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Signing Reuben Foster was a smart football move, but a bad decision

Signing Reuben Foster was a smart football move, but a bad decision

The Redskins made a shrewd football move on Tuesday, claiming former 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster off waivers. A former first-round pick, Foster has undeniable talent on the field, and the Redskins assume basically no risk by making the claim. 

That's where the good news ends. 

Washington added Foster knowing full well the reaction that would come with the news. In the last year, Foster has been arrested three times, including reports of an ugly domestic violence incident just last weekend. That's his second domestic violence incident this year. 

That's right, when most of the NFL was preparing for Week 11 matchups, Foster woke up in a Tampa jail. The 49ers, the team that drafted him and invested much into keeping him out of trouble, finally released Foster in an attempt to move forward.

And now, in Week 12, the Redskins picked him up. 

Through a strictly football lens, the move has no downside for Washington. When, or if, Foster ever plays for Washington, it will be on a non-guaranteed rookie deal. The Redskins maintain contractual control of Foster through 2020, and could exercise a fifth-year option in 2021.

After the team announced they'd claimed Foster, the NFL announced he will be moved to the Commissioner Exempt list, which means he can't play or practice until the league determines their next step. That could mean suspension. It could mean he's cleared of the charges. 

So Foster won't suit up in Washington until his situation has some level of clarity. That's consistent with a statement Redskins VP Doug Williams put out after the move,

Let me be clear, Reuben will have to go through numerous steps including the full legal process, an investigation and potential discipline from the NFL, as well as meetings with counselors associated with the team before he will ever have the opportunity to wear the Burgundy and Gold as a player.

That's all well and good, but it doesn't change both the perception and some of the reality that signing Reuben Foster brings. 

Three arrests this year, and one suspension, and still the Redskins thought claiming Foster was worth the trouble. 

Domestic abuse is abhorrent behavior that should not be tolerated anywhere. Anywhere. In the NFL, especially in the NFL, after a string of high visibility and terrible incidents, a line needs to be drawn, particularly with repeat offenders. 

Some things to clarify: Foster's accuser recanted her previous accusation and he has not been convicted of the latest charges. But this is his second time being arrested for assaulting the same woman in a span of less than a year.  

And it's great that the Redskins think insulating Foster with former college teammates from the University of Alabama can keep him focused on not being a deplorable human. But given the track record from his two years in the NFL with San Francisco, that seems like a long shot to actual work. Heck, before he even got to the league, Foster had an altercation with a hospital employee at the NFL Scouting Combine and failed a drug test. 

There are ample reasons to be dubious on Foster. And yet, the Redskins rolled the dice, and ignored what the organization had to know would be an instant and overwhelming negative reaction. 

The Redskins are likely banking on how the outrage news cycle works.  The team will get blasted on social media for signing Foster, but in a few days, the Twitter mob - no matter how justified - will move on to some new target.

The Redskins will be able to ride out this storm. Foster isn't playing anytime soon, and he won't even be around to answer questions. Head coach Jay Gruden might have to answer some questions, but he might just refer to Doug Williams' statement. Players will get asked too, particularly his former Alabama teammates now playing for the 'Skins, but they can say little.

By Thursday night when the Saints play the Cowboys, the NFL world will be back focused on football. By next Monday when the Redskins play the Eagles, few will be thinking about Foster. 

None of that makes it right. None of it. 

The Redskins made a savvy football move bringing in Foster. At the same time, they made a bad decision. 

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10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

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10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

The Redskins report to training camp on July 24th, and for the next 10 days, JP Finlay will count down the 10 biggest questions the Redskins face going into the 2019 season.

10) Will the Redskins develop depth on the D-line?

9) Can the Redskins count on Montae Nicholson?

8) Want better offense? Get more out of the tight ends 

7) Will Jimmy Moreland actually win the slot CB job from Fabian Moreau?

6) After losing Reuben Foster, how's the Redskins LB situation?

