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Looking ahead: What are the Redskins 2017 options regarding Kirk Cousins?

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Looking ahead: What are the Redskins 2017 options regarding Kirk Cousins?

Yesterday I put some of Kirk Cousins’ numbers under the microscope here and asked the question if he is a quarterback who just compiles nice stats or if he is a quarterback who can win a Super Bowl. Here on Real Redskins the topic of what Cousins can do is great conversational fodder. Inside the doors of Redskins Park projecting Cousins’ future is not a parlor game; it is the core piece of data that will determine how the team handles Cousins this offseason as he heads towards free agency in March.

We have heard that some at Redskins Park are not sold on Cousins as a franchise quarterback. That is to be expected. In any organization there will be disagreement over major decisions like giving a player a multi-year deal with tens of millions of guaranteed dollars in it. While all views of important members of the organization are heard, there are really only four voices that matter—Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan, Bruce Allen, and Dan Snyder. It seems pretty obvious that Gruden wants Cousins to stay around for the long haul; the quarterback is the perfect fit for the coach’s system. While there has been some talk about the views of the other three we don’t really know what they think (I am throwing out McCloughan’s public statements because, this just in, GMs don’t always tell the truth). And nobody knows what their conclusions will be at the end of the season.

Complicating the picture is that this isn’t a binary choice to re-sign him or let him go. Let’s sort through the options here:

Sign Cousins to a long-term contract—Of course, this is much easier said than done. It doesn’t appear that Mike McCartney, Cousins’ agent, is going to settle for a contract like the ones that Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick got, contracts that let the team get out of the deal at multiple points with little financial penalty. Even if Cousins’ play stays at its current level it would take a five-year deal with some $50 million guaranteed and total dollars well north of $100 million. And no cheap exit ramps.

Tag him again—If Cousins gets tagged his salary would jump to a fully guaranteed $24 million for 2017. If continues his current path that would be over market value but that is the price you pay to put off a long-term commitment for yet another year. One question here is whether Cousins would rush to sign the tender like he did last year. He could choose to put some pressure on the organization to get a long-term deal done by not signing and sitting out OTAs.

Those two options are the only realistic ones for keeping Cousins in the Redskins uniform in 2017. There are a few different ways to proceed if they want to move on.

Stay in house—This would involve letting Cousins walk and handing the reigns to Colt McCoy until Nate Sudfeld is ready to start. McCoy does have 25 NFL starts under his belt including four under Gruden. But his ability to start for a season, or even a substantial chunk of a season, is very much in doubt. Remember that for the past three offseasons McCoy has been a free agent and a quarterback-starved league responded with a yawn. We don’t know enough about Sudfeld to project his future one way or the other. While risky, this course would save a lot of cap money and keep all of the draft picks available to meet other needs.

Get a QB in the draft—You don’t have to look any further than the other teams in the division to see that a rookie quarterback can be successful. Dak Prescott is showing that a quarterback doesn’t even have to be taken on the first two days of the draft to get the job done. Is McCloughan so confident in his ability to spot talent that he can identify and obtain a quarterback who can step in right away? I think we can rule out the Redskins making another blockbuster deal to move to the top of the draft so McCloughan would have to find the man from somewhere in the middle of the first round on. The Redskins have nine draft picks so they do have some flexibility to move up if they need to. This would save a lot of cap money but there is a degree of luck involved in finding a QB who can start right away at any point in the draft.

Sign a (cheaper) free agent—There aren’t many positions where you can’t find at least a competent player in free agency but the glaring exception is at quarterback. A look at the list reveals that Cousins is by far the best of the bunch. The only other player on the list who is currently his team’s starter is Case Keenum of the Rams and he might be headed for the bench soon if they pull the trigger on starting top draft pick Jonathan Goff. Others who have been starters at some points in their careers are Christin Ponder, Matt Cassel, Brian Hoyer, and Mark Sanchez. Colin Kaepernick seems likely to be let got but he may be a worse fit for Gruden’s offense than RGIII. Ryan Fitzpatrick will be a free agent but do you really want to go there? The Redskins would save some cap room here but not as much as you may think; even mediocre quarterbacks cost a lot of money.

There is one thing you need to keep in mind as you ponder these options. The Redskins are past the point where they can slide backwards as they adjust to a change at quarterback. If they are not at least .500 or better every season going forward they will be considered a failure. In Cousins they have a guy who can at least keep them in contention. If they let Cousins walk and they slide back into double-digit loss territory, their home for most of the last 14 years, there will be plenty of second guessing.

Another factor to ponder here is the fact that the Redskins will have $60-$70 million in cap space in 20017. That gives them flexibility to do whatever they want to do without worrying too much about cap problems. If they let Cousins walk and go into the season with, say, $35 million in remaining cap space they had better be good.

My guess right now is that the Redskins will tag him again. Perhaps Cousins will stay away from Redskins Park, force the issue, and end up with a long-term deal. But with or without a new contract Cousins seems likely to be back behind center in training camp next July.

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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. 

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: The most overrated Redskins events of 2017

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Need to Know: The most overrated Redskins events of 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, February 23, 19 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 overrated Redskin moments of 2017

Originally published 12/30/17

Sometimes in the NFL, something happens that grabs headlines and appears to be a momentous event that has ripple effects that will last all season and perhaps beyond. Other times something that is greeted with a yawn by fans and the media turns out to be something with lasting impact. Yesterday we looked at three events that were underrated at the time they happened. Here, in no particular order, are three overrated events from 2017.

Beating the Raiders—At the time, the Raiders were 2-0 and they still had the status of being one of the favorites to get to the Super Bowl. The Redskins whipped them 27-10 and the prevailing view was that the Redskins were on their way to a special year. But that loss started a four-game losing streak for the Raiders. They are currently riding a three-game skid and at 6-9 they are contenders for a top-10 draft pick, not for the Super Bowl. The win became less impressive for the Redskins as the year went on.

Signing Terrelle Pryor—There was plenty of excitement when the Redskins signed the Browns wide receiver, who had 1,000 receiving yards catching passes from a sub-mediocre group of quarterbacks in Cleveland. Imagine what he could do with a quality QB and a good offense around him. The hype grew when a fan captured him making this catch in training camp:

But the production was not there. In nine games before going on injured reserve with an ankle injury, Pryor caught 20 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown.

Su’a Cravens departure—There was a lot of concern about issues both on and off the field when Cravens abruptly let it be known to teammates that he intended to retire just after the Redskins finalized their 53-man roster on September 2. All offseason Cravens’ name had been written at the top of the depth chart at strong safety in Sharpie. When he walked away and was put on the Exempt/Left Squad list (and eventually on the Reserve/Left Squad list, ending his season), there was plenty of speculation about whether the organization botched the situation and, of more immediate importance, what would happen at safety without Cravens. We’re still not sure about what happened but Montae Nicholson and Deshazor Everett did a respectable job at safety.

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) 6
—NFL Draft (4/26) 62
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 198