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Looking ahead to 2016: Six Redskins starters set to be free agents

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Looking ahead to 2016: Six Redskins starters set to be free agents

The Redskins have already taken care of two significant pieces of their 2016 offseason business. Just before they started training camp they signed linebacker Ryan Kerrigan to a five-year, $57.5 million contract extension. A few weeks later they locked up left tackle Trent Williams with $66 million over six years.

With those two big contracts out of the way the Redskins will be able to get to work on other free agents they want to sign once the season ends with certainty about the cap implications of those big contracts. As we noted yesterday they should have ample cap space to work with so lack of money to spend should not be an object towards them keeping any of their own players they want to keep.

Here is a look at the Redskins’ unrestricted free agents:

Starters

QB Kirk Cousins (age 28 at start of 2016 season, 2015 cap number $778,000)—This could be huge or it could be almost an afterthought, depending on how Cousins plays in the remaining nine games. If his performance is good enough to warrant starter status in 2015, he could get a deal something like Nick Foles’ extension with the Rams. In August, Foles, who was going into the final year of his rookie contract, signed for two years and $24.5 million in new money. $12 million is guaranteed and, in reality, that is the total value of the deal. There is no guaranteed money in the final year of the deal so the Rams could easily cut ties after 2016 with minimal cap pain. Cousins could get something similar if the Redskins want him to be their starter next year.

FB Darrel Young (age 29, $1.5 million)—He has played only 45 snaps on offense this year and although he is also a regular on special teams, you have to think that the organization can find someone younger and cheaper to fill that role. On the other hand, Scot McCloughan is going to keep a few veterans around to set the example for the younger players and Young is perfect for that. I think he’s back on a deal that’s shorter and slightly less lucrative than the one he’s finishing up (that one is 3 years, $3.9 million, $1 million guaranteed).

ILB Keenan Robinson (age 27, $765,000)—Even though he has fallen off from his high level of play he displayed last year, he is still a valuable member of the defense and not a player they want to let get away. Unless he really turns it on the last nine game he should get something in the neighborhood of the three-year, $12 million deal that Perry Riley got in 2014, with a couple of million added on due to cap inflation.

NT Terrance Knighton (age 30, $4.45 million)—This could get sticky. The Redskins are probably willing to give him an average of 4.5 million per year but probably for only a couple of years. Knighton’s camp will point to the deal that Dan Williams got from the Raiders and want more like four years, $25 million. A good solution would be to meet in the middle and go for three years, $17 million.

OLB Junior Galette (age 28, $745,000)—He didn’t start a game, of course, but he would have if not for the torn Achilles he suffered in August. Another “prove-it” deal at minimum salary for him? That’s doubtful. I think they give him a couple of years with a low guarantee that’s loaded with incentives and per-game roster bonuses. Let’s say two years, as low as $1 million per year and as high as $7 million if he stays on the roster for 16 games a year and cashes in on the incentives.

RB Alfred Morris (age 27, $1.6 million)—If I absolutely had to bet I think he plays elsewhere in 2016. The simple fact is that he has more value to a team that is committed to the zone scheme, like perhaps the Falcons. But you never know what will happen in the last nine games and you can’t rule out a re-signing.

Reserves

QB Colt McCoy (age 30) likely will re-sign to back up Cousins or whoever the starter is. I think CB Will Blackmon (age 32), DE Frank Kearse (age 27), TE Anthony McCoy (age 28), and LB Mason Foster (age 27) will be offered minimum-salary type deals to return to compete for jobs as backups. S Trenton Robinson (age 26) is currently a starter due to injury but he should be a backup and special teams performer. But with a safety shortage around the NFL, someone might offer him more money elsewhere. DE Kedric Golston (age 33) is a good locker room leader and capable reserve but the team may want to go the younger and cheaper route. Same with TE Logan Paulsen (age 29), although the shortage of tight ends might prompt the team to make him an offer. Unless Josh LeRibeus (age 27) really turns it on in what remains of his opportunity to start at center, he is likely to leave.

