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At quarterback for the Redskins it’s Cousins and question marks

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At quarterback for the Redskins it’s Cousins and question marks

Over the next few weeks, Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will grade each position group’s performance in 2015, break down the current personnel situation and evaluate the unit's outlook for 2016. Previously, we took a look at the defensive line, offensive tackles, interior offensive line, wide receivers, running backs and tight ends. Today, it’s running backs.

Quarterback

Grade: A-

2015 starter: Kirk Cousins

Backups: Colt McCoy, Robert Griffin III

Free agents: McCoy

Rewind: Did Cousins have a magical season? Or was it a pretty good half year that was built on the backs of a string of mostly mediocre opponents? Whether you viewed it optimistically or pessimistically, the results were pretty good as Cousins broke a few team passing records and led the team to a 9-7 record and the NFC East title.

He did this after spending OTAs and all of training camp as Griffin’s backup. After a bizarre incident in which Griffin was first cleared to play after suffering concussion only to have the independent neurologist reverse the decision, Cousins started the third preseason game against the Ravens. He played well and a few days later Jay Gruden announced that the Redskins were “Kirk’s team”.

Griffin’s fall from franchise savior hit rock bottom as he was active for just one game and didn’t take a snap. He handled the situation well, staying in the background and working to stay prepared if his number had been called.

The issue was at least as much about money as it was about Griffin's ability. Last May the team picked up his fifth-year option, which carried a salary of $16.1 million. The money was guaranteed only if Griffin suffered an injury that would cause him not to pass a physical at the end of the year. The organization was unwilling to risk an expense and a cap charge that big so Griffin was glued to the bench.

McCoy appeared in two games in mop up duty.

Fast forward: There are a couple of things we know about the Redskins’ 2016 quarterback situation. One is that Cousins will be behind center in Week 1. He signed his franchise tender and he is guaranteed nearly $20 million in salary. We will see how he performs with higher expectations and with defensive coordinators having a year of film on him.

We also know that Griffin will be playing elsewhere in 2016. That $16.1 million option becomes guaranteed at 4 p.m. on Wednesday and there is no chance the Redskins will pay him that money to be a backup. There is a very slim chance for a trade; his release is more likely. He will move on to another team and the Redskins will start to get some evidence as to whether they made a mistake in making the megadeal to acquire him or if they goofed in letting him go.

McCoy will be a free agent on Wednesday. While the Redskins are interested in bringing him back McCoy may want to go somewhere that he has more of a chance to play.

If McCoy doesn’t return the Redskins will be in the market for two quarterbacks. They will need to sign a veteran to serve as a backup in 2016, perhaps someone like Matt Schaub or Charlie Whitehurst. It’s likely that they won’t use a top pick on a quarterback but anytime from round four on they might grab Dak Prescott of Mississippi or, perhaps a little later, Kevin Hogan of Stanford.

If McCoy is back they still will look to draft a QB. Unless Cousins has signed a long-term contract by draft day the Redskins will have to look at him as though he is on a one-year contract. If you’re not always looking for a successor at the most important position on the field you can find yourself in trouble quickly. 

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Need to Know: Five Redskins who must step up in 2018

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Need to Know: Five Redskins who must step up in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 25, 17 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.

Five Redskins who will have to step up in 2018

Originally published 12/26/17

WR Josh Doctson—This list is in no particular order but if it was, Doctson would be right here at the top. The watchword for Doctson is consistency. He makes some incredible catches and then there are throws that he drops or doesn’t quite seem to make enough of an effort to catch. There is promise there. The first-round pick has shown his ability and his teammates say he has a chance to be elite. But the potential must translate into production on the field, week in and week out.  

RB Samaje Perine—There is plenty of chatter about the Redskins’ need to sign or draft a top running back. But a look at this team’s recent history tells us that they are unlikely to invest major assets in the position. That means that Perine, a fourth-round pick in 2017, will have to become a more consistent runner. It’s not all his fault that he hasn’t done much since he had back-to-back 100-yard games in Weeks 11-12; tough defense, offensive line issues, and game score situations have slowed his production. But he needs to be consistently productive in 2018 no matter who he lines up against.

CB Josh Norman—Unless he gets a pick against the Giants, he will go through the year without any interceptions. Sure, they don’t throw his way all that often and INT’s don’t give you the complete picture of his play. But a CB taking up $20 million in cap room needs to get a couple of picks almost by sheer accident. Norman battled some injury problems and if he wants to justify the final two years and $23 million of salary remaining on his contract, his age 30 2018 season needs to be more impactful.

OLB Preston Smith—The third-year player started strong, with at least half a sack in the first five games. And he’s finishing strong, with three sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble in the last two games. But in between, he had a total of just half a sack in eight games. This follows the pattern he displayed his first two years in the league of being dominant in some games and invisible in others. If he can develop some consistency in his 2018 contract year, he could cash in huge in free agency the following year.

Head coach Jay Gruden—Normally I only include players on lists like this one but if Gruden doesn’t do something to get the Redskins out of their near-.500 rut then nothing else will matter. He needs to change up something, whether it’s pushing the players hard in training camp or perhaps fine tuning his friendly approach to the players. Sure, better luck regarding injuries and a schedule that right now appears to be a bit less challenging will help. But Gruden needs to look at what he can change, too.

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) 4
—NFL Draft (4/26) 60
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 196

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Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

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Usa Today Sports Images

Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 24, 18 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 five highest-paid Redskins in 2018

Originally published 1/12/18

This is how the five highest-paid Redskins per their 2018 salary cap numbers stack up as of now. The list could change, of course during free agency and if a particular quarterback returns. Cap numbers via Over the Cap.

CB Josh Norman, $17 million—The Redskins do have a window which would allow them to move on from Norman. His $13.5 million salary for this year doesn’t become guaranteed until the fifth day of the league year so it would be “only” a $9 million cap charge to move on from Norman, who turned 30 in December. Don’t look for that to happen but the possibility is there.

OT Trent Williams, $13.86 million—He is one of the best left tackles in the business. Those of you out there who have advocated moving him to left guard should look at this cap number, which is way out of line for what a team can afford to pay a guard. At his pay, he needs to be playing on the edge.

OLB Ryan Kerrigan, $12.45 million—He has delivered double-digit sacks in each of the two seasons that his contract extension has been in effect. That’s good value in a league that values the ability to get to the quarterback.

TE Jordan Reed, $10.14 million—The Redskins knew that he might have a year like last year when he played in only six games when they agreed to Reed’s five-year, $50 million extension. They can live with one such season. If he has another one in 2018 they may rethink things.

G Brandon Scherff, $6.75 million—The fact that a rookie contract is No. 5 on this list is a good sign that, as of now, the Redskins’ cap is not top heavy like it was last year. The top three cap hits from Norman, Williams, and Kirk Cousins totaled $59 million, which was about 35 percent of the cap. This year the total cap numbers of the top three come to $43.3 million, 24.3 percent of the estimated $178 million salary cap.

Next five: OT Morgan Moses ($5.4 million), TE Vernon Davis ($5.33 million), DL Stacy McGee ($4.8 million), DL Terrell McClain ($4.75 million), S D.J. Swearinger ($4.33 million)

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) 5
—NFL Draft (4/26) 61
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 197