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Redskins savor rare opportunity

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Redskins savor rare opportunity

The last time the Redskins played a home game in December that had postseason implications was 2007.

The next time arrives Monday, when the Giants (7-4) visit FedEx Field for a pivotal NFC East matchup on national television. With a victory, the Redskins (5-6) would vault themselves into the thick of the division and wild card races. 

For veterans like Lorenzo Alexander, the five years in between have felt like an eternity. 

“It’s great,” he said Wednesday. “This is the first meaningful game I’ve played in December in a while, still having the playoffs on the table. It’s a great feeling that we’re still playing for something outside of personal pride. It’s for postseason play.”

The mood around Redskins Park, as a result, has been more upbeat in comparison to recent years, when the post-Thanksgiving focus had already shifted to the following season.

Not this week, however. Not after back-to-back wins over the Eagles and Cowboys breathed life back into a season that had been left for dead at the bye. 

“It’s more important to everybody,” defensive end Stephen Bowen said. “They’re putting in the work. Whether it’s in weight room, the classroom, the field, they’re putting in extra work.”

"The last two weeks have given us confidence because of the way that we’re playing," Bowen continued. "We know we still have an opportunity to make a run. It’s good for team morale. It shows that all that hard work you put in the offseason wasn’t for naught." 

Tackle Trent Williams added: “The last couple of years, we haven’t had anything of this nature. It feels great. It’s definitely a huge game for us, for this organization. A win Monday night could do a lot for us in the near future and also in the distant future.”

Coach Mike Shanahan noted last week that there's been an increased sense of urgency for his players. Fullback Darrel Young, however, said the key to the turnaround has in fact been something more tangible: players are making clutch plays at critical junctures.

“Execution under pressure,” Young said. “Look at Santana [Moss] making big plays on third-and-one. We didn’t have that. We came into the season with the worst percentage on third down. We’re not we want to be, but guys are making plays.”

Alexander agreed.

“If you look at all of our losses, we have had mental lapses, especially the last Giants’ game when we gave up that big play at the end,” he said. “Compare that to the Dallas game where you had Dez Bryant in the end zone and Madieu Williams comes over, hits him and dislodges the ball. A couple of weeks ago, [Bryant] would have caught that ball.”

The challenge now, Alexander said, is maintaining the momentum.

“It’s all about confidence and winning games,” he said. “The great teams, especially the Super Bowl teams over the last three or four years, have been able to play good ball in the second half of the season. They’ve gone into December playing at a high level, like the Giants and Green Bay Packers. They started a little slow but were able to finish strong. If we’re able to mimic some of that, we have a great chance achieving a lot of our goals here.”

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Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

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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

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Martavis Bryant could make sense for the Redskins, at the right price

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USA TODAY Sports

Martavis Bryant could make sense for the Redskins, at the right price

A 2017 midseason trade for Martavis Bryant made no sense for the Redskins. A 2018 offseason trade for Martavis Bryant, however, might make sense for the Redskins. 

Bryant is on the trade block, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, and will be an intriguing prospect for receiver-needy teams across the NFL. In parts of three seasons with the Steelers, Bryant has 17 touchdowns and a 15.2 yards-per-reception average. 

A big play threat from any place on the field, Bryant would immediately make the Redskins receiving unit more athletic and explosive. 

It's not all good news with Bryant, though.

He was suspended for the entire 2016 season after repeated drug violations and caused some distraction for Pittsburgh during the 2017 season when he asked for a trade via social media. 

MORE: CAN YOU GUESS THESE REDSKINS BASED ON THEIR COMBINE NUMBERS?

Is the talent enough to overcome the off-field distractions? Many would say it is. 

Last year, in just eight starts, Bryant grabbed 50 catches for more than 600 yards and three TDs. In their lone playoff loss to the Jaguars, Bryant caught two passes for 78 yards and a TD. 

Remember, too, the Steelers have an explosive offense, and Bryant is coupled with Antonio Brown on the receiver front along with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback and Le'Veon Bell at running back. The Pittsburgh offense is loaded. 

Washington's offense is not nearly the prolific unit that the Steelers send out, but Jay Gruden does design a good offense. 

The real question surrounding any talk of trading for Bryant is the cost.

The Redskins are not in a position to send away any more draft picks this offseason after giving up a third-round pick, in addition to Kendall Fuller, to acquire Alex Smith. Bruce Allen and the Redskins front office need to improve their team in plenty of spots, and the team's draft picks are quite valuable. 

Bryant only has one year remaining on his rookie deal, and it's hard to balance that sort of short-term investment with the value of adding a rookie committed to the team for at least four years. Perhaps a late-round pick would make sense, but it would need to be a sixth-rounder. 

This could be one of those rare situations in the NFL where a player for player swap could work, though pulling that type of maneuver requires a lot of moving parts. 

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