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Need to Know: How much have the Redskins improved?

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Need to Know: How much have the Redskins improved?

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 1, 12 days before the Washington Redskins hold their rookie minicamp.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 112 days ago. It will be 134 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Rookie minicamp 12; OTAs start 23; Redskins training camp starts 88

Hot topic

A look back at the most popular posts during the Redskins week that was from here and from the freshly redesigned CSNmidatlantic.com.

Details of Norman’s contract reveal some exit ramps for the Redskins—Norman, of course, dominated the news over the week leading up to the draft. This post detailed his contract. There is good and bad for both sides in the deal, meaning that it’s fair. It pays Norman a ton of money over two years and that’s good for him. But the Redskins have reasonably-priced ways out of the deal after the second year. I think he’ll play at least three years of the deal and maybe all five.

Need to Know: Norman deal will force tough choices for Redskins in 2017—The big cap hit in Norman’s contract comes in 2017 when it will be $20 million. Although the Redskins still a large amount of cap space left next year they still may be forced to make decisions on whether to re-sign the likes of Pierre Garçon, DeSean Jackson, and Chris Baker or to let them walk? Details are in the post.

Does the Norman deal mean it's the same old Redskins?—Stop me if you heard this before—the Redskins moved in on a high-priced free agent, sent Redskins One out to pick him up, and locked him in Redskins Park until he agreed to a deal. Sound familiar? Have things really changed with Scot McCloughan in charge?

Doctson is "ready to get to work" with Redskins—The Redskins’ first-round draft pick does not seem like the stereotypical diva wide receiver. He turned down some scholarship offers and walked on, transferred to TCU, and set most of the school’s major receiving records. If he is productive he will quickly become a fan favorite.

Should the Redskins be the NFC East favorites?—This was written before the draft but the question remains. Norman makes Washington better right away, no doubt. But what we don’t know is how much the draft class will contribute in 2016. If they get some key first down and red zone catches from Doctson, if Su’a Cravens generates some turnovers at important moments, if Matt Ioannidis can help shore up the rushing defense, and if Steven Daniels can fill some of the holes in special teams, the Redskins can get considerably better. They will have to be to repeat as division champs as they aren’t likely to be able to do it again with nine wins and they face a tougher schedule.

Stat of the day

The Redskins selected seven players in the draft. They have now picked seven or more players in six straight drafts, going to back to 2011. That is the longest such stretch since the draft went to its current seven-round format in 1994.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was-Cousins' value, the Redskins' top pick

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was-Cousins' value, the Redskins' top pick

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, January 20, 53 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 45
—NFL Draft (4/26) 96
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 232

The Redskins week that was

Jags big win could spell bad news for Kirk Cousins—If the Jaguars’ accomplishment of getting to the AFC championship game does indeed make Blake Bortles’ job safe, the laws of economics say that the amount of money that Cousins can command in a free agent contract should go down. It’s the demand part of supply and demand and if demand goes down, prices should, too. But the NFL quarterback market doesn’t follow the laws. If the Lions see fit to pay Matthew Stafford, a quarterback under whom they have had very limited success, a contract with an average annual value of $27 million without any team bidding against them, that sets the price.

Setting the odds on what happens with Kirk Cousins—Despite his happy talk at the 106.7 The Fan event earlier this month, the possibility that Cousins will play in a Redskins uniform in 2018 does not warrant a large bet of imaginary casino chips. If you missed the post, take a look and let me know what you think of my assessment.

Don't freak out about latest Zach Brown tweet—It’s that time of year. A player sends out a tweet with no context and fans assign the worst possible meaning to it. In Brown’s case, a tweet about not getting respect was interpreted as a sign that contract negotiations with the Redskins were not going well. But JP Finlay found out that the tweet was about Brown being upset that another alternate getting selected to the Pro Bowl and not him. It still is unclear if Brown will return to the Redskins but at least there are no indications of rocky negotiations at this point.

Bang for the free agent bucks for the Redskins? Brown was a solid free agent acquisition for the Redskins last year. Terrelle Pryor, not so much. Take a look at the post for the other hits and misses in free agency.

Tweet of the week

Even though the draft is over three months away there are plenty of opinions out there as this tweet drew a ton of reaction. On the offensive side of the ball, the suggestions ran towards quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield although some want a running back. It will be interesting to see how those two non-conventional quarterbacks look after they spend the next few months under the microscope of the NFL draft process. The defensive name that kept coming up was Washington defensive lineman Vita Vea, a large specimen who could play the nose in base defense and move to three-technique in nickel.

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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Scot McCloughan simply said what plenty of others think about Kirk Cousins

Scot McCloughan simply said what plenty of others think about Kirk Cousins

Redskins fans were frenzied when Scot McCloughan said that Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback, but not a special one. The #KirkHive shuddered and the Kirk Haters celebrated.

McCloughan, the former Redskins GM who's wildly popular with fans, explained what few people will say publicly: Cousins is a skilled player but probably not deserving of the money he might make in free agency. 

Let's start with the obvious: Cousins is good.

He's a durable passer in a league that doesn't have enough of them. He's started the last 49 games for the Redskins and thrown for more than 4,000 yards each of the past three seasons. 

Now more obvious: He isn't great.

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Bleacher Report's Chris Simms, speaking on the #RedskinsTalk podcast, said Cousins ranks about 12th among NFL passers. It's top half of the league, but it's not Top 5 or even Top 10. 

Cousins has had tremendous games with the Redskins, like a near perfect performance against Oakland in 2017 or a dominant performance against Green Bay in 2016. 

Cousins has also been awful, as recently as Week 17 in New York a few weeks ago, or an equally stinky Week 17 game against the Giants two seasons ago. 

While some might view McCloughan's statement as controversial — "He’s a good player. Is he special? I don’t see special," he told Denver radio station 104.3 the Fan — it's not. 

Plenty of people agree with McCloughan, including some in Redskins Park. Last year, a source told NBC Sports Washington that the team believed they could get nearly as much production from Colt McCoy as Cousins provided. 

Even this year, Washington head coach Jay Gruden offered lukewarm praise of his quarterback.

When the season ended, asked to evaluate Cousins' play, the coach said, "When you’re 7-9, it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding.’ There’s a few guys obviously that jump out, Pro Bowlers like Ryan Kerrigan had a solid year. Obviously Trent [Williams] when he played was a Pro Bowl-type and Brandon [Scherff] when he was healthy was a 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."

That quote made headlines when Gruden said it, much like McCloughan's comments now are circulating faster than Beltway traffic. 

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Truth is, it's not new. And it's not news.

There are coaches that think Cousins is only scratching the surface of his capabilities. Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay come to mind, but both of those coaches have other QBs likely for the long-term future. 

Cousins might end up being paid like a Top 3 quarterback in the NFL, and that might be the right move given the demand at the position. Will that make him a special passer?

Not if special is defined as Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees. Even Cousins wouldn't argue with that.