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Need to Know: It's science--Preston Smith is one of the NFL's top pass rushers

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Need to Know: It's science--Preston Smith is one of the NFL's top pass rushers

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, February 7, 35 days before NFL free agency starts.

A scientific evaluation of Preston Smith

Preston Smith is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. That’s not an opinion, that’s science talking.

According to data gathered by the NFL via Next Gen Stats, the Redskins’ outside linebacker had a higher pass rush pressure rate than anyone in the NFL in 2017.

That’s right. A higher pressure rate than Von Miller, Demarcus Lawrence, Aaron Donald, Everson Griffen, or whatever other pass rushers you want to name.

The data does not come from someone with a pen and notepad watching the All-22 from NFL Game Pass. Next Gen Stats are generated from the precise GPS chips that are located in each player’s pads. If the pass rusher is within a certain distance of the quarterback at the time the pass is released, he is credited with a pressure.

Per that data, Smith got pressure on 15.9 percent of his 309 pass rushing plays. That put him just a tick ahead of the Cowboys’ Lawrence at 15.8 percent. In third was another member of the Redskins, Junior Galette, with a rate of 15.1 percent on his 219 attempts.

The Redskins had one other player in the top 12 with Ryan Kerrigan 10th with a rate of 13.4 percent on 380 pass rush plays. Only one other team, the Rams with Donald and Robert Quinn, had more than one player in the top 12.

Something else should be noted here. The old adage is that a baseball player can fail seven out of every 10 trips to the plate and still have a shot at the Hall of Fame. As a pass rusher, your failure rate can be even higher, nearly 85 percent, and you can still be one of the best in the business. The top rushers average about two or three pressures per game. Just like seasons where the .300 hitter goes through some 0 for 4 games, the top pass rusher will have games where he just can’t get to the quarterback.

The Redskins organization will have some work to do if it wants to keep the trio together. Kerrigan is signed through 2020 so he is not a concern. Galette was unhappy with his playing time last year (he replied to the tweet with these stats in it wondering if his snap count was too high) and he might move on as a free agent this year unless the Redskins can persuade him they will give him more snaps.

Smith should be the priority. He has completed three years of his four-year rookie contract and he is now eligible to get a contract extension. The Redskins would be wise to at least attempt to lock him up for the next several years. But Smith might want to wait a year and test the open market where he could really cash in.

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) 22
—NFL Draft (4/26) 78
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 214

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Antonio Brown reveals even the Steelers agree it's time he moves on

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Antonio Brown reveals even the Steelers agree it's time he moves on

Antonio Brown won’t play for the Pittsburgh Steelers next season.

You may have thought this scenario already existed since the Pro Bowl wide receiver often publically airs his desire for a trade and frustrations with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Tuesday’s news pushed assumption to reality.

Brown met with Steelers owner Dan Rooney Tuesday. The NFL’s top receiver posted a picture of the two via his Twitter account with a summary of their conversation.

“Had a great meeting with Mr. Rooney today we discussed a lot of things and we cleared the air on several issues!” Brown explained. “We both agreed that it is time to move on but I’ll always have appreciation and gratitude towards the Rooney family and @steelers organization! #CallGod#Boomin

Multiple media reports soon followed, including one from Pro Football Talk, stating the Steelers “have agreed to trade” Brown. However, permission for Brown’s camp to speak with other teams was not initially granted.

The cost won’t be cheap despite Pittsburgh essentially backed into a corner. Considering Brown’s tremendous talent and Hall of Fame production, he’s the rare non-quarterback capable of positively altering a team’s projections. 

Green Bay, armed with two first-round picks, and San Francisco, a team Brown mentions as a future destination on social media, are among the teams likely excited by Tuesday’s reveal.

As for the Redskins, we know the need is real. Washington’s offense lacks playmakers especially at wide receiver. The team also has major concerns under center, so acquiring a top receiver before solving that passer issue feels a bit like putting the cart before the horse. There are also salary cap fears for a team without much wiggle room and a lengthy list of holes.

If, however, Washington desires a return to its off-season champion days, adding Brown is the splashy move. Now we know for sure that’s an option. 

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With franchise tag period open, will Redskins consider option with Preston Smith, Jamison Crowder or Ha Ha Clinton-Dix?

With franchise tag period open, will Redskins consider option with Preston Smith, Jamison Crowder or Ha Ha Clinton-Dix?

For too many years, the opening of the franchise tag period marked the true beginning of the NFL offseason in Washington. 

As the Redskins and Kirk Cousins awkwardly danced around a long-term contract for two straight years, the team deployed the franchise tag and paid their former quarterback a total of $44 million in 2016 and 2017. 

Those days are over, even if the quarterback situation remains unsettled. Things looked solid when Washington traded for Alex Smith last year, but a horrific leg injury leaves nothing but questions for the fall. 

It won't be used at quarterback, but still, the franchise tag looms. Tuesday marks the first day NFL teams can apply the tag, and the Redskins have some valuable players possibly headed for free agency. 

Preston Smith and Jamison Crowder headline the potential free agent losses for Washington. Both drafted in 2014, their rookie deals are set to expire, and the marketplace should be welcoming to both players. 

Smith had a down year statistically in 2018, registering only four sacks. In four years in the Burgundy and Gold, however, Smith has totaled 24.5 sacks along with four forced fumbles and four interceptions. He's never missed a game in four seasons either, and has the length, frame and athleticism few outside linebackers can boast. 

It will be interesting to see how many teams are in the market for Smith. This is a particularly deep class of edge rushers heading to free agency, and Rotoworld's Evan Silva ranked Smith the fifth best option with an expiring contract. The players ahead of him, however, could all get tagged by their teams, and that means Smith could become more desirable if he hits the market. 

Will Washington tag Smith? Probably not. 

Franchising Smith would mean paying him the average of the Top 5 paid players at his position in the NFL. That means more than $17 million for the 2019 season. 

The Redskins can't offer that, because Smith would sign it in a second. His market will likely pay him at least $8 million per season, and perhaps $10 million per year or more, but $17 million is way too much. Smith is good, but that's Von Miller money.

Well, what about Crowder?

Again, the money will be too much. A wide receiver, the franchise tag for Crowder would be averaged out using the salaries of players like Odell Beckham and Antonio Brown.

When healthy, Crowder is a nice player. He has quick feet and can gain separation on the inside of offensive schemes. That won't land him $16 million per season though like a tag would require. It's just not going to happen. 

Two other Redskins starters are slated for free agency: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Adrian Peterson. 

The franchise tag for safeties carries a price tag of $12 million for 2019. Washington will not consider that for Clinton-Dix. 

The franchise tag for running backs carries a price tag of $12 million for 2019. Washington will not consider that for Peterson. 

Redskins fans, remember how much you hated the franchise tag? Well this year you won't need to worry about it.  

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