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Beyond Kirk Cousins, some large questions remain for Redskins

Beyond Kirk Cousins, some large questions remain for Redskins

What happens next with Kirk Cousins will determine much of the Redskins focus for 2018, but there are plenty of other issues the team might look to resolve in the remaining four games of 2017. 

Like what? Let's take a look:

  • There are no linebackers - A report showed that the Redskins are talking with Zach Brown about a contract extension, but as of right now, the 2018 depth chart at inside linebacker looks barren for Washington. Brown, Mason Foster and Will Compton all have expiring contracts once the 2017 season ends. As it stands today, the Redskins have Josh Harvery-Clemons and Martrell Spaight under contract next season. The Redskins have enough tape on Spaight to know what he is as a player, a complementary piece, not an every down player. Could Harvey-Clemons develop into something more? Maybe, but that would be a big gamble to count on for next season. Obviously, much can happen in the offseason, and it's possible one or both of Compton and Foster return. They're well-liked by the staff and front office. Negotiations with Brown will be most interesting, as the NFL's leading tackler will be looking for at least $20 million guaranteed in a long-term deal. Can the Redskins afford that? Much of that will be decided by what happens with Cousins. 
     
  • What happens at left guard? Since Shawn Lauvao signed with the Redskins in 2014, he's started 41 games. His performance has been largely uneven, and with an expiring contract after this year and his current spot on  injured reserve (for the second time in three seasons) few would expect Lauvao to return next year. The question then becomes if Washington can make Ty Nsekhe work at left guard, as the big man will be a restricted free agent in 2018. If not Nsekhe, does Washington look to bring back Spencer Long and have him play guard with Chase Roullier at center? The Redskins, like every NFL team, will look to add depth to their offensive line next offseason. They might need to add a starter as well. 
     
  • Who's number 1? The Redskins rolled the dice a bit in the 2017 offseason, allowing trusted veteran wideouts DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon walk via free agency. Instead, the team expected increased production from 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson and free agent addition Terrelle Pryor. It hasn't worked. Pryor had one TD catch in nine games and is now on injured reserve. Doctson has shown some extremely encouraging signs, but is it enough to assume he can be a No. 1 receiver next season? Maybe. Can the Redskins count on that? Probably not. Now would be the time for the Redskins to force feed Doctson to get a better understanding of his ability. The second-year WR from TCU has not gotten more than seven targets in a game all season. Jay Gruden would be wise to get Doctson double-digit targets in each of the final four games of the year to get a full evaluation.
     
  • Be prepared - Washington faces losing two key defensive free agents this offseason. One name you know: Bashaud Breeland. The other you might have forgotten: Trent Murphy. Breeland is having a strong 2017, and while it would be a luxury to bring him back in 2018, the math will be tough. The Redskins are on the hook for $17 million due to Josh Norman and depending what type of contract Breeland commands in free agency, it would be hard to commit $30 million or so to two cornerbacks. Behind Breeland, the Redskins have Kendall Fuller and Fabian Moreau. Fuller proved this season he's a strong player in the slot and should be able to move outside. Is Moreau ready to play nickel corner? That remains a question. Murphy is a different situation. Last year he had nine sacks, second most on the team, and looked poised for a big season this fall before a knee injury in training camp. Junior Galette will be a free agent after this year, and Preston Smith will be in the final year of his rookie deal in 2018. It will be tough to gauge the market for Murphy after not playing all of 2017, but teams will be interested in the 2013 second-round pick. There is also 2017 second-round pick Ryan Anderson, who has shown very little as a rookie. Perhaps if he can finish the season strong, the Redskins front office will have a better clue what to do in the offseason at outside linebacker. 
     

Plenty more questions remain, none bigger than quarterback, but that will get investigated. Plenty. 

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Costly cornerbacks, offseason blueprint

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USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Costly cornerbacks, offseason blueprint

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 17, 25 days before NFL free agency starts.