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

For years, the Redskins struggle with their home field as the fall turns to winter. It's been happening so long it's become an expected passing of the seasons, like the transition from Halloween jack-o-lanterns to Christmas lights dotting people's front yards. 

Well, on Thanksgiving night, the turf at FedEx Field again showed how bad it can be. On a second half interception returned for a New York Giants touchdown, replay showed that Kirk Cousins' foot got stuck on the dirt, and it played a role in his sailing a ball to the sideline. The bad turf was not the only reason for the interception, but it was definitely a reason. 

Beyond the pick, the field was just ugly. Twitter blew up making fun of the Redskins home grass, and the national broadcast showed just how unsightly the long brown patch between the hash marks looked. 

On Friday, the normally diplomatic Cousins opened up about the grass.

"It probably doesn't look like a professional NFL field should," the quarterback said on 106.7 the Fan (full audio here). "If you think the field is rough now on Thanksgiving, we've got two more home games in mid-to-late December. That's probably going to be a bigger challenge."

Asked about the field's impact on the interception on Thursday night, Cousins ignored it. But plenty of other players have suggested the field is a known problem in the second half, and something they just must deal with. 

"I don't know why it is that way or what causes it," Cousins said. "I've kind of learned to accept it and understand it's part of the deal. Playing here on the field has never been that great in the second half of the season for whatever the reason."

[h/t @BenStandig for the Cousins quotes]

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When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

At halftime of the Redskins’ Thanksgiving night game against the Giants, Samaje Perine had three yards rushing and his team had three points. Washington had racked up all of 113 yards.

Coincidence? Not entirely. Although the Redskins are primarily a passing team they need to run the ball to pass effectively.

“We had to get the running game going,” said Jay Gruden after the game.

In the second half, Perine and the offense did get it going. Perine ran for 97 yards and Redskins put up 210 yards and 17 points. It’s safe to say that it wasn’t a coincidence.

The Redskins didn’t make any halftime adjustments to get the ground game in gear.

“We just had to stay the course,” said Perine. “We knew they were going to come out fired up, they just came off a big win. We just had to stay the course and then things started going our way.”

MORE REDSKINS: MUST-SEE PHOTOS OF THE WIN

Perine was more steady than spectacular. His longest run was 16 yards. He came out of the locker room and ran for six and 10 yards on his first two carries. Later in the third quarter the Redskins were backed up at their own 10. Perine ran four straight plays for 39 yards and the Redskins were near midfield.

Although they didn’t score on that drive they did change field position. That was part of the Redskins’ strategy playing with an injury-depleted offense.

“If you had to punt in a game like this and play field position, it’s not the end of the world because our defense was playing so good,” said Gruden.

Not only did the running game flip the field, it flipped the time of possession. In the first half, the Giants had the ball for 17:40 compared to 12:20 for the Redskins.

“We had to get on the field and control some of the clock,” said tackle Morgan Moses. “We had to give our defense a rest. Samaje put his foot in the ground and got extra yards when needed and we were able to move the chains.”

Moses wasn’t the only one enjoying seeing Perine pile up some yards.

“As a defensive player, you want to see that,” said safety D.J. Swearinger. “We say, keep running it. Keep running him. Let him keep getting those carries, put a dent in the defense. It was a good sight to see.”

RELATED: FIVE KEY MOMENTS IN RESKINS VS GIANTS

Swearinger got to watch a lot of Perine. The Redskins piled up 22:17 in possession in the second half, while Swearinger and his defensive mates had to defend for just 7:43.

Last night was the second time in four days that Perine has rushed for 100 yards or more; he had 117 in New Orleans on Sunday. No Redskin has rushed for 100 yards in consecutive games since Alfred Morris did it in November of 2013.

He will have a chance to extend that streak to three on Thursday against the Cowboys, who are ranked 17th in rushing defense. That would put him in some elite company in Redskins history, including Larry Brown (twice) and Stephen Davis.  A steak of three straight 100-yard games was last done by Morris in 2012.

It may be a little early to look forward, but the Redskins record is five straight 100-yard games, held by Clinton Portis (twice) and Ladell Betts.  

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.