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Redskins 2016 draft possibilities: Running back

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Redskins 2016 draft possibilities: Running back

With the busy portion of the free agent signing period over, it’s time to start looking ahead to the 2016 NFL Draft and, specifically, holes Redskins GM Scot McCloughan still must fill. (And, yes, there are many.) Over the next few weeks, Redskins Insider Tarik El-Bashir will examine prospects that could be a fit in Washington. 

Up first…

Running back

Depth chart: Matt Jones, Chris Thompson, Silas Redd Jr. and Mack Brown.

Current situation: Running back ranks as one of the Redskins’ more unsettled areas as the offseason ramps up. Alfred Morris is gone, of course, having signed as a free agent in Dallas. Jones is coming off an inconsistent, injury-plagued rookie season, as well as a minor hip procedure. Still, Jones seems to have shown enough to be penciled in as the No. 1 back.

After that, though, there are many questions.

Thompson had shoulder surgery and is expected to be sidelined until training camp. Redd suffered a major knee injury and missed the entire 2015 season. Brown hasn’t played a regular season snap, while free agent Pierre Thomas might still be re-signed. Thomas could help next season, but at 31-years-old, he’s also not a long-term solution.

Given all of that uncertainty—and the fact that the Redskins produced a lowly 3.7 yards per carry in ’15 (third-worst)—it would make a lot of sense for McCloughan to invest a pick in a running back. And it wouldn’t be surprising if that pick were a high-to mid-round selection considering the team’s immediate need for help.   

“We might sign a free agent here in the next couple weeks or we might wait until after the draft to see how we address it in the draft,” Coach Jay Gruden said at the NFL owners meetings last month, hinting that the position figures to be a priority in Chicago later this month.

MORE REDSKINS: A 7-ROUND MOCK DRAFT FOR WASHINGTON

Three possibilities:

  • Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech

Listed at 5-10, 213-pounds, Dixon is productive all-around back who ranks second in FBS history in career touchdowns with 87 (72 rushing and 15 receiving). Last season, Dixon rushed for 1,073 yards on 198 carries (5.4 yards per) and 19 touchdowns to go along with 33 receptions for 464 yards and seven scores. The three-down back is projected to be drafted as early as the second round.

  • Kenyan Drake, Alabama

Used as a complement to Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, the 6-1, 210-pounder rushed for 408 yards (5.3 per) and a touchdown and hauled in 29 passes for 276 yards and a score. He’s also a good kickoff returner who averaged 26.6 yards per return on 19 attempts as a senior.  At the Senior Bowl in January, NBC Sports draft guru Josh Norris told me, “He was kind of the lightning to Derrick Henry’s thunder.” Drake is projected to be drafted in the 3rd to 5th round.

  • Josh Ferguson, Illinois

Listed at 5 foot 10, 198-pounds, Ferguson is one of the best pass catching running backs in this year’s class. In nine games as a senior, he rushed for 708 yards on 129 carries (5.5 per) and hauled in 37 passes for 280 yards. A quick, agile player, Norris compares him to Chris Thompson. The Redskins reportedly met with Ferguson at the East-West Shrine Game. Projected to be drafted in the 4th or 5th round.

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The pros and cons of each of the Redskins' options with Kirk Cousins

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The pros and cons of each of the Redskins' options with Kirk Cousins

The Redskins are pondering the three options they have to start up the process that will either lead to Cousins playing in Washington in 2018 or saying goodbye to their starter for the last three years. These options carry pros and cons that Schaffer, Allen, and Dan Snyder will weigh over the next 46 days until March 6, the deadline for teams to designate transition and franchise tags.

Here are the three most likely options for the Redskins and the pros and cons of each approach:

No tag, let him hit free agency—This would allow Cousins to become a free agent at 4 p.m. on March 14, when the new league years starts. The Redskins could make him an offer and they could ask the Cousins camp to give them an opportunity to match any offer they might be considering. But Cousins would be under no obligation to do so.
Pros: It would end the uncertainty once and for all. When the process is over, Cousins will either be a Redskin in the long term or be playing for another team. This also is the only way the Redskins can qualify for a compensatory draft pick if Cousins does sign elsewhere.
Cons: The most likely outcome is that the Redskins would be starting over at quarterback in 2018, something they are not ready to do. A large segment of the fan base would be angry if the Redskins just let Cousins walk out the door.