The Redskin week that was

My weekly look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics on RealRedskins.com and NBCSportsWashington.com.

An offseason blueprint for the Redskins—Should the Redskins focus their free agency money on keeping their own? In addition to unrestricted free agents Zach Brown and Trent Murphy, they need to consider extensions for Brandon Scherff, Preston Smith, and Jamison Crowder. That could chew up a bunch of the approximately $31 million of cap space that they have. They may get some help on the market but most of their improvement should come from the draft and from within.

Redskins offseason will hit warp speed soon—With the exception of the Alex Smith trade, which actually hasn’t happened yet, there hasn’t been much going on with the Redskins. That is going to change soon, check out the post for the calendar and how the events matter for the Redskins.

No mixed messages from Alex Smith—In a radio interview, Alex Smith said that he was “jacked” to be a part of the Redskins. Now, the phrase often repeated here is that you shouldn’t listen to what they say, you should watch what they do. And the moment that he signs the reported four-year extension that he has negotiated with the team, a deal that likely would put him in Washington for the rest of his career, we will see his actions backing up his words. Then we will know.

What we know, and what we think, of the Su'a Cravens situation—This will be a true test of the acumen of the front office. It’s a very tricky situation. The Redskins have to decide if they want to keep Cravens. Should they decide to keep him, there will be a lot of smoothing over of ruffled feelings that would need to be done over and trust in Cravens would have to be restored. If they don’t want him around, they have to make it look like they are willing to go into the season with him in order to be able to trade him. Otherwise, teams may just wait for them to cut him and sign him as a free agent. Again, don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do.

Tweet of the week

Quarterback is not the only NFL position with rising salaries. The players teams hire to try to stop opposing QBs, cornerbacks, are getting expensive, too. Bashaud Breeland is a good cornerback, not a great one. His coverage skills are solid, he’s a good team player (if a bit of a hothead at times) and his work ethic is not questioned. For a fourth-round pick who everybody thought left Clemson a year too early, he has done well for himself But he hasn’t made a Pro Bowl and he hasn’t even come close enough to be considered a snub. Breeland has eight interceptions in four years in the league with a high of three in 2016.

The price tag for good at cornerback is likely to be in the vicinity of $10 million per season. And good for him if he gets it. But with the Redskins employing Josh Norman, who has cap hits in the range of $14.5 million-$16.9 million over the next three years, it would be difficult to fit him in. Truth be told, Breeland has probably been destined to leave as a free agent ever since Norman signed his contract in April of 2016.

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

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 12
—NFL Draft (4/26) 68
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 204

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Cousins would reportedly look to file grievance if Redskins use franchise tag on him

Cousins would reportedly look to file grievance if Redskins use franchise tag on him

The Redskins might try to franchise tag quarterback Kirk Cousins to try to get some compensation for him as he leaves. But Cousins’ camp might not let that happen without a fight.

According to Albert Breer of the MMQB, Cousins might file a grievance if he is tagged, saying that the Redskins would be violating the spirit of the rules regarding the use of the franchise tag. He would be seeking to have the tag voided because the team clearly isn ’t interested in reaching a long-term deal with him given the acquisition of Alex Smith. The tag is supposed to be used to buy time to get an agreement done, not to squat on a player’s rights in order to trade him.

There is precedent for the tag being used in order to facilitate a trade. In 2009, the Patriots tagged quarterback Matt Cassel. They clearly had no intention of keeping him as they had Tom Brady on the roster. But New England pulled it off, shipping Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs for a second-round pick.

But it is up to the player to object to being tagged and for whatever reason Cassel and his agent went along with the tag and trade rather than fighting for free agency.

It looks like Cousins ’camp won’t go as quietly.

It’s up to the Redskins to make the first move. The window to be able to tag a player opens on Tuesday with the deadline coming on March 6. We will see how things play out after that.

MORE REDSKINS: THE EXPECTATIONS GAME

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page

Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS

and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS