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Who will be the Redskins' core defensive players three years from now?

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Who will be the Redskins' core defensive players three years from now?

Just before training camp last year, I took a stab at figuring out who on the Redskins roster would still be with the team and contributing in the year 2020. Now that the season is over, let’s revisit that look, move it up to 2021, and see how much the picture has changed. I looked at the offense earlier, the defense is up today.

The terms used here are mostly self-explanatory, if you want details you can look at this post from a couple of years ago.  

Defense (age as of Week 1 2021)

Potential blue-chip players: Jonathan Allen (26)
Changes from last prediction: Removed Josh Norman (33)

Allen was already playing well and getting better when a Week 6 Lisfranc injury ended his rookie season. He will continue to improve.

Norman will be a free agent in 2021. He still could be an effective contributor in Washington or elsewhere but his days as a blue-chip player likely will be over.

MORE REDSKINS: WHAT CAN THE REDSKINS LEARN FROM THE PLAYOFFS?

This is a pretty thin group of blue-chip defenders and even Allen has question marks until he puts at least two fully healthy seasons on his NFL resume.

Solid starters: Ryan Kerrigan (33), D. J. Swearinger (30), Kendall Fuller (26), Preston Smith (28), Matt Ioannidis (27), Anthony Lanier (28)
Changes: Added Fuller, Smith, Ioannidis, Lanier, removed Su’a Cravens, Bashaud Breeland, Ryan Anderson (27), Zach Brown (31)

Age obviously could be an issue with Kerrigan and Swearinger. Kerrigan’s career has the look of one of a player who can still play well into his mid-30’s but you never know. Swearinger will just be hitting football middle age, but the high-speed hits delivered by safeties tend to shorten careers.

The others will just be hitting the primes of their careers in 2021. Ioannidis should continue to improve and Lanier needs to play better against the run to be a starter. If Smith can perform at his highest level consistently, he could edge up towards blue-chip territory.

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Cravens is unlikely to return after his rocky departure a week before the 2017 season. The chances are very good that Breeland will be gone in free agency in March. We really didn’t see enough from Anderson to figure out anything about his future, and while it’s possible that Brown will re-sign, I don’t see him still being here in 2021.

Potential starters: Trent Murphy (31), Quinton Dunbar (29), Fabian Moreau (27), Montae Nicholson (25)
Changes: Added Dunbar, Moreau, Nicholson, moved up Smith, Fuller, removed Mason Foster (32), Will Compton (31)

The most potential in this group comes from Nicholson and Moreau. Nicholson was headed to being in the “solid starters” group before his season was cut short with a concussion. He doesn’t have a bad injury history, as he missed just one game in his last two seasons at Michigan State, so there is reason to believe that he can stay healthy. Moreau has speed and a physical style and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him starting before the 2018 season is over.

If Preston Smith leaves as a free agent, Murphy could start on the edge. It seems likely that Dunbar will still be around and he could be a starter or a reserve.

There is one other group of players that is hard to classify based on a small sample size. We didn’t see enough out of rookies Anderson, Josh Holsey, Josh Harvey-Clemons to plot a career arc for them with any degree of reliability. Deshazor Everett will be 29 in 2021, and although right now he seems to be a special team player and spot starter, he could catch on and become a starter.

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.

 

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

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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

In case you missed it

  

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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