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Washington Redskins season preview: Dan Snyder’s undrainable swamp

Washington Redskins season preview: Dan Snyder’s undrainable swamp

Before the Eagles set off on what is sure to be a 100-year-dynasty of NFC East Championships, we’ll take a look at each of their divisional rivals and what they’ve got that could potentially derail the Birds seemingly sure-fire destiny.

Today, we’ll cover Washington, a franchise whose fan base would rather openly root against it than have any sort of long-term success, which appears to be a recurring theme in D.C. these days.

Washington 

What Happened Last Season: Washington choked. Not in epic, headline-grabbing fashion like the Cowboys choked. Not even in regional-camaraderie fashion like the Nats or the Caps. No, Washington had an old-fashioned playoff berth choke, dropping four-of-their-last-six to miss out on the postseason. Which is just a total epic party foul on the part of Kirk Cousins. Even Tony Romo kept his acid-reflux in control until the Wild Card round.

Sure, thanks to a tie with the Cincinnati Bengals, Washington technically had their first set of consecutive winning seasons since Dan Snyder bought the team in 1999. Bragging about that accomplishment would be like Blackberry announcing they’re rolling out a smartphone in 2018 that is entirely touchscreen — no keyboard! YOU LIKE THAT! This franchise has set the bar so ridiculously low, which is great because Donald Trump’s approval ratings could use some company.

What About The Offseason? No team in the NFL had a worse offseason than Washington, and that is not hyperbole. Sure, the Cowboys star player got suspended, the Giants sat on their hands, and the Iggles traded away a beloved role player for the sole purpose of (presumably) hurting my feelings. None of that compares to Washington, which somehow, after all these years, still finds a new foot to shoot.

Washington let DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, and Chris Baker walk, and their most significant addition was former Cleveland Brown Terrelle Pryor. If as a fan you find yourself uttering the words “the guy we got from the Browns could be huge,” you may need to seek professional assistance. Pryor probably won’t help this team improve over 8-7-1, but that’s not why this summer was an utter disgrace.

Team owner Dan Snyder, presumably self-aware of his reputation as the most horrible person to own a sports franchise, decided to lean-in to that persona with more tilt than Melania Trump wearing stilettos on her way to a hurricane relief site. Despite their most successful (ha!) two-year run in a generation, Washington unceremoniously fired GM Scot McCloughan for the crime of being credited with his own success. Those who remain in the team’s front office then spent weeks slamming McCloughan on his way out, calling him a drunk and telling him “nobody liked him.” The Washington Front Office Exit Interview is apparently being conducted by a group of nine-year-olds over Instant Messenger. The former GM lasted three years in D.C., or as they call it inside the Beltway, “99-and-a-half Scaramuccis.”

The team's only real accomplishment this summer was somehow being only the second most dysfunctional organization located in Washington D.C. But hey, there are good people on many sides. MANY SIDES!

On top of all that, Washington completely bungled their contract negotiations with Kirk Cousins and will be paying him nearly $24 million, which is coincidentally or not the same number of people who have quit or been fired from Donald Trump’s White House. And this organization (Snyder’s, not Trump’s) has been just so good to its soldiers in the past, I’m sure Cousins is beaming with confidence that if he just does his job, Snyder will finally give him that long-term contract he’s so justly owed. Cousins is essentially Bronn from Game of Thrones, just with less charisma. That would make Snyder the Lannisters, and it doesn’t take much to imagine Danny Boy sitting across a negotiating table saying “the Snyder’s always repay their debts.” 

What’ll Happen This Season (Best Case Scenario): Cousins plays well enough to prove his success wasn’t a product of having Jaccpot and Peter Waiter. The defense improves under new coordinator Greg Manusky, proving the last three times he failed as a defensive coordinator totally weren’t on him at all. And Jay Gruden wins a lifetime achievement award for somehow dragging a Dan Snyder owned organization to three consecutive winning seasons. 

Oh, and they’ll sweep the Eagles. Because for some inexplicable reason, Washington has beaten the Birds in five consecutive contests, and I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that my younger sister is dating a Washington fan. THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT, MATT! DM me for his home address, Philly faithful.

What’ll Happen This Season (Worst Case Scenario): Cousins stays healthy the entire year and plays just well enough to earn that multi-year contract -- only to plummet back to Earth in 2018. Or WORSE, he plays absolutely lights out, but when given the chance to sign a long-term contract with the team that franchise-tagged him twice, Cousins instead decides to go to a less dysfunctional franchise, like the one in Cleveland. Or EVEN WORSE THAN THAT, he plays absolutely terrible, prompting Washington to let him walk, and then goes to Cleveland on the veteran minimum where he leads the Browns to six consecutive Super Bowls. I’d like that.

Conclusion: No matter what happens, this franchise will screw it up. Even Reince Priebus looks at their staff and thinks “man, I’m glad I didn’t get stuck working there.” This fish stinks from the head down, and its demise seems an inevitable question of “when,” not “if.” That seems to be a recurring theme in D.C. these days.

