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The Redskins will face tough contract decisions on these five upcoming free agents

The Redskins will face tough contract decisions on these five upcoming free agents

The Redskins will face some tough decisions during the next 10 months as two key contributors enter the final year of their rookie contracts. Other players will be in the last year of their deal as well, but nobody that will command the attention, and potentially the free agent dollars, of Preston Smith and Jamison Crowder. 

Both drafted in 2015, Smith and Crowder will be looking for the lucrative, and for many players elusive, second contract. Smith will drive a much higher price than Crowder, as pass rushers command more cash than slot receivers. 

So, the Redskins will have decisions to make. Let's break those decisions down and look at other members of the team, too.

Preston Smith

In three seasons with the Redskins, Smith has 20.5 sacks, three interceptions and four forced fumbles. Though he hasn't posted a double digit sack season yet, Smith also hasn't missed a single game in three years. That durability, and flashes of explosive atheltic ability, will land Smith an average salary in the eight figures range. Here's Rich Tandler's salary estimate.

Jamison Crowder

In three seasons with the Redskins, Crowder has more than 2,200 receiving yards and 12 TDs. While he led Washington with nearly 800 receiving yards last season, it was actually a slight step backward from a stellar 2016 campaign where Crowder had about 850 yards and seven TDs.

Crowder has value for Washington; he knows the system well and head coach Jay Gruden trusts him. Crowder also has strong footwork and route-running skills, a must to play in the slot. How much does a slot WR cost, though? Well, prior to this offseason the answer wasn't all that much, but then Cleveland signed Jarvis Landry to a $75 million contract. Crowder won't command that, but he's going to get paid. Just not like Smith, his draft classmate. 

Anthony Lanier

Lanier will be a restricted free agent in 2019 and Washington would be crazy not to tender him. He notched five sacks in 2017 and should continue to emerge as an interior pass rush threat. The Redskins will have a decision to make with Lanier, but the contract structure likely means it will come in 2020.

Colt McCoy

The backup quarterback that everyone on the team likes, it would not be a surprise if McCoy heads elsewhere in 2019.

Certainly, McCoy wants an opportunity to play and if that doesn't emerge, he might prefer to find a new situation with more competition. After the 'Skins traded for Alex Smith and signed the QB to a contract extension, there won't be competition in D.C. anytime soon. Yet Jay Gruden truly appreciates having McCoy on his team, and that could maybe be enough to keep the former Texas star around in 2019 and beyond. 

Ty Nsekhe

This is an interesting one. Nsekhe proved quite capable as a swing tackle, backing up Trent Williams and Morgan Moses. But now he's coming off surgery and there is some talk about converting the 6-foot-8 32-year-old inside to left guard. If that happens and it goes well, Washington might try to keep Nsekhe in 2019 and beyond. If not, the team likely drafted his replacement with third-round pick Geron Christian.

The bottom line

The Redskins have proven during the last five years that when the team wants to keep a player, it generally happens before free agency. Consider contract extensions for Morgan Moses, Chris Thompson and Quinton Dunbar as the latest examples, but Trent Williams and Ryan Kerrigan fit the same mold. Even the trade that acquired Alex Smith came with a contract extension for the QB.

Knowing that tendency, it will be interesting if any talks between the Redskins and either Crowder or Smith emerge this summer and into the fall. For Smith, pursuing free agency will carry a huge payday, particularly if he can break through into the double digit sack club this year. Crowder, meanwhile, would be open to talking with the team about an extension, a source told NBC Sports Washington back in December. 

Other players face expiring contracts — guys like Ziggy Hood, Martrell Spaight and Rob Kelley, who'll be a restricted free agent. It's tough to know their market now, at least until seeing more from the Redskins in camp. 

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For Redskins, even without Alex Smith, focus remains on 2018, not 2019

For Redskins, even without Alex Smith, focus remains on 2018, not 2019

Redskins fans can be an odd bunch.

The team suffered a major loss on Sunday when Alex Smith broke two bones in his leg, and for many supporters on social media, the questions all turned to what happens at quarterback next season. Can Smith return? Will the team draft another passer? What are the salary cap implications of the injury?

Jay Gruden had a simple message about where his mind was focused after the 23-21 loss to Houston on Sunday.

"To Dallas," the head coach said. "We're excited about it."

For the Redskins, the only thing to think about is winning on Thanksgiving at AT&T Stadium. At 6-4, Washington remains in first place in the NFC East, holding a one game lead over the Cowboys. 

While it might seem like the playoff hopes vanished when Smith got carted off the field, Redskins players and coaches don't see it that way. 

