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Antonio Brown or not, the Redskins look poised for an aggressive offseason

Antonio Brown or not, the Redskins look poised for an aggressive offseason

INDIANAPOLIS - As the whispers from dimly lit restaurants and crowded hotel lobbies turn into real conversations, one thing seems clear: The Redskins might be looking to make a big move this offseason.

With the entire NFL descended upon The Racing Capital of the World for the annual Scouting Combine, the offseason talk moves into overdrive. Teams bring their whole coaching and front office staffs to Indianapolis, player agents hold court at bars and nightclubs, and plans for the coming season start getting very real.

ESPN reported Friday night that Washington is one of three teams pursuing a possible trade with Pittsburgh to acquire star wide receiver Antonio Brown.

That move would require draft picks, which the Redskins seem reluctant to offer, particularly their first-round pick, according to league sources. There also would be numerous salary cap hurdles.

That doesn’t mean, however, that Bruce Allen and the Redskins brass couldn’t get a deal done if determined to do so.

Trading players could be on the table as an alternative to draft picks, and depending on the player, could also help move some salary. As of now, Washington has just $17 million in cap space for 2019.

And as far as trading players goes, that’s not a scenario reserved just for Brown.

It’s obvious the Redskins need a quarterback, and many with the team think very highly of Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray.

Jay Gruden said publicly he expects Murray to be an excellent NFL quarterback and that the size questions that lingered before the NFL Scouting Combine are not an issue. Murray measured at 5-foot-10 and more than 200 pounds, similar to Russell Wilson. In fact, Doug Williams dismissed the size issue for Murray by pointing out Wilson’s success.

If the ‘Skins brass speaks that highly of Murray publicly, imagine what the team is saying privately.

Still, Washington might not have the capital to move up in the draft and select Murray, even if they do want him. The chances of the 2018 Heisman winner as the potential No. 1 overall draft pick seem quite real.

That doesn’t definitively mean the ‘Skins won’t move up for another passer. While word is the team doesn’t want to give up a first-round pick for Brown, that could be different for a rookie quarterback. The organization might look differently at a swap of first-round picks to go get a QB, along with a player or later round pick. Allen seemed quite disinterested in trading up when he spoke in Indy, but almost every NFL executive says they won’t trade up. Then every year multiple NFL teams trade up for a quarterback.

There doesn’t seem to be clear consensus within the Redskins organization about other passers like Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock or Daniel Jones like their is for Murray though.

There’s also what could happen if Murray does go No. 1.

The Cardinals hold that pick, but last year Arizona traded up in the first round to select QB Josh Rosen. He had a bad rookie year, but one NFC scout said he still has a ton of talent and that it would be unfair to place all the blame for the Cardinals' poor 2018 season on a rookie QB. The team has since fired its coach and seems intent on rebuilding the roster, led by Kliff Kingsbury, a young pass-first coach famous for the Air Raid offense.

If Arizona wants to draft Murray and move Rosen, plenty of talent evaluators say he would be worth the 15th pick that the Redskins hold. And while one year is already gone from his rookie deal, as a former first-rounder, there is the fifth-year team option available. That means four years of contractual control for an interested team on a QB some rated as the best in the 2018 class.

One popular conversation topic at the Combine was the importance of players on team-friendly rookie contracts. Ask anybody in Indianapolis, from an Uber Driver to a bartender, and they will tell you how valuable a rookie first-round deal is for a good quarterback.

For the Redskins, with $20 million due to Alex Smith this season and more than $20 million due in 2020, a rookie QB contract must look very appealing.

Trading back in the draft seems possible too, particularly if it becomes clear Jones or Lock could be available in the bottom 10 picks of the first round.

While Allen totally denied interest in Joe Flacco, it would not be a complete surprise if Washington adds a veteran QB to compete with Colt McCoy for the starting job either. What they can afford is a different matter.

The only thing that seems concrete from the Combine: this offseason could be aggressive in Washington.

After three straight years of missing the playoffs, and two straight 7-9 seasons, the pressure is high at Redskins Park. 

While the team certainly made headlines last year when they traded for Smith, his leg injury leaves the Redskins in a very precarious spot. 

Some folks around the NFL don’t expect Smith to ever play again, and despite the team publicly saying they won’t count out Smith’s possible recovery, it seems near impossible he plays in 2019. 

And for a lot of the corner offices in Ashburn, 2019 needs to be a winning season. 

The last time the Redskins missed the playoffs three straight seasons, the team made a drastic move to acquire Robert Griffin III in the 2012 NFL Draft. 

If history repeats itself, be prepared for something major. 

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Two teams Peter King thinks could emerge in potential Trent Williams trade

Two teams Peter King thinks could emerge in potential Trent Williams trade

The question of will Redskins left tackle Trent Williams be traded is no longer an if, but when.

If Washington is unable to move the seven-time Pro Bowler over the next couple of weeks, the NFL Draft seems to be a likely time for the left tackle to be dealt. The Redskins don't have a second-round pick due to the Montez Sweat trade from a year ago and could be looking for one in return in a potential deal for Williams.

NBC Sports Peter King believes the Redskins should be able to find a trade partner for Williams, whether that's before or during the draft.

"I would be surprised if they weren't able to trade him," King told NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay.

