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Extreme makeover at WR continues

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Extreme makeover at WR continues

While the offseason has another month to go, its safe to say that offseason personnel and coaching moves are pretty much over. There might be a minor trade or a waiver wire pickup here or there but the cake is mostly baked.So before training camp starts, lets take a look back at the five biggest moves of the offseason. Well count them down in order of how important they were. Earlier, we looked at the hiring of Raheem Morris and the roster decisions made at the start of free agency. Here we look at the signings of wide receivers Pierre Garon and Josh Morgan.NFL free agency started at 4:00 Eastern time on March 13. Well before 5:00, former Colts wide receiver Pierre Garon announced on his Facebook page and Twitter feed that he was a Washington Redskin.That news of one lightning-quick negotiation barely had time to sink in before there were multiple reports that the Redskins had signed receiver Josh Morgan away from the 49ers. Those reports were soon confirmed.The Redskins almost had a third wideout in the fold but negotiations with Eddie Royal, an area product and a draft pick of Mike Shanahans in Denver, fell through. He eventually signed with the Chargers.The timing left no question as to what the Redskins priority was in free agency. Neither did the money the two new receivers got. Garons deal pays him 42.5 million over five years with 20.5 million guaranteed. Morgans deal has some voidable years and it boils down to 12 million over two years with 7.5 million guaranteed.The Redskins had already moved to upgrade the quarterback position by trading away two first-round picks and a second to be able to swap picks with the Rams, putting themselves in position to draft Robert Griffin III second overall (a move that will be dissected later in this series). Clearly, they decided that they needed better weapons for their rookie quarterback.The wide receiver corps, a sore spot that the team has been trying to fix ever since The Posse broke up in the early 1990s, had already been transformed since Shanahan came to town in 2010. Only Santana Moss remains from the group of receivers that played for Jim Zorn in 2009.The rebuilding effort has yet to bear fruit. Joey Galloway, who was 38 at the time, and veteran Roydell Williams played a substantial number of snaps in 2010. Leonard Hankerson was starting to be productive last year before his season was cut short with a hip injury. Jabar Gaffney, acquired in a post-lockout trade, led the team in receiving in 2011 but the coaches were not satisfied with his playmaking ability. It looked like they had a real find when Anthony Armstrong averaged almost 20 yards on 44 receptions in 2010 but he crashed back to earth last year with just seven catches.They drafted Hankerson, Aldrick Robinson, and Niles Paul last year. Robinson has a shot at making it this year after spending most of 2011 on the practice squad and Paul has been moved to tight end.The transformation continues with the additions of Garon and Morgan. So far, the changes have just been akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Shanahan hopes that Garon and Morgan, along with RG3, can get the ship sailing in the right direction.Rich Tandler blogs about the Redskins at www.RealRedskins.com. You can reach him by email here and follow him on Twitter @Rich_Tandler.

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Need to Know: Should the Redskins draft Vita Vea in the first round?

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Need to Know: Should the Redskins draft Vita Vea in the first round?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, January 24, 51 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 41
—NFL Draft (4/26) 92
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 228

Fan questions—Surprise cuts, finding a playmaker

I put out a call for questions on social media and I got so many good ones that I’m splitting them up. Here are Facebook questions today and I’ll hit the best Twitter questions later this week.

 

Spencer Long could be gone but he is a free agent, so he could not be cut. As far as players under contract, a lot will depend on who they draft and sign in free agency. If they go heavy on the defensive line, Ziggy Hood and Terrell McClain could be in danger of being cut. An influx of defensive back might have Josh Holsey and Deshazor Everett headed out of town.

There won’t be any cuts that save a major amount of cap space. The players with the top 15 cap numbers per Over the Cap are all vital to the operation with the possible aforementioned exception of McClain.

The rub is that if you want an instant “bona fide” playmaker you are going to have to invest either a lot of cap dollars or high draft pick. They have invested cap dollars in Reed and, to a lesser extent, Thompson and a No. 1 draft pick in Reed. The plan needs to be to make sure that Reed stays healthy (as best you can) and hope you get 12-14 productive games out of him, get Thompson back in the swing of things, and continue to work with Doctson. Perhaps they can get a mid-round find like the Saints did with Kamara to add to the mix. But for the most part, the Redskins will have to make do with what they have.

