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Has Keith Marshall locked up Redskins backup running back spot?

Has Keith Marshall locked up Redskins backup running back spot?

RICHMOND – Watching Redskins practice the last few days, and the sight of a white 39 jersey emerging from a crowd to show blazing speed became routine. That player, rookie running back Keith Marshall, seems to be figuring out Jay Gruden's offense just in time for the first preseason game Thursday night in Atlanta.

While Marshall seemed a bit overwhelmed with calls and protections early in training camp, his recent play shows a rookie picking things up at a fast pace. On two plays Tuesday, Marshall made decisive cuts on runs, reversing course to the weak side of the line after the defense overcommited to the strong side. With a strong plant foot, the change of direction had both power and burst, and Marshall could show his elite speed getting to the open field. 

"Keith's playing at a high level right now," Redskins starting running back Matt Jones said. "Rough first few days of camp but it's all coming together now."

Jones will enter the season as the 'Skins featured runner, and Chris Thompson is locked in as the third-down back. Both Jones and Thompson, Florida and Florida State products respectively, should get plenty of chances to make plays, but so should the backup. In 2015, Jones, getting a workload somewhere between a timeshare and the backup to Alfred Morris, ran the ball nearly 150 times.

While many folks around the NFL still expect the Redskins to bring a veteran RB in to play behind Jones, Washington GM Scot McCloughan did not rule the possibility out but added that he really liked the players the Skins brought into camp. McCloughan drafted Marshall this year, and the 5-foot-11, 220 lbs. rookie has good size and great speed for an NFL runner. He will get his chances.

"He looks great," Jones said. 

Thursday night in Atlanta, a state and stadium he knows well, Marshall will get the chance to carry the ball plenty of times and show the coaches what he can do in live action. Asked if he was ready to carry the load, Marshall smiled and said "absolutely."

"That will be cool, first game back where I have a lot of friends and family," the rookie said. 

No story about Marshall is complete without making mention of his injury history. He lost the bulk of his college career to knee injuries, and even missed time in Redskins rookie camp this summer with a hamstring issue. On the other hand, no story about Marshall is complete without mentioning he was rated as one of the top high school football players in the country before committing to Georgia, and when healthy, produced very strong numbers.

Marshall has no preconception that the backup RB role is his, which is the right attitude for a late-round rookie. 

"I don't know anything about all that. Coach hasn't really told us anything," Marshall said about his place on the depth chart. "I just come out here and do what they tell me to do."

Gruden might not need to declare Marshall the backup if he's able to produce against the Falcons the way he has in practice of late. There will also be plenty of competition for that spot, and Marshall knows it. Players like Robert Kelley, Mack Brown and Kelsey Young will continue to fight for more reps. 

But watching practice, it's become clear that Marshall could emerge with the No. 2 spot. The veteran of the running back group with just three years experience, Thompson smartly would not say that Marshall has solidified himself in the backup role, but Thompson did notice how well the rookie had looked recently.

"You see what he can do out there," Thompson said, and that said enough.

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Redskins guarantee Alex Smith a whopping $71 million in new contract

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Redskins guarantee Alex Smith a whopping $71 million in new contract

When the Redskins traded for Alex Smith on January 30, news also broke that he had agreed to a four-year extension with Washington in addition to the one year left on his contract with the Chiefs. While we got some top-line numbers on the deal, we have gone since then without any details.

Until now.

The details show a deal that has a slightly higher cap hit in 2018 than was on his original Chiefs contract and the numbers rise gradually over the life of the deal, which runs through 2022. The top line numbers are five years, $111 million, an average annual value of $22.2 million per year. 


Smith got a $27 million signing bonus and his salaries for 2018 ($13 million) and 2019 ($15 million) also are fully guaranteed at signing making the total $55 million (information via Over the Cap, which got data from a report by Albert Breer).

But there is another $16 million that is guaranteed for all practical purposes. On the fifth day of the 2019 league year, his 2020 salary of $16 million becomes fully guaranteed. He almost assuredly will get to the point where that money will become guaranteed since the Redskins are not going to cut him after one year having invested $55 million in him. So the total guarantees come to $71 million.

His 2021 salary is $19 million and it goes up to $21 million in 2022. There have been reports of some incentives available to Smith, but since we have no details, we’ll set those aside for now.

The cap hits on the contract are as follows:

2018: $18.4 million
2019: $20.0 million
2020: $21.4 million
2021: $24.4 million
2022: $26.4 million

The Redskins can realistically move on from Smith after 2020. There would be net cap savings of $13 million in 2021 and $21 million in 2022.

The first impression of the deal is that the Redskins did not move on from Kirk Cousins because they didn’t want to guarantee a lot of money to a quarterback. The total practical guarantee of $71 million is second only to Cousins’ $82.5 million. It should be noted that Cousins’ deal runs for three years and Smith’s contract is for five.


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


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Three Monday visitors to Redskins Park could determine team's free agency strategy going forward

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Three Monday visitors to Redskins Park could determine team's free agency strategy going forward

The Redskins are having three visitors today in Ashburn. Depending on how they go, they could mostly be done with free agency or still pushing to fill some needs.

They have been making an effort to hire one of the top defensive linemen on the market since before free agency actually started. They had former Jet Muhammad Wilkerson in for a visit last Tuesday, something they could do because Wilkerson had been released. The team put on a good sales push that lasted most of the day, but Wilkerson left without a deal. Shortly after he left he decided to sign with the Packers.

They made runs at Dontari Poe and Sheldon Richardson, but they signed with the Panthers and Vikings, respectively. The prospects were looking slim until the Colts decided to cut Jonathan Hankins on Saturday. He weighs 320 pounds and turned 25 on January 1. Hankins probably isn’t going to make any All-Pro teams or post double-digit sacks, but he will help you stop the run for the next half-decade, at least. In case you haven’t noticed, that’s the Redskins’ biggest defensive problem for the last several seasons.


Hankins is visiting today and he is someone the Redskins would very much like to sign. The other two visitors may be fallback plans.

Cornerback Orlando Scandrick is a veteran who can play in the slot. That is what the Redskins are looking for but Scandrick does not appear to be their first choice. Last week they had former Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in for an extended visit that included a physical. However, they could not come together on money. Scandrick, who has missed time with injuries in each of the last two years, could be an alternative to Rodgers-Cromartie or it could be that he is being used to put some pressure on the Redskins’ preferred choice.

Edge rusher Pernell McPhee is also clearly a second choice. The Redskins have an offer on the table for Junior Galette to return. He tweeted yesterday that the Redskins were the best fit for him but that the money “has to be fair.”

McPhee has played well but injuries have limited his impact the last two years. He started the 2016 season on injured reserve with a knee injury and he missed a total of seven games. Last year he missed three games with shoulder and knee injuries.


The Redskins likely are interested in McPhee for the right price. That price is considerably less than the $7 million he was going to make from the Bears this year before they let him go on February 26. There does not seem to be a hot market for his services; he has been a free agent for three and a half weeks and this is his first reported visit.

The Redskins would rather bring back Galette, who was much more effective as a pass rusher last year than his three sacks would indicate. But the price has to be right for both sides and apparently there is some work to be done towards working that out.

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