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Need to Know: McCloughan on RG3, tagging Cousins, and Redskins' personnel staff

Need to Know: McCloughan on RG3, tagging Cousins, and Redskins' personnel staff

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, January 29, 26 days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Five thoughts on McCloughan at the Senior Bowl

On if the Redskins would use the franchise tag on Cousins: "Well it’s an option, of course you’d rather not, you’d rather get a long term deal done . . . ”

Some believe that just tagging Cousins and giving him another year to show what he’s worth in a long-term deal is the best way to go. But it’s not the route that McCloughan wants to take. The tag is fraught with problems, including the fact that the player really isn’t under contract until he signs it and he doesn’t have to sign it until he wants to. It doesn’t seem like Cousins is the type to hold out but he’s never been put in such a position before. And if he plays well, it would become more difficult and costly to agree on a contract in 2017; another tag will cost about $23 million for a year. The tag is there to be used but it's not like slapping a $7 million tag on Fred Davis. It’s better to trust your judgment, make a deal, and take your chances.

On if he feels the team is ahead of schedule: "You know, I wouldn’t say ahead of schedule, I think it’s going in the right direction . . . “

It’s tough to say what a “schedule” for the Redskins, a team that had double-digit losses in five of six seasons before McCloughan came aboard a year ago, should look like. They took some steps in the right direction last year and they were good enough to take advantage of a fairly weak schedule and performances by the other teams in the division that were below expectations. The Redskins also had some bad luck in the form of injuries (only three teams lost more man-games to injuries). They could take a few more steps in the right direction this year and they might not win as many games and not make the playoffs. Improvement in the NFL isn’t always linear. All McCloughan can do is try to get better every year, and hold on to as much of the improvement made in previous years as he can.

On the team’s plan with QB Robert Griffin III: "Well you know what, the thing is, and I’m looking forward to getting back because we had the playoff game, of course, then you had the loss . . . “

This went on for another hundred words or so, with McCloughan not wanting to say that the team is going to release Griffin at some point. I don’t think that this should give false hope to those RG3 diehards who think he could somehow end up with the Redskins in 2016. A player is on your roster until he’s not. There is much more potential harm in announcing that you’re going to let a player go before you can do so than there is in not talking about it and just sending out the press release after you’ve done it.

On if there is confirmation or clarity on if DT Jason Hatcher is retiring: “No. I talked to him too and I said, 'Listen, you do what’s best for you and your family. You’ve had a really good career and we’d love to have you back.'

McCloughan said a couple of times that he wasn’t going to discuss contracts so nobody asked about whether they would love to have Hatcher back at his current cap number, which is $8.7 million. His contract has the look of a deal that was set to be either terminated after two years or at least redone. Hatcher’s salary jumps to $6.25 million with another $250,000 due to him as a roster bonus. I can’t see the Redskins paying that to a player who is coming off of a two-sack season and will turn 34 before training camp starts.

On making possible changes to the team’s scouting staff: "Not right now; nope. We’re going forward."

Looking at the results to date—and that consists of one draft—it appears that the Redskins’ unproductive drafts were due more to the man making the final call than it was an inadequate scouting staff. In particular, Mike Shanahan was notorious for ignoring the recommendation of the personnel department and making his own picks. It’s hard to blame the area scouts, director of college scouting Scott Campbell, and others responsible for evaluating draft talent if their work goes out the window when the card is turned in during the draft. But before we apologize to the current group for wondering about their competence when they worked for Shanahan let’s see what McCloughan can come up with in the next couple of drafts.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 19 days ago. It will be about 226 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 26; NFL free agency starts 40; 2016 NFL draft 90

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No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

MOBILE -- Jay Gruden is making jokes about Kirk Cousins again, and that's good news for Redskins fans that worried about a fracture between coach and quarterback. 

It all started in the weeks following the Redskins dreadful Week 17 loss to the Giants as Gruden and Cousins seemed to be throwing slight jabs at one another.

