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Are the Redskins firing the first shot in 2017 Cousins negotiations?

Are the Redskins firing the first shot in 2017 Cousins negotiations?

One of the reasons that many advocated for the Redskins to get a long-term deal done with Kirk Cousins before last Friday’s deadline is that they will have to pay up eventually.

With supply and demand pushing quarterback contracts higher and higher, almost regardless of performance, the Redskins surely would have saved money by getting something done right now.

But another way to save money, a lot of money, is to draft another quarterback and have a starter who is playing on his rookie contract.

That could be Scot McCloughan’s plan, or at least his Plan B, according to Mike Florio, who penned the following during his fill-in stint writing the Monday Morning Quarterback column:

The team believes that, by 2017 or 2018, it will have found a quarterback on a slotted, low-money rookie four-year deal who can do what Cousins does, or close to it. That could be 2016 rookie sixth-rounder Nate Sudfeld, or it could be someone else. Regardless, Washington believes that someone younger, cheaper, and just as good if not better can be found, if Cousins still insists after 2016 or 2017 on breaking the bank.

RELATED: NO DEAL PUTS MORE PRESSURE ON COUSINS, FACT OR FICTION?

This jibes with the thinking of many critics of Cousins out there who believe that he is no more than a system quarterback, that many players could do what he did executing the short passes that are the staple of Jay Gruden’s offense.

After all when Gruden was the offensive coordinator of the Bengals they made the playoffs three straight years with second-round pick Andy Dalton under center. Dalton was able to parlay those accomplishments into a nice, but very team-friendly contract.

So why should McCloughan pay in excess of $20 million per year because of quarterback supply and demand if he believes that the supply of quarterbacks who can be successful in his coach’s system is greater than the demand for them?

Well, for one thing it creates a series of short-term solutions at a position that historically favors players who last over the long haul. Let’s say Sudfeld is the guy they are going to use to replace Cousins and the target is to have him ready in 2018.

By then Sudfeld will be two years into his rookie contract and he will have two years left. If he is successful the Redskins will have to either have to pay up or start the cycle again and find another quarterback. Maybe they can pull it off but it would fly in the face of recent NFL history.

And the Redskins have a lot of work to do to before they can win with a pedestrian quarterback. Those Bengals teams that won with Dalton never had a defense that ranked outside of the top 12 in points against and had a strong running game. As of now, the Redskins have neither.

This seems like a leak from the Redskins organization to send a message that the Redskins to believe they have alternatives to Cousins, that they don’t have to be held hostage to whatever he might demand in a contract next year or, if he is tagged again in 2017, in 2018.

If you don’t want to get taken to the cleaners in a negotiation you need to have alternatives. This is letting Cousins’ camp know that they are willing to go in another direction if they have to.

Now, saying you’re willing to put someone else behind center and actually having someone who is capable of handling the position are two different things. They may reach a true drop-dead deadline with Cousins and not have a superior or even an acceptable alternative to him and end up having to hand Cousins a blank check.

But that is a hypothetical that is a year or two down the road. For right now it’s a good strategy to have an alternative solution in mind if the quarterback does ask too much. And to let the other side in the coming negotiation know that you’re not afraid to use it.

RELATED: REDSKINS LOWBALLED COUSINS, BUT DID HE ASK FOR TOO MUCH?

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Is the Redskins’ starter at left guard already on the roster?

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USA Today Sports Images

Is the Redskins’ starter at left guard already on the roster?

The Redskins have checked off a number of their “needs” boxes that they had when the season began. But there are two holes that remain. 

One is nose tackle. Of course, that has been an issue since 2010. The Redskins may have obtained part of the solution when the brought back Phil Taylor last week and most believe that more help will come in the draft. 

The other need, the one at left guard, also may be a work in progress. Or, perhaps they think they have the solution on the depth chart. 

The team does not put out a depth chart before training camp but if they did distribute one right now they would have Arie Kouandjio as the starting left guard. That is cause for consternation among many Redskins fans and based on some of his past play the low confidence level is justified. 

Kouandjio was a fourth-round pick in 2015. He played sparingly his first two years in the league, getting two fill-in starts in 2016. In training camp last year, he spent a lot of time playing with the third team and it was no surprise when he was one of the final cuts. The team kept undrafted rookie Tyler Catalina instead. 

