahan now in charge, also want Cousins. If a deal can be worked out depends on a number of factors, but many around the NFL perceived San Francisco to be in an optimal situation in their pursuit of Cousins since they did not have another team chasing the 'Skins signal caller, and it seemed playing for Shanahan was Cousins desired choice. 

That may no longer be the case.

Enter the Cleveland Browns, a team that's had less quarterback success than the Redskins over the last 20 years. In fact, last year the Browns rolled out former 'Skins star Robert Griffin III as their starting quarterback to open the season. It didn't go well. 

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Does it make sense for Cleveland to be interested in Cousins? Absolutely. He would stabilize their QB position and give fans something to cheer for.

Is Cousins worth trading the No. 1 overall pick for, a selection the Browns hold? Texas A&M's Myles Garrett seems like a sure thing at No. 1, though it's hard for an edge rusher to have as much impact as a passer.

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This could be just rumor mill running amok as NFL teams settle into Indianapolis for the combine. What it certainly is, however, is good news for the Redskins. 

If a second team emerges in trade talks for Cousins, whether it's Cleveland, Chicago, or another QB-less franchise, leverage turns back to Washington. A second trade partner allows the Washington brass to drive the price up for their passer, who it increasingly seems like would only be in Burgundy and Gold for the 2017 season and not long-term.

It's also good news for the Cousins camp, with a quarterback in pursuit of a nine-figure contract. The more teams that Cousins' representatives can talk to about terms and guaranteed money the better. 

Expect many more rumors and reports over the interest level in Cousins from around the league. To any NFL fan, it's obvious how important a quarterback is for even a modicum of success.

Considering that teams will select QBs in the first round of the draft knowing full-well it's just a lottery ticket, especially in the 2017 Draft, trading for Cousins could make sense for multiple franchises. Watching the QBs available this year, that sense of desperation will sink in for some teams, and Cousins' star will shine even brighter. 

The Redskins botched a good opportunity to sign Cousins to a long-term deal last season. This year, the organization's patience and the smell of QB desperation around the bottom 10 franchises in the NFL, might present more trade options than originally thought. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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