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Preview: Are Cousins, Redskins ready to take the next step?

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Preview: Are Cousins, Redskins ready to take the next step?

Who: Packers (10-6) at Redskins (9-7).

When: Sunday, 4:40 p.m.

Where: FedEx Field, Landover, Md.

Watch: Redskins Kickoff on CSN Mid-Atlantic at 3 p.m., and Redskins Postgame Live at 7:30 on CSN+.

My five storylines/matchups to watch:

1-Earlier this week, Aaron Rodgers pointed out that the Packers have a decided edge in postseason experience. Green Bay has qualified for the postseason seven straight years. The Redskins, meanwhile, have made the tournament twice since 2008. “We value [playoff experience] a lot,” Rodgers said. “I think you have to learn how to win in the playoffs.” Indeed, the overarching theme of the 2015 regular season in Washington has been how an inexperienced quarterback, a second-year head coach and a young Redskins’ team grew together and, after some early setbacks, began taking steps forward. Through trial and error, the team has learned how to prepare. It’s learned how to win on the road. How to bounce back from losses, and to not over-celebrate victories. The question before the Redskins now is this: are they ready to take that next step and win a playoff game? Or will Rodgers and Co. take them to school on Sunday?  

2-Speaking of Rodgers, he’s been sacked—a lot—in recent games. In fact, since Week 8, he’s been taken down a whopping 35 times while playing behind an injury-plagued offensive line. That should open up some opportunities for Ryan Kerrigan (team-best 9.5 sacks), Chris Baker (career-best 6 sacks) and Co. But it’s not as simple as bringing the house with a quarterback who is as slippery as Rodgers. “The thing you’ve got to be strategically be aware of with [Rodgers] is, how many do you bring, and how do you deploy it?” defensive coordinator Joe Barry said. “He has been sacked. But he is so good at eluding pressure and finding guys down the field. So you have to be strategic with it.” Barry also said that he’s shown his players the TV copy of recent Green Bay games so that they can get a feel for Rodgers’ cadence, which he uses to draw defenses offside. “He’s No. 2 in the league as far as quarterbacks getting guys offsides,” Barry said. “You can’t go on sound. You can’t go on his leg or the center’s head bob. You have to be disciplined.”

3-Kirk Cousins is the game’s hottest quarterback, at the most important time of the season. But this also the biggest game of his career. Is he ready for the bright lights and the big stage of the NFL postseason? A couple of years ago, I would have said, ‘Absolutely not.’ But now I have no doubt that Cousins will handle the pressure just fine. Why? Because he’s shown time and again this season that he doesn't allow games to be bigger than they are, that he thrives when heat's cranked up, that he’s the Redskins’ most dependable player when the chips are down. Remember the Week 4 comeback against the Eagles? How about rallying the Redskins to the biggest comeback in franchise history, all the way back from a 24-0 deficit vs. the Buccaneers, in a game they had to win. “You just try to stay focused on the same processes I have I have all year long,” Cousins said, asked if there’s anything different about preparing for a playoff game.  “I’d be a fool to change something now.”

4-All week, there’s been speculation about the Redskins’ lineup at running back if all four—Alfred Morris, Matt Jones, Chris Thompson and Pierre Thomas—were healthy. Well, it’s looking more likely that the decision will be taken out of Jay Gruden’s hands. Jones, who has missed the past two games with a hip pointer, was “very” limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday, according to Gruden. That would leave the rookie with one practice and a walkthrough to get right for Sunday…and that would seem like a longshot at this point. If Jones isn’t able to play, the workload would be split between Morris, Thompson and Thomas for a second straight game. “Unless [Jones] shows us some major improvement …he’s going to be the odd man out.”   

5-Another week, another injury the Redskins must overcome. This time it’s Cary Williams, signed as a free agent on Monday, replacing jack-of-all-trades rookie Kyshoen Jarrett, who was lost for the season in Dallas. How much will Williams play? That’s not clear. But, given the state of the Redskins’ secondary, it could be a decent amount. “He’s had experience playing [on the inside and the outside], so we’re not going to limit him to just playing one spot,” Barry said. “He’s started a bunch of games. He’s played a bunch of big games. He’s played high-level football.” Williams also has a Super Bowl ring, which he won as a member of the Ravens.  

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Need to Know: Redskins' Junior Galette will be a valued free agent

Need to Know: Redskins' Junior Galette will be a valued free agent

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, February 20, 22 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.

Galette to be a valued free agent

Originally published 12/13/17

Like the Redskins, the Broncos are no longer relevant in 2017. Both teams’ fan bases have started to look towards the coming offseason.

