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Need to Know: Looking ahead at the Redskins' 2018 free agents

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, October 6, nine days before the Washington Redskins play the 49ers at FedEx Field.


Today’s schedule: Bye week  

Days until:

—Monday night Redskins @ Eagles (10/23) 17
—Cowboys @ Redskins (10/29) 23
—Redskins @ Seahawks (11/5) 30

Looking ahead at the 2018 free agents

Normally we start looking forward to the upcoming opponent here this time of week. But with the bye week here, it’s a good time to look further forward, to the coming offseason. Yesterday we took a look at the Redskins’ 2018 salary cap situation. Today we’ll sort out the Redskins’ pending free agents and see who the priorities will be.

Yesterday, we found out that the Redskins will be in good salary cap shape in 2018, when they will have about $64 million to spend. Today, you’ll see that they have plenty of ways to spend it if they want to maintain their philosophy of taking care of their own players.

The top unrestricted free agent in 2018 will be QB Kirk Cousins. This is a very complex situation, one that needs a full article on its own, or perhaps a series of articles, to cover in any depth. All we really know right now is that a third franchise tag will cost about $34 million and the transition tag would cost about $28 million.

Both choices are doable given the Redskins’ cap space. It wouldn’t be smart for the Redskins to spend $34 million on one player for one year but they could pull it off.

Setting Cousins aside for the moment, here are the team’s other 16 pending unrestricted free agents grouped by how important it is for the organization to bring them back.

Ages are as of Week 1 in 2018.

High priority

  • ILB Zach Brown, age 28
  • ILB Mason Foster, 29
  • C Spencer Long, 27

Right now, Brown is at the top of the list. He is one of the primary reasons that the defense has gone from mediocre to reliable. Foster has been hampered by a shoulder separation this year but he and Brown are a formidable tandem in the middle. While there likely are no Pro Bowls in Long’s future, he is a solid starting center.

Moderate priority

  • TE Niles Paul, 29
  • OLB Trent Murphy, 27
  • OLB Junior Galette, 30
  • CB Bashaud Breeland, 26
  • WR Ryan Grant, 27
  • K Dustin Hopkins, 27
  • WR Terrelle Pryor, 29
  • ILB Will Compton, 29

Paul is a valuable role and special teams player who isn’t going to be looking for a whole lot of money. At the start of the year the idea of Grant being any sort of a priority would have been laughable to some but a team needs players like him and Paul.

Unless Galette breaks out and drives up his price tag he could be a moderately-priced situational pass rusher. The team is unlikely to sign both him and the rehabbing Murphy. The decision may rest on how Murphy’s ACL, torn in the first preseason game, is healing. Compton has lost his starting job and he isn’t even the first option off the bench but he could be valuable, low-priced depth.

Hopkins won’t cost a whole lot of money and unless he has major issues on shorter field goal attempts his return should be an easy call. But there are plenty of solid kickers out there if he ends up going elsewhere.

It’s too early to figure out how much of a priority Pryor will be. He is off to an inconsistent start with some key receptions and some bad drops. If he gets things figured out in his third year as a wide receiver, he will be a high priority. If not there may be little interest in bringing him back.

Breeland seems to fit the profile of a player the Redskins will want to re-sign. He was a fourth-round draft pick who became a starter early on and he has played better each year. But he will command a substantial contract and the Redskins already have one highly-paid corner in Josh Norman. They have drafted cornerbacks in the third round in each of the past two years, perhaps doing some succession planning with the thought that they will let Breeland go. This has some time to play out and he could move up to a high priority in the next 12 games.

Low Priority

  • G Shawn Lauvao, 30
  • S DeAngelo Hall, 34
  • OLB Chris Carter, 29
  • DL Phil Taylor, 30
  • WR Brian Quick, 29

Age and injury likely will make the team move on from Hall and Taylor. Lauvao is the only starter in this group and the team will look for a long-term solution at left guard. Quick probably would not have made the team this year if draft pick Robert Davis had been ready to contribute; he likely will be next year. Carter could be back or they could find a cheaper option in the draft.

The Redskins are likely to do what it takes to retain restricted free agents CB Quinton Dunbar, S Deshazor Everett, and OT Ty Nsekhe as well as exclusive-rights free agent Mack Brown.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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