Previously: Dallas Cowboys season preview: new faces but with same choking hazard

At 44 years old, Terrell Owens is still an athletic freak

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USA Today Images

At 44 years old, Terrell Owens is still an athletic freak

Even though Terrell Owens is 44 now, not much has changed. 

He’s still as divisive as ever; he’s also still as athletic. 

The soon-to-be Pro Football Hall of Famer, who recently gained headlines for turning down the HOF’s invitation to the induction ceremony this summer (see story), apparently still has it. As in, freakish athletic ability. 

That’s nuts. If that’s true, that means a guy who hasn’t played in the NFL since 2010 just ran a sub-4.5 40. 

*Eyeballs emoji*

Of course, the TO comeback ship sailed long ago, even though it seems like as he ages well into his 40s, Owens clearly still thinks he can play. 

Back in 2012, this ESPN story calls Owens a “physical marvel” for running a sub-4.5 second 40-yard dash at age 38. That was six years ago, and he apparently hasn’t slowed down. I think we used the term “physical marvel” a little too soon. 

To put TO’s alleged 4.43 time into perspective, just five receivers at this year’s combine ran faster. 

That would be a faster time than Shelton Gibson’s time (4.50) and Mack Hollins’ time (4.53) at last year’s combine. 

And if TO really ran a 4.43 or 4.44, he’s faster now than Alshon Jeffery at his pro day (4.47) when he came out of South Carolina in 2012. 

That’s insane. 

More on the Eagles

Eagles could struggle to afford Brandon Graham beyond 2018

Eagles could struggle to afford Brandon Graham beyond 2018

If there’s one Eagles player who deserves a contract extension and a pay raise right now, it’s Brandon Graham, whose strip-sack in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LII helped cement a world championship.

Unfortunately, there are a bunch of factors working against Graham entering the final year of his current deal. He’s 30, the Eagles don’t have a ton of salary cap space and the going rate for a top NFL edge defender is somewhere around $17 million per season.

The question is whether the Eagles can even afford to keep Graham long-term.

It’s a valid concern, seeing as the club was incapable of rewarding its longest-tenured defensive player earlier this offseason. In fact, the Eagles had to jump through hoops to get under the cap in March. They released a handful key contributors, restructured some deals, then watched as most of their free-agent class walked. The money that did become available was put toward adding new talent or navigating more immediate contract crises than Graham’s.

Today, the Eagles sit at $6.094 million under the 2018 cap, according to figures provided by the NFLPA. That’s not a lot, and a sizable chunk of that cash only became available with the release of Mychal Kendricks a few weeks ago.

Estimates currently project the Eagles to be over the cap in 2019 as well.

There seems to be little doubt the Eagles would like to keep Graham beyond this season. The nine-year veteran is a leader in the locker room, a positive force in the community, an extremely hard worker, an all-around decent human being and, now, a hero to the city of Philadelphia. He happens to be pretty good at football, too.

Yet, so far, the club’s perceived willingness to re-sign Graham has not been matched by reports of progress on a new contract. And when pressed for an update in March, Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman sounded non-committal about the future. 

“He’s been one of the most productive players at his position,” Roseman said. “He deserves whatever he can get. At the same time, we have a cap and we’re trying to fit everyone in. We’re trying to fit in as many good players. We went through this yesterday a little bit. We have a lot of players who are under contract, not just for 2018, but 2019, but when we get into the 2020s. And they’re good players and we want to keep as many of them around as possible and add players on top of it. That’s the puzzle we’re trying to figure out.”

Graham registered a career-high 9.5 sacks during the 2017 regular season and finished tied for ninth in the NFL with 15 tackles for loss. He also got to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for the pivotal strip-sack in the Super Bowl while playing through a high ankle sprain that later required surgery and a pulled hamstring.

Despite being “one of the most productive players at his position,” 25 edge defenders carry a higher cap figure for 2018 than Graham at $8 million – five of whom are set to earn more than double, according to OverTheCap.com.

The Eagles are facing a significant pay increase here, but where’s the money coming from?

Graham realizes he’ll be 31 next season, which could impact his earning power, and he wants to remain in Philadelphia, a combination that suggests the so-called hometown discount is a possibility.

He’s also content to play out the season and test free agency. If it comes down to a bidding war, the Eagles will be at a disadvantage.

In the meantime, the Eagles appear to be preparing for the worst-case scenario. 2017 first-round draft pick Derek Barnett is gearing up for a larger role in his second season, veteran Chris Long’s contract was extended and three-time Pro Bowl selection Michael Bennett was acquired in a trade. The team is built for life without Graham should things come to that.

The harsh reality is Graham’s run with the Eagles is in danger of coming to an end. The two sides have over eight months to hammer something out, which is plenty of time, though what they could really use is more cap space.