The longtime NFL analyst went on to name two teams that Redskins fans should keep an eye on in a potential deal for the 31-year-old, with the first being the New York Jets.

"I'd really watch the Jets," King said. "It makes so much sense with the Jets."

New York signed tackle George Fant to a three-year, $27 million contract in free agency, but the tight-end-converted-lineman could shift to right tackle should the Jets be able to acquire Williams. The Jets interest in Williams isn't new, either. Just a day after the longtime Redskin was given permission to seek a trade in early March, the Jets were rumored to be interested in the left tackle.

Left tackle is a position the Jets needed to address this offseason, and the signing of Fant has led to more questions than answers. In 2019, New York allowed an average of over three sacks a game, the fourth-worst mark in the league. After signing prized free-agent running back Le'Veon Bell a year ago, the rusher was unable to maximize his talent behind one of the worst offensive lines in football. Jets' rushers averaged just 0.7 yards before contact a year ago, the NFL's worst mark.

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The Seattle Seahawks were the other team King believes could be eyeing a deal with Williams. 

"Honestly, I'd watch Seattle, too," King said. "Seattle is forever in search of an offensive line fix."

Trading Williams to the Pacific Northwest would be the second deal between the Redskins and Seahawks this offseason, as Washington shipped disgruntled cornerback Quinton Dunbar to Seattle for a fifth-round pick a couple of weeks ago. Dunbar, like Williams, also wanted a new contract. Both have one year remaining on their current deal, each with zero guaranteed money.

Seattle currently has Duane Brown at left tackle, and he's been above average at the position since the Seahawks traded for him in 2017. But Brown, who has two years remaining on his contract, will turn 35 before the 2020 season begins. Williams is simply better and three years younger, which could intrigue Seattle into making a deal.

Williams held out all of the 2019 season after Redskins team doctors misdiagnosed a cancerous growth on his brain for nearly six years. He reported to Washington minutes before the trade deadline last season and planned to return, but the Redskins placed him on the Non-Football Injury list days later, ending his season without No. 71 him playing a snap.

The longtime left tackle was given permission to seek a trade by the Redskins last month but hasn't been able to find a trade partner for what the Redskins feel is fair value for the seven-time Pro Bowler. Last week, Williams' agent ripped to Redskins for "not acting in good faith" and blamed the lack of a trade solely on the Redskins.

King believes that once Williams is eventually moved, he should be able to net the Redskins either a second or third-round pick.

"He should still be able to get a mid-to-low 2 or a very high 3," King said. "That would be my expectation that would happen."

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When will the NFL kick off play? NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith not ready to predict

When will the NFL kick off play? NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith not ready to predict

A world without sports was impossible to imagine just a few weeks ago.   

Even under the worst circumstances, sports brings us together, provides hope during times of adversity, heals the broken and offers a glimpse of better times to come. That isn’t available now to help us distance ourselves from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.  

The NBA, NHL, and MLS seasons are suspended. MLB’s season is delayed. College spring sports are cancelled. This is the new reality of social distancing and quarantine.  

In these trying times, the NFL has provided some sense of normalcy because its offseason could go on despite some necessary adjustments. Free agency went off without a hitch and the NFL Draft is expected to do the same later this month. But what happens after that? Will the season begin on time? 

NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith is taking the cautious approach.  

“I think it’s hard, if not impossible, to make concrete projections on what things might look like three, four, five, six months from now,” Smith said.  

Where we are today could not have been predicted months ago, leaving uncertainty in its wake. Yes, sports fans are desperate for football. But this scenario is just bigger than the business of the game. So, we pause. 

“The country is in desperate need of good leadership right now to make sure that we halt the spread of the virus, that we try to make sure that we are doing everything to make the peak of this outbreak happen as quickly as possible,” Smith said.  

Teams are not allowed to meet with players currently. And while the league has yet to cancel off-season training activities, Covid-19 is disrupting day-to-day business. Virtual contact is expected soon, but when players and coaches meet for the first time in person may not come until training camp in July.  Even that is in question. The 2020 Summer Olympics were scheduled for the same time in Tokyo and they were postponed weeks ago.  

While we don’t know when football will return, we do know it will.  But will it be different?  It’s been suggested games could be played without fans. Smith says contingency plans are coming together, but games without fans seems unlikely.  If the virus hasn’t been contained, don’t expect players to come out first and play alone.  

“I certainly am a fan, like everybody else out there,” Smith said. “Whether it was being a fan of basketball, baseball, or being a fan of hockey – all of that got cancelled because it was in the public’s best interest.” 

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A team could test all of its players and be in the clear, but what about when they go home to their families?  Or resume normal activities outside of football?  It’s too much of a risk.    

“Football certainly has a strong and meaningful place in American culture, whether it’s played in high school, college, or played on the professional level,” Smith said. “But first and foremost, we have to make decisions that are in best interest of the public and best interest of the players.” 

The NFL and the NFLPA have gathered the best doctors they can to monitor the safety of their players and organization staffs.  The biggest determining factor on when football, and all sports, return is what you do at home to help slow the spread.  

Do your part, stay home and don’t expect football to return before it returns with you, the fan, who hopefully will be cheering from the stands, from your homes. Soon enough it will be safe to return. And when that happens, the players will be ready, too.  

“I know that there is going to be a group of people that are going to love to play football on the field,” Smith said.  

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