To give their readers what they want, the Denver Post published an article by Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus that discussed some of the top pending free agents who have done the most to increase their values in the past year. There were two Redskins named, one you would expect to see on such a list and one that might surprise some people.

Kirk Cousins is at the top of the list. “The Washington signal-caller is grading as a top-10 quarterback (82.8), and soon he’ll have the long-term contract of one,” Renner wrote. “Only this time its value will be exponentially higher than any one he would have signed back when he first became a free agent in 2016.”

But the surprising name is that of Junior Galette. After missing the last two seasons with two torn Achilles tendons, he played this year on a one-year, $800,000 deal. And while he hasn’t been on fire in the sack department with just two on the year, he has been getting pressure on the passer.

“He’s accumulated the 27th-highest pass-rushing grade of any edge defender this season, but in only 264 snaps,” wrote Renner. “At 29 years of age, it’s doubtful he ever gets back to the level of the contract that he once had on the table with New Orleans. With how he’s played this season though, some pass-rush-needy team will pay handsomely for his services.”

One team that could be considered to be pass rush needy is the Redskins. Preston Smith is the starter and supposedly one of the Redskins’ top pass rushers. But in 100 fewer pass rush snaps this year, Galette has only three fewer quarterback hits than Smith and six more hurries.

And after missing those two seasons, Galette has remained healthy. Although he was limited with a hamstring during much of the preseason, he has not missed a practice or appeared on an injury report this year.

But would the Redskins be willing to pay him “handsomely”? Perhaps a good comp would be Connor Barwin, who moved from the Eagles to the Rams this past offseason at the age of 31. He had five sacks in Philly in 2016. That got him a one-year deal worth $3.5 million.

Barwin likely will have more sacks on his ledger going into free agency so let’s say Galette could command around $3 million. Perhaps he could offer Washington a bit of a hometown discount and agree to something in the $2.75 million range. If that is the case, the Redskins would be smart to keep him around for another year.

Plenty of things could alter the equation. If Galette gets hot in the last three games and posts a few more sacks his price could rise. With Smith and Ryan Kerrigan both back next year, perhaps Galette will want to go somewhere that he might get more playing time.

The details need to be sorted out but don’t be surprised if Galette gets a lot of attention in free agency, as much as teams need pass rush, and if the Redskins have to make a very tough decision about how much he is worth.

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) 9
—NFL Draft (4/26) 65
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 201

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As money skyrockets, don't expect Kirk Cousins to give discounts on open market

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USA TODAY Sports

As money skyrockets, don't expect Kirk Cousins to give discounts on open market

Kirk Cousins repeatedly said his free agent decision will not be just about money. Be clear, however, that money will be a huge factor in this decision. 

After the Redskins traded with Kansas City to acquire Alex Smith before the Super Bowl, it became obvious Washington will move on from Cousins. Whether that means the quarterback simply walks away in free agency or the organization attempts a highly risky tag-and-trade scenario, regardless, Cousins will throw footballs for another franchise in 2018.

Cousins wants to choose where he will play via free agency, and might even file a grievance if the Redskins do deploy a third franchise tag to control his rights.

Assuming Cousins hits free agency, a new report out of New York suggests the Jets will pay "whatever it takes" to land the passer. That could even include a fully guaranteed contract, and will certainly get close to a $30 million a year price tag. 

A notion exists too that Cousins might take less to go to a winner, and many think that could be the Broncos. Denver won five games in 2017, same as the Jets, though the Broncos have a strong defense and have been getting particularly awful QB play. 

The important thing to remember for curious Redskins fans watching the Cousins saga unfold: Don't expect much, if any, discount. 

The quarterback himself made that clear. 

"There’s other quarterbacks that come after you and it would be almost a selfish move to hurt future quarterbacks who get in a position to have a contract," Cousins said last year on 106.7 the Fan.

The quotes came after the 2016 season but before the Redskins again used a franchise tag with Cousins for the 2017 season. Washington wanted to attempt a long-term deal with Cousins at that point, though the quarterback decided to not negotiate and instead play on the tag.

The point remains that Cousins, and his representatives, believe the quarterback has a duty to other players to maximize his earnings. 

"If you don’t take a deal that’s fair to you, then you’re also taking a deal that’s not fair to them and you’re setting them back as well. So there’s different reasons. You just do the best you can."

If he hits free agency, Cousins will likely sign the richest contract in NFL history. Those opportunities don't come around often, and the quarterback should take full advantage. 

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