The way things stand right now, I’m seeing Vea regarded as more of a late first-round pick than a player who should go in the top half of the round. That could change as the draft process goes on. I think the Redskins need to continue to strengthen their defensive line, and if Vea moves up to a high first-round grade or slides to a second, they should take a long look at him.

The player I’m keeping my eye on is Jordan Matthews, who spent three years with the Eagles before being traded to Buffalo. He had over 800 yards receiving in each of his three seasons in Philly before a knee injury hampered him last year. He’s 6-3 and still young (26 in Week 1). Sammy Watkins of the Rams is intriguing but he had just 593 receiving yards in 15 games in Sean McVay’s very productive offense. An older but less expensive option might be Eric Decker of the Titans, who had just 30 fewer receiving yards than Watkins and would be much a much less expensive acquisition albeit as a stopgap.

I see them addressing other needs in the first round. That could change if there is someone there who is just too good to pass up.

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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No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

MOBILE -- Jay Gruden is making jokes about Kirk Cousins again, and that's good news for Redskins fans that worried about a fracture between coach and quarterback. 

It all started in the weeks following the Redskins dreadful Week 17 loss to the Giants as Gruden and Cousins seemed to be throwing slight jabs at one another.

Gruden, in his end of year press conference, explained that while Cousins "showed flashes" in 2017, when the team goes 7-9, the coach can't say any player was outstanding: 

You know when you’re 7-9, you know it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding.’ You know there’s a few guys obviously that jump out, Pro Bowlers like Ryan Kerrigan had a solid year. Obviously Trent when he played was Pro Bowl type, Brandon when he was healthy was Pro Bowl type guy. Kirk had his flashes where he was really good. From a consistent standpoint, over the course of 16 games, you know we’re 7-9. He did some great things, threw for over 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns I believe. So, I think he’s a very, very good quarterback without a doubt, but as far as getting us over the hump from 7-9 to winning a division with all the injuries that we had, I think he competed and did some good things.

Cousins, in his year-end radio appearance with 106.7 the Fan, explained that he wants the team to do better but doesn't think the 7-9 record should fall on his shoulders alone. (Quote via Washington Post)

What I gathered from the comment was 7-9 and the quarterback play are causally related and that quarterback play is 7-9, 7-9 is the quarterback play. I saw that and I thought, ‘I think it’s slightly more complicated than that.’ I think there’s a few more dynamics in play as to what your final record is. … At the same time, his job is to evaluate. That’s a big part of his role and his position. In that comment, he’s just doing his job, he’s evaluating the position and he has the right to say what he wants to say.

Both comments were fairly innocuous, but also clearly at odds. Combine that dialogue with the undercurrent of another offseason contract negotiation, and it seemed things between coach and quarterback weren't quite right. 

On Tuesday, speaking at the Senior Bowl, Gruden cleared the air. Asked directly about tension between he and Cousins, the coach was blunt. 

"No." 

Gruden went on to explain his answer about Cousins 2017 play, the now infamous 7-9 line.

"When I say 7-9, if I say one player played great that means I'm saying everybody else was not very good," the coach explained (full video above). "I think we all have to stick together, we all have to improve from a 7-9 season, coaches, players, everybody."

Cousins was good in 2017, throwing for more than 4,000 passing yards for the third straight season. He also showed that he can produce offensively without a great supporting cast, as injuries robbed the Redskins of many of their best passing game threats and seriously damaged the offensive line. 

The quarterback did play two terrible games in the last month of the season, however, including a three interception stinker in the Week 17 finale.

It's possible that Gruden had that fresh in his mind when he spoke in early January, and with the benefit of a little time, his assessment mellowed by late January. 

Either way, Gruden joked about Cousins deserving a vacation, and even said the QB needs a tan. Gruden often uses humor to defuse touchy situations with Redskins players, and maybe he just did it again. 

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