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Redskins free agent fits: Cornerback

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Redskins free agent fits: Cornerback

When free agency opens March 9, the Redskins will have some holes to fill on both side of the ball. In the coming days, Redskins Insider Tarik El-Bashir will examine the expected field of free agents, position-by-position, and evaluate who might be a fit in Washington. Today, we’re looking at cornerbacks.

Current situation: Bashaud Breeland took another leap forward last season and has proven himself capable of being a quality starter. After that, though, the Redskins’ depth chart at corner is riddled with question marks, such as: Can Chris Culliver return to form after another torn ACL? How much progress can wide-receiver-turned-corner Quinton Dunbar realistically make this offseason? Are 31-year-old vets Will Blackmon and Cary Williams viable options? What about untested youngsters Deshazor Everett , Jeremy Harris and Dashaun Phillips? As you can see, cornerback is a position that figures to command GM Scot McCloughan’s full attention in the coming weeks and months.

Best available: As is the case at many positions there’s no clear consensus, but Sean Smith (28, Chiefs) ranks near the top of many lists (after Josh Norman and Trumaine Johnson, both of whom got franchised). After missing the first three games due to suspension, Smith finished strong, recording 12 defended passes and a pair of interceptions to anchor Kansas City’s ninth ranked pass defense. The 6-foot-3, 215 eighth year pro carried a $7 million cap hit last season, however. And since he'll command even more next season, that probably puts him out of the Redskins’ price range given the team’s proximity to the salary cap ceiling and McCloughan’s preference to build through the draft.  

Three more options: Janoris Jenkins (27, Rams) has racked up 48 passes defended, 10 interceptions and scored five touchdowns over the past four seasons. Like Smith, he’d be an ideal player to line up on the right, across from Breeland. But, like Smith, his cost will probably prove prohibitive. Casey Hayward (26, Packers) was one of the best slot corners in the game last season and ranks second on ProFootballFocus.com’s list of free agent corners. Meantime, Prince Amukamara (26, Giants) has been a consistent performer, and he’s familiar with secondary coach Perry Fewell. But the former first round pick has also struggled with injuries, missing three or more games in four of his five seasons.

Bottom line: McCloughan recently reiterated that he doesn't expect to be a big player in free agency and won't deviate from his build-through-the-draft strategy. But there's an exception to every rule. And given the Redskins’ need for an immediate infusion of talent and experience after surrendering 30 passing touchdowns in 2015 (only eight teams allowed more), and the uncertainty behind Breeland, it wouldn’t be a surprise if McCloughan pursues an established, younger corner on the open market. How much would he be willing to spend? That's unclear. But we know this much: he'll have options. Click here for Rotorworld.com’s list of the nearly four dozen corners expected to become available on Wednesday

Previous free agent fits:

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Costly cornerbacks, offseason blueprint

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Costly cornerbacks, offseason blueprint

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 17, 25 days before NFL free agency starts.

The Redskin week that was

My weekly look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics on RealRedskins.com and NBCSportsWashington.com.

An offseason blueprint for the Redskins—Should the Redskins focus their free agency money on keeping their own? In addition to unrestricted free agents Zach Brown and Trent Murphy, they need to consider extensions for Brandon Scherff, Preston Smith, and Jamison Crowder. That could chew up a bunch of the approximately $31 million of cap space that they have. They may get some help on the market but most of their improvement should come from the draft and from within.

Redskins offseason will hit warp speed soon—With the exception of the Alex Smith trade, which actually hasn’t happened yet, there hasn’t been much going on with the Redskins. That is going to change soon, check out the post for the calendar and how the events matter for the Redskins.

No mixed messages from Alex Smith—In a radio interview, Alex Smith said that he was “jacked” to be a part of the Redskins. Now, the phrase often repeated here is that you shouldn’t listen to what they say, you should watch what they do. And the moment that he signs the reported four-year extension that he has negotiated with the team, a deal that likely would put him in Washington for the rest of his career, we will see his actions backing up his words. Then we will know.

What we know, and what we think, of the Su'a Cravens situation—This will be a true test of the acumen of the front office. It’s a very tricky situation. The Redskins have to decide if they want to keep Cravens. Should they decide to keep him, there will be a lot of smoothing over of ruffled feelings that would need to be done over and trust in Cravens would have to be restored. If they don’t want him around, they have to make it look like they are willing to go into the season with him in order to be able to trade him. Otherwise, teams may just wait for them to cut him and sign him as a free agent. Again, don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do.

Tweet of the week

Quarterback is not the only NFL position with rising salaries. The players teams hire to try to stop opposing QBs, cornerbacks, are getting expensive, too. Bashaud Breeland is a good cornerback, not a great one. His coverage skills are solid, he’s a good team player (if a bit of a hothead at times) and his work ethic is not questioned. For a fourth-round pick who everybody thought left Clemson a year too early, he has done well for himself But he hasn’t made a Pro Bowl and he hasn’t even come close enough to be considered a snub. Breeland has eight interceptions in four years in the league with a high of three in 2016.

The price tag for good at cornerback is likely to be in the vicinity of $10 million per season. And good for him if he gets it. But with the Redskins employing Josh Norman, who has cap hits in the range of $14.5 million-$16.9 million over the next three years, it would be difficult to fit him in. Truth be told, Breeland has probably been destined to leave as a free agent ever since Norman signed his contract in April of 2016.

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) 12
—NFL Draft (4/26) 68
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 204

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Cousins would reportedly look to file grievance if Redskins use franchise tag on him

Cousins would reportedly look to file grievance if Redskins use franchise tag on him

The Redskins might try to franchise tag quarterback Kirk Cousins to try to get some compensation for him as he leaves. But Cousins’ camp might not let that happen without a fight.

According to Albert Breer of the MMQB, Cousins might file a grievance if he is tagged, saying that the Redskins would be violating the spirit of the rules regarding the use of the franchise tag. He would be seeking to have the tag voided because the team clearly isn ’t interested in reaching a long-term deal with him given the acquisition of Alex Smith. The tag is supposed to be used to buy time to get an agreement done, not to squat on a player’s rights in order to trade him.

There is precedent for the tag being used in order to facilitate a trade. In 2009, the Patriots tagged quarterback Matt Cassel. They clearly had no intention of keeping him as they had Tom Brady on the roster. But New England pulled it off, shipping Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs for a second-round pick.

But it is up to the player to object to being tagged and for whatever reason Cassel and his agent went along with the tag and trade rather than fighting for free agency.

It looks like Cousins ’camp won’t go as quietly.

It’s up to the Redskins to make the first move. The window to be able to tag a player opens on Tuesday with the deadline coming on March 6. We will see how things play out after that.

MORE REDSKINS: THE EXPECTATIONS GAME

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