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Are the Redskins set at outside linebacker?

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Are the Redskins set at outside linebacker?

In less than a year, the Redskins completed a stunning turnaround, ascending from a laughingstock in 2014 to a division champion in 2015. But now comes the difficult part: taking that all-important next step and improving from a franchise that was fortunate to get into the playoffs to one that can do some damage once it gets there. And that work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players.

In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine the 25 biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.

No. 7

Are the Redskins set at outside linebacker?

El-Bashir: I’m not sure you can safely say the Redskins are set at any position on defense, but I do believe they’ve got a solid, young foundation with Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith and Trent Murphy manning the position.

Kerrigan overcame knee and hand injuries to lead the team with 9.5 sacks and 46 quarterback hurries, which ranked fifth among all 3-4 outside linebackers, according to ProFootballFocus.com. Smith came on strong down the stretch and led all NFL rookies with eight sacks in the regular season before recording a sack for a safety in the Redskins’ Wild Card loss to the Packers…and he’s just starting to scratch the surface. Murphy, meantime, made some modest strides late in his second season on defense, recording two sacks and a forced fumble in December.

The X-factor in all of this is the health and contract status of Junior Galette, who missed the 2015 campaign after rupturing his Achilles’ tendon in training camp. Galette is set to become a free agent, but both he and GM Scot McCloughan have indicated that the expectation is that the sides will work our a deal. The only question, then, is how healthy will he be? Galette expects to be 100-percent in time for OTAs, but there’s always some doubt until it actually happens.

If the team believes Galette, who had a combined 22 sacks for the Saints in 2013 and '14, will be good to go, then a foursome of Kerrigan, Galette, Smith and Murphy sounds pretty good. But if there’s one thing the Redskins learned last season, it’s this: because of injuries, you can never have too many quality reserves.

That’s a long-winded way of saying that I believe the Redskins are in decent shape at outside linebacker. So I wouldn’t be in favor of making a significant investment in a free agent, but I’d be all for using a draft pick to bolster a premium position—especially with McCloughan making the selection.

Tandler: Although I’m generally in agreement with Tarik here, I do see some red flags that might add to the urgency of getting some upgrades at the position.

The first is Galette’s Achilles. He could be 100 percent “healthy” by OTAs or, more realistically, training camp but still not be his old self, the guy who posted double-digit sacks in 2013 and 2014. His game relies on explosion and if Galette is even a little bit less explosive his effectiveness as a pass rusher could diminish significantly.

One more thing on Galette—while I believe he was sincere when he told us that he would definitely return to the Redskins and that McCloughan thinks a deal will get done, that’s no sure thing until he actually signs a contract for 2016.

And there is no guarantee that Preston Smith will have a linear career progression. We’d like to think that his career will follow a linear progression and that he’ll add a few sacks next year. But Brian Orakpo had 11 sacks as a rookie and his total dropped to eight in his second year. We can’t rule out a sophomore slump for Smith.

But injury problems and performance declines can happen to any player at any position. It would be great to have every position stocked with top-notch players but even the best teams aren’t in a situation like that. I think that outside linebacker is in a state where the Redskins can leave well enough alone but keep an eye out for a draft-day bargain or low-cost free agent to serve as some insurance.

 

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Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

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Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 24, 18 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

The five highest-paid Redskins in 2018

Originally published 1/12/18

This is how the five highest-paid Redskins per their 2018 salary cap numbers stack up as of now. The list could change, of course during free agency and if a particular quarterback returns. Cap numbers via Over the Cap.

CB Josh Norman, $17 million—The Redskins do have a window which would allow them to move on from Norman. His $13.5 million salary for this year doesn’t become guaranteed until the fifth day of the league year so it would be “only” a $9 million cap charge to move on from Norman, who turned 30 in December. Don’t look for that to happen but the possibility is there.

OT Trent Williams, $13.86 million—He is one of the best left tackles in the business. Those of you out there who have advocated moving him to left guard should look at this cap number, which is way out of line for what a team can afford to pay a guard. At his pay, he needs to be playing on the edge.

OLB Ryan Kerrigan, $12.45 million—He has delivered double-digit sacks in each of the two seasons that his contract extension has been in effect. That’s good value in a league that values the ability to get to the quarterback.

TE Jordan Reed, $10.14 million—The Redskins knew that he might have a year like last year when he played in only six games when they agreed to Reed’s five-year, $50 million extension. They can live with one such season. If he has another one in 2018 they may rethink things.

G Brandon Scherff, $6.75 million—The fact that a rookie contract is No. 5 on this list is a good sign that, as of now, the Redskins’ cap is not top heavy like it was last year. The top three cap hits from Norman, Williams, and Kirk Cousins totaled $59 million, which was about 35 percent of the cap. This year the total cap numbers of the top three come to $43.3 million, 24.3 percent of the estimated $178 million salary cap.

Next five: OT Morgan Moses ($5.4 million), TE Vernon Davis ($5.33 million), DL Stacy McGee ($4.8 million), DL Terrell McClain ($4.75 million), S D.J. Swearinger ($4.33 million)

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) 5
—NFL Draft (4/26) 61
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 197

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Martavis Bryant could make sense for the Redskins, at the right price

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USA TODAY Sports

Martavis Bryant could make sense for the Redskins, at the right price

A 2017 midseason trade for Martavis Bryant made no sense for the Redskins. A 2018 offseason trade for Martavis Bryant, however, might make sense for the Redskins. 

Bryant is on the trade block, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, and will be an intriguing prospect for receiver-needy teams across the NFL. In parts of three seasons with the Steelers, Bryant has 17 touchdowns and a 15.2 yards-per-reception average. 

A big play threat from any place on the field, Bryant would immediately make the Redskins receiving unit more athletic and explosive. 

It's not all good news with Bryant, though.

He was suspended for the entire 2016 season after repeated drug violations and caused some distraction for Pittsburgh during the 2017 season when he asked for a trade via social media. 

MORE: CAN YOU GUESS THESE REDSKINS BASED ON THEIR COMBINE NUMBERS?

Is the talent enough to overcome the off-field distractions? Many would say it is. 

Last year, in just eight starts, Bryant grabbed 50 catches for more than 600 yards and three TDs. In their lone playoff loss to the Jaguars, Bryant caught two passes for 78 yards and a TD. 

Remember, too, the Steelers have an explosive offense, and Bryant is coupled with Antonio Brown on the receiver front along with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback and Le'Veon Bell at running back. The Pittsburgh offense is loaded. 

Washington's offense is not nearly the prolific unit that the Steelers send out, but Jay Gruden does design a good offense. 

The real question surrounding any talk of trading for Bryant is the cost.

The Redskins are not in a position to send away any more draft picks this offseason after giving up a third-round pick, in addition to Kendall Fuller, to acquire Alex Smith. Bruce Allen and the Redskins front office need to improve their team in plenty of spots, and the team's draft picks are quite valuable. 

Bryant only has one year remaining on his rookie deal, and it's hard to balance that sort of short-term investment with the value of adding a rookie committed to the team for at least four years. Perhaps a late-round pick would make sense, but it would need to be a sixth-rounder. 

This could be one of those rare situations in the NFL where a player for player swap could work, though pulling that type of maneuver requires a lot of moving parts. 

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