When free agency opens, many are expecting the Redskins to immediately start cleaning house along the offensive line, signing in larger linemen to match the big fellas that Jay Gruden had along his O-line in Cincinnati.
Others don’t see that happening.
John Keim of ESPN was asked how many starters would be returning on the line this year. He said he anticipates at least three of them coming back, maybe four. "I was told that there would not be wholesale changes on the line—they don’t view it the same way as, say, the fans,” he said. “And that I shouldn’t assume Gruden would automatically want bigger linemen.”
Even if there aren’t wholesale changes, there still could be a new starter or two on a line that has been set since the start of the 2013 season. Here are the possibilities:
—Promote from within: This is the ideal way for the Redskins or any NFL team to find new starters. The Redskins drafted guards Josh LeRibeus and Adam Gettis and tackle Tom Compton in 2012. None has played more than a handful of snaps and it is difficult to project any of them as a 2014 opening day starter right now. One thing to keep in mind here is that offensive line coach Chris Foerster was retained and he should know as well as anyone what kind of potential the three have.
—Free agency: The target that everyone seems to be talking about is Bengals tackle Anthony Collins. The 28-year-old has been in the league for six years and he has never started more than seven games in a season so it might be a stretch to say that they can just plug him in at right tackle and go from there. The Redskins have a familiarity advantage here, too, as Jay Gruden has worked with Collins for the last three years.
—The draft: With right tackle becoming nearly as important as left tackle in today’s NFL there is some thought that the Redskins could take a tackle early in the draft and make him the immediate starter. Perhaps Cyrus Kouankjio of Alabama could fill the bill here. Or they could bolster the guard spot with Cyril Richardson of Baylor, who could be available in the third round. There is some risk there are most of the better free agent options will be gone by the time the draft comes around so if they strike out there they could have some issues.
As should be expected when a team goes 8-7-1, there were plenty of good moments and a lot of frustrating times during the Redskins’ 2016 season. Over the next couple of weeks, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will take detailed looks at the 10 best plays of 2016 and, to present a more complete picture of the season, the 10 worst.
No. 6 worst play of 2016
Redskins at Cardinals Week 13
3:47 left in Q4, Cardinals ball at their own 34, 4th and 1, Cardinals leading 24-23
David Johnson up the middle to ARZ 48 for 14 yards (Josh Norman).
Related: A team to watch in the Cousins situation
Tandler: What's worse than a punch in the gut? A gut punch you don't see coming. The Redskins had pulled to within a point with plenty of time left to get a winning score—if the defense could get a stop. When Bruce Arians sent out his offense on fourth and one, the Redskins had to watch for Carson Palmer to try to draw them offside. In fact, Joe Barry told the Redskins not to expect a snap and to be sure not the jump. But they did snap the ball and Johnson ran for the easiest 14 yards up the gut you’ll ever see. The air was out of the Redskins’ comeback balloon and Palmer all but put it away a few plays later with a 42-yard TD pass to J.J. Nelson.
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Finlay: This is not the first 4th Down conversion on our list of bad plays, but perhaps the most important one. Washington desperately needed this stop, and the defense thought they had it on the 3rd down play prior. Only Arians did not flinch about going for it, much to Barry's surprise, and the 'Skins D had no shot at Johnson. This play illustrated the weakness of Washington's defensive front perhaps better than any other run all season.
10 best plays countdown
10 worst plays countdown
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Kirk Cousins' price tag just moved even higher with the news that he will replace Matt Ryan in the Pro Bowl. ESPN's John Keim reported the roster move first.
Ryan's Atlanta Falcons advanced to the Super Bowl on Sunday with a 44-21 dismantling of the Green Bay Packers. That victory means Ryan will not be available for the Pro Bowl, held this Sunday in Orlando. Cousins got his spot as an alternate.
Cousins gets the spot deservedly. This season he passed for 4,917 yards, completing 67 percent of his passes and throwing 25 TDs to 12 INTs. In two seasons since being named starter for the Redskins, Cousins has thrown for more than 9,000 yards.
The Pro Bowl nod for Cousins will only make the Redskins pending contract talks that much tougher. The quarterback played in 2016 under the franchise tag, which netted him nearly $20 million. This season Washington could again place Cousins on the franchise tag, with a price tag around $24 million. Both sides can still work for a long-term deal, though the value of that contract would likely soar past $100 million and closer to $120 million.
Some questions exist within the Redskins organization if that is too much money devoted to one player, even if it is a Pro Bowl quarterback.
It's fitting that Cousins is subbing in for Ryan, who has found much success playing under Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. All signs points to Shanahan taking over as the 49ers head coach after the Super Bowl, and a report emerged that San Francisco would make a strong push to obtain Cousins, either in free agency or via trade.
RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0
Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!