"I have confidence in Colt, always have. I'm a big, firm believer in Colt McCoy's ability to play football in the National Football League. This is an opportunity of a lifetime for him. I know he would like it in different circumstances but things happen for a reason," Gruden said. 

Particularly for McCoy, there is no looking ahead to 2019. He's not even looking ahead to December. The former University of Texas star is going to take his opportunity one game at a time, and that starts Thursday in Dallas.

"You never like to see how it happened today, but for me I just have to go out there and give it all I’ve got. I’ve been a starter before, had it taken away, and it’s not a good feeling," McCoy said. "We have a good team here and they’ve got us in great shape, Alex [Smith] has got us in great shape, we’ve just got to go continue to play football.”

In less than a half against Houston, McCoy moved the Redskins offense and energized the crowd. On just his second snap, McCoy threw a touchdown pass to Jordan Reed. On the day, McCoy finished with 54 yards passing and another 35 yards on the ground. 

McCoy won't be Smith, but that isn't all bad.

Despite two interceptions on Sunday, Smith basically protects the football like a mother grizzly bear protects her cubs. McCoy will take more chances, and that could mean more big plays and more scoring for the Redskins offense. It could also mean more turnovers, but that's probably something Gruden will live with. 

Remember, too, this Redskins coaching staff believes in McCoy. 

When the organization was considering all options with Kirk Cousins last season, handing the team over to McCoy was a possible option. Or at least letting McCoy compete with another veteran free agent passer was taken into account. 

McCoy knows that Gruden's comments are sincere, and he knows this is a major chance for him to prove he belongs as an NFL starter. 

"I know how Jay [Gruden] wants this offense run," McCoy said. "I’ll do my best to make that happen.”

The Redskins have six games remaining, and four of them will be in the division. Washington's season is anything but over.

The focus for Jay Gruden and Colt McCoy remains firmly on 2018. And with an NFC East title firmly in play, that's what the fans should be looking at too. 

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NFC East Update: Division race tightens as Redskins stumble, Cowboys surge

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NFC East Update: Division race tightens as Redskins stumble, Cowboys surge

When the sun came up Sunday morning, the Redskins held a two-game lead in the NFC East and looked to have a clear route to a division title. 

By the time the sun went down, a lot changed. 

Washington lost at home in a crazy game to Houston, but big picture, the more important outcome was the broken leg for Alex Smith. The Redskins now turn to backup Colt McCoy, and while the Burgundy and Gold remain in first place, their lead shrunk.

Washington Redskins (6-4, 2-0)

Talk about a roller coaster game. The Redskins got down early to the Texans, trailing 10-0 in the first quarter, but fought all the way back. In the process, the team lost Smith for the season, but McCoy played well when he entered the game. A veteran in Jay Gruden's system, McCoy should be able to step in and run the offense without any hesitation. Will that be enough? What isn't being talked about in Washington: a suddenly slumping run defense. A huge game looms Thursday against Ezekiel Elliott and a surging Cowboys squad. 

Up next: Nov. 22 @ Dallas, 4 p.m.

Dallas Cowboys (5-5, 2-1)

It seemed like the Cowboys season was over a few weeks ago after a humbling home loss on Monday Night Football to the Titans. Two weeks later, the script has flipped. Dallas won their second straight game on Sunday, holding off a late Atlanta rally and winning the game on a last-second field goal. Elliott went for 201 total yards from scrimmage and the Cowboys young defense continued to make impressive plays. Jerry Jones' team struggles on the road, but at home, the Cowboys are 3-1 this season. 

Up next: Nov. 22 vs Washington, 4 p.m.

Philadelphia Eagles (4-6, 1-1)

Fans waiting for the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles to get it together might want to stop waiting. Philly got boat raced in New Orleans on Sunday, losing 48-7 and dropping to two games below .500. Carson Wentz threw three INTs in New Orleans and really, while the QB was bad in the Superdome, it's hard to pin the Eagles' woes on any one thing. The offense hasn't been very good, and the defense hasn't either. Sitting just two games back of the 'Skins and one behind Dallas, don't count the Eagles out yet. But don't really count them in either. 

Up next: Nov. 25th vs New York Giants, 1 p.m.

New York Giants (3-7, 0-3)

Don't look now but the Giants might be the hottest team in the division. Or at least not the coldest team in the division. The Giants won their second game in a row on Sunday, a nail-biting 38-35 victory over Tampa. New York got out to a big lead before the Bucs crept back in it, but powered by four combined TDs between Saquon Barkley and Eli Manning, the Giants did enough. Simple arithmetic suggests the Giants are closer to a Top 5 draft pick than a playoff run, but hey, they haven't been eliminated yet. Crazy things happen in this league. 

Up next: Nov. 25th @ Philadelphia, 1 p.m.

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