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Redskins Depth Chart: Has Josh Norman lived up to his contract?

Redskins Depth Chart: Has Josh Norman lived up to his contract?

The Redskins pay Josh Norman to be the top cornerback in the NFL. Over the last two seasons, Norman has made $37 million, and he's slated to make another $15 million in 2019. 

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That's a lot of money, and even coming off his best season in Washington, there's an easy case that Norman is being overpaid. 

Last year, Norman accounted for seven turnovers - three interceptions, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. That's strong production from a ballhawk, but his overall play was not elite. Pro Football Focus rated Norman the 69th best cornerback in the NFL last year. 

Despite no Pro Bowl appearances in three years with the Redskins, Norman has played relatively well. The scheme has never been a true fit for Norman's skill set; he's too often caught trying to run laterally against smaller, quicker receivers. Norman's strength is his physicality and hip turn running vertically, not chasing faster guys across the middle of the field. 

If the question is simply has Norman lived up to the five-year, $75 million contract he signed with the Redskins in 2016, the answer is no. With Washington, he's never been the top cornerback in the league, even though he's been paid to be the top cornerback in the league. 

That's not the question though, or shouldn't be anyway. That money has already been spent, and it's a sunk cost. 

The more important question now: Should the Redskins pay Norman another $15 million for the 2019 season? And if they don't, what else do they have?

Answering the first part is a tricky scenario. Norman will turn 32 this season, and it's highly unlikely he will have a career renaissance to turn the clock back to 2015, when he was the best corner in the league playing for Carolina. He will be the second highest paid cornerback in the NFL. Put those two things together, and slip in that Norman's deal carries no guaranteed money and Washington could save $11.5 million against the cap with a post-June 1 release, and maybe it doesn't make sense to keep the loquacious corner. 

The other side of that coin, however, is who will the Redskins line up on the field on Sundays. 

Quinton Dunbar played well in 2018 when he finally got the chance to start. In six starts, he made two interceptions and added 39 tackles. Pro Football Focus ranked him nearly 20 spots ahead of Norman. 

Dunbar looked like he was on his way to taking over the mantle as the Redskins No. 1 cornerback. Then he got hurt, a mysterious nerve injury in his leg, and ended the season on injured reserve. Assuming Dunbar is all the way back from the injury, and that's not a given until he's again seen running full speed consistently, he could emerge as the 'Skins best cover guy this fall. 

But when it comes to cornerbacks, it's better to have lots of options. Norman and Dunbar on the field together give the Washington defense their best chance. After those two, there are nothing but question marks. 

What role should Fabian Moreau have? The Redskins tried to install him as their slot cornerback last season, and the results weren't great. He had one pick and five passes defenses and played all 16 games, but Pro Football Focus graded him out as a -6.2 and had him outside the Top 100 cornerbacks. Moreau might be best suited to play outside, but with Norman and Dunbar, he's not getting either of those spots. 

A third-round pick in 2017, Moreau barely played as a rookie. In some ways, last season was a trial by fire for him, and 2019 could be much better. He has the physical tools and now the game might slow down with a better understanding of concepts.

Beyond that, last year the Redskins kept three late round rookies on their roster: Adonis Alexander, Greg Stroman and Danny Johnson.

All three showed brief flashes why they were drafted, but the bad outweighed the good with all of them. Alexander has great size for the position and should have an inside track on a roster spot, but Stroman and Johnson are no sure things. 

This offseason, Washington added veteran Dominique Rodgers Cromartie in free agency and drafted JMU CB Jimmy Moreland in the seventh round.

With Rodgers-Cromartie, he needs to get through a full training camp. A 12-year veteran, DRC walked away from the Raiders after seven games last season. Retired. Done with football. Now he's back, and reunited with former Giants teammate Landon Collins, but will that be enough to push him through the inevitable hardships of an NFL season?

Despite being a seventh-round pick, Moreland has some Redskins coaches excited. In some ways, the hype around Moreland feels reminiscent to 2018 seventh-round pick Trey Quinn. Moreland played college at James Madison, a strong football program on the second collegiate level, but proved a willingness to make plays. He made 18 interceptions in college and returned six of them for touchdowns. Former Redskins Fred Smoot believes Moreland could push for the slot corner job this year, which would be remarkable progress for a seventh-round pick out of a small school. 

Add all of that up, and the future for Josh Norman looks murky. 

A year from now, it's nearly impossible to see Norman still with the Redskins. Washington will know if Dunbar has returned fully from injury and what the team has in Alexander, Moreau and Moreland. Norman will be turning 33 and making $15.5 million. That math won't add up, particularly when the salary for Landon Collins will more than triple from $4 million this season to $15 million in 2020. 

But this season? Norman makes too much money for his level of play, but collectively, the Redskins aren't paying their cornerbacks all that much. The team ranks 15th in the NFL in positional spending at corner, with the entire group making about $22.5 million.

Washington has already navigated free agency and the draft and remains about $10 million below the salary cap. That gives them enough cash to add players throughout the season as needed should injuries come up. There are advantages to rolling over salary cap space year to year, but right now, the 'Skins are not pressed for cash.

Should a veteran free agent emerge after June 1 cuts, particularly at a position of need like wide receiver or pass rusher, then things could look different. There is a lot of money to be saved by releasing Norman this year. 