Kouandjio caught on with the Ravens’ practice squad but when injuries started to pile upon the O-line in Week 8, the Redskins brought him back. Two days after he was signed he played 22 snaps at left guard against the Cowboys. 

In all, he played in eight games, starting six of them. He allowed three sacks, which is the same number that Brandon Scherff gave up, but Scherff played about twice as many snaps. 

What about 2018? Word from John Keim is that Kouandjio has changed his training to focus on lower-body strength and agility. He knows that he has a chance to establish himself in the NFL and he’s doing what he can to take advantage of it. 

Another option at left guard is 31-year-old Tony Bergstrom, who was re-signed earlier this week. He has played for four teams in six years in the league and has started seven games including three at center for the Redskins. Like Kouandjio, he may not be the ideal solution but perhaps a passable option. 

The whole picture here could up be upended in the draft if the Redskins use one of their top picks on a guard. There has been plenty of chatter about Ohio State center Billy Price going to the Redskins in the second round. He may not last that long. If he’s there, however, the Redskins have to seriously consider him. 

The team may go through the draft and perhaps OTAs and minicamp with what they have now. If it doesn’t look like they have a starting caliber player in place they then could reach out to the free agent market and bring in someone like Alex Boone

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

 

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Redskins have invested in running backs, but the investments haven't paid off

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USA TODAY Sports

Redskins have invested in running backs, but the investments haven't paid off

The Redskins brass believes they need to upgrade the running back position. Jay Gruden and Doug Williams said so this offseason. 

That’s all well and good, but it’s time to dispel some myths regarding the run game. A popular misconception exists that the Redskins need to invest in the running back position to run the ball better. It's not correct. Washington has invested plenty at the position, it just hasn't worked.

Plenty of teams run the ball well without investing top draft picks in a running back. 

Kareem Hunt led the NFL in rushing last season as a rookie in Kansas City. Surely he was a Top 10 pick to make that kind of impact?

Nope. Hunt went in the 3rd round.

Nine players rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season. Of that group, less than half were first round draft picks. Two of the nine players went in the second round (Steelers' RB LeVeon Bell and Bills' RB LeSean McCoy), Hunt went in the 3rd, Chicago's Jordan Howard was a 5th-round pick and Denver's C.J. Anderson wasn't even drafted.

In 2016, four of the top five rushers in the league weren't first round picks. Yardage leader Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys was a first-rounder. After that it was Howard, 3rd-round pick DeMarco Murray (Titans), 5th-round pick Jay Ajayi (Dolphins) and Bell. David Johnson of the Cardinals compiled more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage that season, and he was a 3rd-round pick too.  

The point is running back talent lasts deep in the draft, and Redskins fans need to be aware of that. 

The ‘Skins' problem hasn’t been a lack of investment at running back either.

In the last three drafts, the team has taken a running back each year. Samaje Perine in 2017, Keith Marshall in 2016 and Matt Jones in 2015. 

While Marshall was a late-round flyer, Jones was a third-rounder and Perine selected in the fourth. The team has invested in running backs, but those investments haven’t paid off. 

It’s premature to dismiss Perine. He led the team in rushing last season, and showed improvement in spots. Could he make a jump in his second year? Sure. Also don't forget Robert Kelley, an undrafted running back that emerged in 2016 only to lose most of the 2017 season to injury. There's also Chris Thompson, an elite talent, though he's not a traditional running back.

The pick that really hurt the Redskins was Matt Jones. Drafted in the third round, higher than many expected for the former Florida Gator, he showed glimpses of playmaking ability as a rookie in 2015. 

Jones' emergence expedited the exit of Alfred Morris, the last consistent runner on a Redskins roster. But Jones' career went backwards in his second season with Washington. Fumbling and lack of willingness to play special teams forced Jones to the bench, and he was cut in 2017. He signed on with the Colts, but got five carries in five games, and was inactive much of the year. 

Morris, meanwhile, had a solid 2017 season playing for the Cowboys. When Cowboys star RB Elliott served his six-game suspension, Morris stepped in well. He averaged nearly 5 yards-per-carry for the season and torched the Redskins for 127 yards and a touchdown in a late November blowout. 

The point here isn't that the Redskins cannot or should not invest in a running back in next week's NFL Draft. 

It is important to point out that the team has, however, made investments in the last three drafts. And though Washington's attempt at finding a good running back in the third or fourth round hasn't paid off, that's not because it can't. Plenty of good running backs get drafted in the later rounds of the draft. 

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