Gruden, in his end of year press conference, explained that while Cousins "showed flashes" in 2017, when the team goes 7-9, the coach can't say any player was outstanding: 

You know when you’re 7-9, you know it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding.’ You know there’s a few guys obviously that jump out, Pro Bowlers like Ryan Kerrigan had a solid year. Obviously Trent when he played was Pro Bowl type, Brandon when he was healthy was 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. He did some great things, threw for over 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns I believe. So, I think he’s a very, very good quarterback without a doubt, but as far as getting us over the hump from 7-9 to winning a division with all the injuries that we had, I think he competed and did some good things.

Cousins, in his year-end radio appearance with 106.7 the Fan, explained that he wants the team to do better but doesn't think the 7-9 record should fall on his shoulders alone. (Quote via Washington Post)

What I gathered from the comment was 7-9 and the quarterback play are causally related and that quarterback play is 7-9, 7-9 is the quarterback play. I saw that and I thought, ‘I think it’s slightly more complicated than that.’ I think there’s a few more dynamics in play as to what your final record is. … At the same time, his job is to evaluate. That’s a big part of his role and his position. In that comment, he’s just doing his job, he’s evaluating the position and he has the right to say what he wants to say.

Both comments were fairly innocuous, but also clearly at odds. Combine that dialogue with the undercurrent of another offseason contract negotiation, and it seemed things between coach and quarterback weren't quite right. 

On Tuesday, speaking at the Senior Bowl, Gruden cleared the air. Asked directly about tension between he and Cousins, the coach was blunt. 

"No." 

Gruden went on to explain his answer about Cousins 2017 play, the now infamous 7-9 line.

"When I say 7-9, if I say one player played great that means I'm saying everybody else was not very good," the coach explained (full video above). "I think we all have to stick together, we all have to improve from a 7-9 season, coaches, players, everybody."

Cousins was good in 2017, throwing for more than 4,000 passing yards for the third straight season. He also showed that he can produce offensively without a great supporting cast, as injuries robbed the Redskins of many of their best passing game threats and seriously damaged the offensive line. 

The quarterback did play two terrible games in the last month of the season, however, including a three interception stinker in the Week 17 finale.

It's possible that Gruden had that fresh in his mind when he spoke in early January, and with the benefit of a little time, his assessment mellowed by late January. 

Either way, Gruden joked about Cousins deserving a vacation, and even said the QB needs a tan. Gruden often uses humor to defuse touchy situations with Redskins players, and maybe he just did it again. 

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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Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins fans want Zach Brown back. Bad. And for weeks there had been no news about contract talks between Washington and Brown. 

Now that's changed.

"We've been talking to his agent," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said on Tuesday. 

Gruden, speaking from the Senior Bowl, explained that the team would like Brown back in 2018 but Washington also understands that the linebacker might want to explore the free agent market. 

"It’s a process," Gruden said (full video above). "These guys have a chance to be a free agent, they had a good year and they want to check what the market is sometimes. If we can get them before they get to free agency, great, but if not, the bidding wars will begin."

For Brown, free agency will look different in 2018 than it did last season when he signed a one-year. bargain deal with the Redskins. 

Prior to injuries forcing him to miss the final three games of the season, Brown led the NFL in tackles. For two straight years, 2016 in Buffalo and 2017 in Washington, Brown has proved to be a tackling machine and arguably the fastest linebacker in the NFL. Brown also signed new representation last offseason, Jason and Michael Katz of CSE Football, and should Brown hit the free agent market the Katz brothers will aggresively market their client. 

Washington Senior Vice President of Football Operations Eric Schaeffer will handle the contract discussions for Washington, and is known as a shrewd negotiator. 

Like many business deals, this will come down to money. Brown established himself as a fit in Washington, both on the field and in the locker room. Interior linebackers do not command top dollar like pass rushers do, but Brown will still expect to be compensated appropriately. 

Further complicating matters for Washington, the Redskins only have Josh Harvery-Clemmons, Zach Vigil and Martrell Speight under contract for 2018. 

It's too early to predict what "it's a process" means from Jay Gruden, but Redskins fans should draw some encouragement that talks have begun with Brown. 

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!