Right now, however, it doesn't seem likely. 

During the annual league meetings in March, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden got pressed about Norman's future in Washington. The coach summed up the situation well.

"To say he’s performed as the best cornerback in the National Football League would be far fetched, but I will say this: I’m glad we got him. I think not having Josh Norman, our team would be not quite as competitive as we have been with Josh Norman and I think moving forward having Josh Norman on this roster is going to help us get where we want to go."

That sounds right for 2019. That tune probably changes in 2020. 

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One analyst sees Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice having to split carries as a 'potential problem'

One analyst sees Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice having to split carries as a 'potential problem'

In theory, Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice working out of the same backfield should be an enormous boost for the Redskins this season.

In theory, Peterson's presence should allow Guice to slowly ease his way into the NFL during Washington's early contests, and in theory, Guice's availability should help Peterson stay fresher for 16 games since he won't have to be the one handling every carry.

But NBC Sports and Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio doesn't exactly see the Redkins' running back situation playing out so peacefully. The NFL isn't a third-grade classroom; sharing isn't always caring.

"This is going to be a potential problem for the team because Adrian Peterson is not accustomed to giving up touches," Florio recently told NBC Sports Washington.

"When he was in New Orleans for not very long in 2017, he realized he wasn't getting the ball the way that he did in Minnesota," he continued. "He wanted the ball, he ended up being traded to Arizona where they had an injury need that made him the guy. Last year an injury need in Washington made him the guy."

Of the team's 339 rushing attempts by non-quarterbacks in 2018, Peterson was responsible for 251 of them. That means he was shouldered with 74-percent of the overall workload. 

During mandatory minicamp in early June, position coach Randy Jordan laid out his preferred ratio for Peterson and Guice now that they're together. What he wants sounds a lot more even than how last season's breakdown ended up looking.

“They are both different, but they are both explosive,” he said. “The thing is ideally you would like to see a 50/50, 60/40 [split]." 

Florio, however, is wary of how that could upset the future Hall of Famer.

"He wants to be the guy," Florio said. "Derrius Guice is going to — if he plays like he did before we saw that ACL tear last year — he's going to potentially eat into those touches and Adrian Peterson will not be happy about it and he will not be bashful about saying so."

While at the Ashburn podium following an offseason practice, Jay Gruden admitted that Peterson seems like a player who improves as his usage increases, but he ultimately explained he doesn't believe fewer carries will hurt Peterson. And you'd love to believe him.

Many offenses have thrived using multiple options on the ground, and it's an approach you're seeing more and more in pro football. Peterson and Guice can attack defenses in different ways, they have different strengths and they could each ease the burden on one another along with Chris Thompson, who you can't forget about.

Yet these are also two threats who are used to being the primary piece of their units. They're used to 20-plus touches and finding their rhythm at their own pace. So while Gruden, his staff and Redskins fans are focusing on the positive possibilities of a Peterson-Guice duo, Florio is less bullish.

"The more touches Guice gets, the more frustrated Peterson will be, because he knows he's only got so many years left to play football," Florio said. "He wants to get as many carries, as many yards as possible as he climbs higher and higher up the all-time rushing list. That's going to be a challenge for the team in 2019."

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Brian Mitchell says if Dwayne Haskins 'proves he's the best, he goes on the football field'

Brian Mitchell says if Dwayne Haskins 'proves he's the best, he goes on the football field'

Imagine a scenario in which three quarterbacks are set to battle it out for the starting spot. In the situations leading up to the Week 1 game, one quarterback has consistently played well while the other two have faltered at times. You'd obviously go with the guy who's looked the best, right?

But what if you knew the added information that the quarterback shining is a rookie who has no regular-season experience and only a few months of NFL practices under his belt, while the other two are veterans, one is familiar with the offensive system and the other has proven to be successful at points in his career. Would the labels impact your decision?

Obviously, this oddly specific scenario alludes to the quarterback competition going on with the Redskins. If rookie Dwayne Haskins performs the best leading up to the season, should he be given the nod over veterans Case Keenum and Colt McCoy despite their advantage in experience? According to NBC Sports Washington's Brian Mitchell, that's exactly how it should go.

"If Dwayne Haskins seems to show you that he's the best quarterback out there, why not play him," Mitchell said. "I don't think it's a situation where you have to play the veterans before him. If he is the best quarterback in training camp, he goes out in preseason and proves that he's the best, he goes on the football field."

For Mitchell, the decision on who is the starting quarterback doesn't revolve around experience or things of the past. All that matters is what is going on in the moment. If Dwayne Haskins sticks out through July and August, Mitchell believes he deserves the opportunity to be the guy for Washington. Rookie or veteran, it's about who's playing the best.

This way of choosing is also ideal to the former Redskin because it allows for Haskins progression and emergence to come naturally. By determining if he's ready or not solely on what is seen out of him, there's no risk of pushing him out there before he's ready or holding him back for longer than needed, according to Mitchell.

"I look at Dwayne Haskins in this way: You don't have to rush him, you don't have to truly patient," Mitchell said. "You allow him to go through the process."

Much like JP Finlay, Mitchell believes that Haskins was selected at No. 15 for a reason. Even if an "R" may show up next to his name this season, that shouldn't keep him off the field. If he looks ready, then Mitchell believes he should get the nod as early as Week 1.

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