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Gruden: Redskins prepared to 'gamble' on Matt Jones

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Gruden: Redskins prepared to 'gamble' on Matt Jones

Although the Redskins probably aren’t done tinkering at running back, there’s no question who’ll shoulder the load in 2016, according to Coach Jay Gruden.

It’s going to be Matt Jones, the team’s third round pick in 2015.

Gruden said the team’s confidence in Jones is the reason Alfred Morris is no longer in Washington.

“Matt played well and we're very excited about him,” Gruden said at the NFL owners meetings this week. “We let a heck of a running back, and a very productive running back, go because we have Matt.”

Jones had an inconsistent and injury-plagued rookie season. Big games were often followed by unproductive ones. He finished with a subpar 3.4 yards per carry and he lost four fumbles. He also missed a total of four games due to injury.

But Jones’ size—he’s listed at 6 foot 2, 231-pounds—plus a handful of eye-popping plays last season have Gruden and his assistants hopeful that a strong offseason could lead to a breakout year for the Florida product.    

“We need him to protect the ball a little bit more,” Gruden said. “He’s a big, strong, powerful back that I think can handle the workload; time will tell on that. We’re taking a bit of a gamble here, but based on our professional opinion, we believe he can handle it and be very, very effective at it, toting the rock.”

Asked if Jones will indeed assume the No. 1 role, Gruden said: “That’s what we envision, yes. He's got the size. I mean, he's got the measurables, that’s for sure. That doesn't always translate, so we’ll see. We like Matt. We think he’s a smart football player and he runs very, very hard. Now we just have to make sure the ball security is there [because] he can catch the ball out the backfield. He's a very good solid football player that we have high hopes for.”

Gruden also said he expects the 23-year-old to be 100-percent when the team’s offseason program begins next month. In January, Jones had a minor procedure to correct the hip ailment that caused him to miss the final two regular season games and the Wild Card loss to the Packers. (He was sidelined for a game earlier in the season due to turf toe.)

“Yeah, he had a good surgery, man,” Gruden said. “We’re excited about Matt and glad he got it taken care of. You could see it bothering him a little bit down the stretch and you’re wondering, ‘Is there really anything wrong with him or not?’ And you find out there really is, and we got it fixed and addressed and I think he’ll come back ready to roll.”

As for the depth chart at running back, it’s Jones … and then a lot of questions.

Gruden said free agent Pierre Thomas, a late-season acquisition, remains on the Redskins’ radar. There’s also Chris Thompson, who told CSN recently that he expects to be sidelined until training camp after undergoing shoulder surgery. And then there’s Silas Redd Jr., who missed last season with a serious knee injury, and the unproven Mack Brown.

Given all that, Gruden said he expects GM Scot McCloughan to make an addition in the coming weeks, either via free agency or the draft.

"We have Matt and Chris and Silas and then we have the draft coming up," Gruden said. "There are some free agents that we’re still very much looking at. So it’s a matter of timing. When do you want to do it? We might sign a free agent here in the next couple weeks, or we might wait until after the draft to see how we address it in the draft.”

[RELATED: DT Billings, WR Thomas to Redskins in latest mock draft]

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As money skyrockets, don't expect Kirk Cousins to give discounts on open market

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As money skyrockets, don't expect Kirk Cousins to give discounts on open market

Kirk Cousins repeatedly said his free agent decision will not be just about money. Be clear, however, that money will be a huge factor in this decision. 

After the Redskins traded with Kansas City to acquire Alex Smith before the Super Bowl, it became obvious Washington will move on from Cousins. Whether that means the quarterback simply walks away in free agency or the organization attempts a highly risky tag-and-trade scenario, regardless, Cousins will throw footballs for another franchise in 2018.

Cousins wants to choose where he will play via free agency, and might even file a grievance if the Redskins do deploy a third franchise tag to control his rights.

Assuming Cousins hits free agency, a new report out of New York suggests the Jets will pay "whatever it takes" to land the passer. That could even include a fully guaranteed contract, and will certainly get close to a $30 million a year price tag. 

A notion exists too that Cousins might take less to go to a winner, and many think that could be the Broncos. Denver won five games in 2017, same as the Jets, though the Broncos have a strong defense and have been getting particularly awful QB play. 

The important thing to remember for curious Redskins fans watching the Cousins saga unfold: Don't expect much, if any, discount. 

The quarterback himself made that clear. 

"There’s other quarterbacks that come after you and it would be almost a selfish move to hurt future quarterbacks who get in a position to have a contract," Cousins said last year on 106.7 the Fan.

The quotes came after the 2016 season but before the Redskins again used a franchise tag with Cousins for the 2017 season. Washington wanted to attempt a long-term deal with Cousins at that point, though the quarterback decided to not negotiate and instead play on the tag.

The point remains that Cousins, and his representatives, believe the quarterback has a duty to other players to maximize his earnings. 

"If you don’t take a deal that’s fair to you, then you’re also taking a deal that’s not fair to them and you’re setting them back as well. So there’s different reasons. You just do the best you can."

If he hits free agency, Cousins will likely sign the richest contract in NFL history. Those opportunities don't come around often, and the quarterback should take full advantage. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Need to Know: Could Ty Nsekhe be the Redskins' answer at left guard?

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Need to Know: Could Ty Nsekhe be the Redskins' answer at left guard?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, February 19, 23 days before NFL free agency starts.

Monday musings

—One possible solution to the left guard spot is perhaps being overlooked. Ty Nsekhe played there some last year, starting the game in Dallas and playing there until Morgan Moses got injured, forcing him to move to right tackle. Nsekhe is slated to be a restricted free agent but his return is likely. In December I asked Jay Gruden if Nsekhe might move to guard in 2018. “I think Ty is a big man and a very good tackle, but in the offseason when we have more time, maybe we can feature him at some guard when we’ve got all our guys back,” he said. “Feature him some” doesn’t mean that they will make him a starter; perhaps they want him to be the top option to fill in at four of the five OL positions. But it’s something to keep an eye on if they don’t land a left guard solution in free agency or the draft.

—When I posted about Albert Breer’s report that Kirk Cousins would file a grievance if the Redskins put the franchise tag on him in an effort to trade him, I pulled up a copy of the CBA to see the language on which Cousins could base his case. I read through the Article 10, which deals with the franchise tag twice and I saw nothing of it. But Mike Florio found it in Article 4, the one that deals with player contracts. “A Club extending a Required Tender must, for so long as that Tender is extended, have a good faith intention to employ the player receiving the Tender at the Tender compensation level during the upcoming season.” Since the Redskins clearly have no intention of employing Cousins after the Alex Smith trade, this seems to be a fairly simple case. In reality, it never is.

—I tweeted this last week:

However, possible cap casualties from other teams are not included in that group. That won’t turn the pool of players who will become available to sign into a bunch of potential franchise changers. Still, there could be a number of players in whom the Redskins could be interested in like RB DeMarco Murray, WRs Emmanuel Sanders and Torrey Smith, edge rusher Elvis Dumervil, and DL Brandon Mebane. A plus to signing players who have been waived is that they don’t count in the formula that determines compensatory draft picks. The Redskins have never really paid attention to that in the past but with potential high comp picks at stake if they lose both Kirk Cousins and Bashaud Breeland, this could be a good year to start.

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) 10
—NFL Draft (4/26) 66
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 202

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