MORE REDSKINS: QUARTERBACKS WIN CHAMPIONSHIPS

Transition tag: This tag carries a salary of $28.8 million and it allows Cousins to talk to other teams. If he gets an offer sheet from one of them, the Redskins would have five days to match it. If they don’t match, Cousins goes to the other team for no compensation. Another possible outcome could be Cousins signing the tag and staying in Washington for the fully guaranteed $28.8 million salary.
Pros: There also would be a good chance of ending the uncertainty, with Cousins either ending up gone at the end of the process or under a long-term contract in Washington. It also would give Cousins what he wants, the ability to test the open market, while giving the Redskins a shot at keeping him at the same time.
Cons: A team with adequate cap space could front load an offer and make it very difficult for the Redskins to match. There would be no compensation if Cousins left because the Redskins declined to match an offer sheet. And there is the possibility that the QB uncertainty could linger for another year if Cousins signs the tag.

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.

Franchise tag: This tag carries a salary of about $34.5 million. Cousins could not negotiate with other teams as there is no non-exclusive option on a third career franchise tag. At his radio event the week after the season ended, Cousins said that he would just sign the tag and play for the Redskins. They could trade Cousins after he signs the tag, although the salary would make that difficult to do.
Pros: It would virtually assure that the Redskins would have Cousins for 2018. They would have until July 15 to try to negotiate a long-term deal with him.
Cons: You can’t make the case that Cousins, or any player not named Brady or Rodgers, could justify a $34.5 million salary for one year. And since a fourth franchise tag is not permitted, it would almost certainly set up a scenario where Cousins plays one more year and then he is done in DC. That’s not how to get the certainty at the position that Jay Gruden desires.

There is a fourth option, which would be to sign Cousins before the deadline. But earlier this month Cousins said that he would not be interested in doing that; his preference is to wait until March. Perhaps things can change but Cousins was quite definitive in what he said.

RELATED: NFL MOCK DRAFT 4.0

   

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Need to Know: Quarterbacks win championships and other lessons for the Redskins

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Need to Know: Quarterbacks win championships and other lessons for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, January 22, 51 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 43
—NFL Draft (4/26) 94
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 230

Quarterbacks win championships and other lessons the Redskins can learn

Quarterback matters: We had the setup of the three castaway and ridiculed quarterbacks leading their teams into the NFL’s final four. But, the two who survived were one of the greatest of all time and one who found his groove and had 10.7 yards per attempt and a 141.4 passer rating. Yes, Tom Brady and Nick Foles had a lot of help and we’ll get into that in a minute. But, without excellent play from their quarterbacks, it may have been a different story for the Eagles and Patriots. This doesn’t mean that the Redskins need to send truckloads of money to Kirk Cousins’ house, but if they don’t, they do need a quality alternative. You won’t win with Bortles-level play.

Defense matters: The Vikings rolled right down the field on their first possession and it looked like the Eagles defense was going to have a long night. But then Chris Long got pressure on Case Keenum leading a pick six that apparently energized the Philly defense. Rookie Derek Barnett knocked the ball out of Keenum’s hand when the Vikings were threatening to make a game of it. Minnesota came up empty in its last eight possessions. As the Eagles offense started to build a lead, their defense played faster and more aggressively. At this point, the Redskins don’t have the personnel or the mindset to play that way on defense.

Does running really matter? It’s a small sample size here but in the two games yesterday it did not. The Patriots ran for all of 46 yards. The Eagles got 110, but at the point in the third quarter where they took a 31-7 lead, they had 202 yards passing and 40 yards rushing. Running the ball was not decisive in either game. Offensively, the games were won in the air. Jay Gruden’s “pass happy” approach can be a winning approach.

Stay aggressive: At times during the year, Cousins expressed some frustration in the Redskins’ inability or perhaps unwillingness to keep the pedal mashed to the floor when they had a lead. I hit on the Eagles’ aggressiveness on defense, but their offense didn’t slow down either. They were up 21-7 when they got the ball on their own 20 with 29 seconds left in the first half. In that situations, the Redskins—and, in fact, most other teams—would run a draw, throw a short pass, and let the clock run out. But Doug Pederson was having none of that. Passes for 11, 36, and 13 yards got them down to the Vikings 20 and they kicked a field goal to close out the half. If the game wasn’t over then, it was early in the third quarter when Pederson called a flea flicker and Foles hit Torrey Smith for 42 yards and a touchdown.

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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