5) Will potential match production for Redskins WRs?

When a team picks in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft, folks around the NFL expect that player to become a Pro Bowler. For Washington, that exact scenario unfolded with right guard Brandon Scherff. 

Mostly. 

Selected fifth overall in 2015, the Redskins took Scherff to play right tackle and anchor the offensive line opposite Trent Williams. That idea quickly faded, helped by the emergence of Morgan Moses, and Scherff moved inside to play guard. For four years, it's worked out great, with Pro Bowl selections in 2016 and 2017. 

Scherff is a mauler in the best sense of the word. He has great footwork and Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has called the former Iowa Hawkeye the best pulling guard in the NFL. Scherff is strong and nasty, words that won't win beauty pageants but absolutely win in the trenches of the NFL. 

Considering all of that, a contract extension for Scherff should be easy. Right?

Wrong. 

Currently in the final year of his rookie deal, multiple reports stretching over the last six weeks indicate that the organization is way off in their extension offers to Scherff. He might not command the biggest contract in the league, but he will get paid like a top three guard. In 2019, that means a lot of money.

Cowboys guard Zach Martin makes $14 million a year. Jaguars guard Andrew Norwell makes $13.3 million a year. Scherff might not get to Martin's salary, but he will probably get to Norwell, whether Washington pays it or not.

That means the Redskins need to pony up the cash now because as each day passes, the team is approaching an ugly set of options. Scherff and his representatives might continue to negotiate during the season, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. Once free agency becomes in view, players tend to wait for it. Just ask Kirk Cousins. 

In fact, the situation between Scherff and the Redskins has some resemblance to the Cousins saga from a few years ago. 

In that case, Washington low-balled their homegrown quarterback in their first set of negotiations. From there, things went sideways, and the team used consecutive franchise tags on Cousins before he finally left via free agency. 

If the Redskins can't get a deal done with Scherff, the team could use a franchise tag in 2020. But that's a dangerous game of roulette. 

The time to get a deal done with Scherff is now, if not last month. Redskins team president has said in the past that deadlines drive deals, but with Scherff, there is no exact deadline. He can decide to stop working on a contract extension at any moment, particularly once the pads come on at training camp. 

The Trent Williams holdout might be complicating things a bit, if Williams only wants more cash and the issue isn't about much more than that. The truth is a Scherff extension would actually free up cap space in the short term, as his signing bonus would be spread out over the life of the contract, and some of that salary cap relief could go to Williams right away. 

Williams' status isn't the hold up between Scherff and the Redskins. Whatever is the actual holdup best be resolved soon. or the Redskins are beginning down an all too familiar franchise path.

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Jay Gruden deserves praise for keeping Redskins 'out of the ditches'

Jay Gruden deserves praise for keeping Redskins 'out of the ditches'

On paper, Jay Gruden's tenor with the Redskins is nothing to write home about. Through five seasons he holds a 35-44-1 record, good enough for a .444 winning percentage. Looking at that, some may draw the conclusion that Gruden hasn't been what the Redskins need at the helm.

But according to Pro Football Talk's Darin Gantt, that's not exactly the case. Taking into account the variables Gruden has dealt with throughout the five years, Gantt actually sees him as a "really good" coach.

"I have always come down of the side, maybe, of guys who are doing more with less," Gantt said recently on a Redskins Talk Podcast. "I think Jay has done a pretty good job keeping things in the middle."

Doing more with less and working in the middle essentially defines Jay Gruden's career with the Redskins. Besides his opening year in 2014 in which Washington went 4-12, Gruden's teams have consistently finished right around the middle of the pack.

In the last four seasons, the Redskins have not won more than nine games, but they also haven't lost more than nine. Hovering right around .500, they've always been around league average.

Part of the reason Gantt is willing to give Gruden praise for records that some coaches would get scolded for revolves around what he's had to work with. Gruden's time as head coach has been filled with injuries and other dilemmas both on and off the field. 

In those circumstances, it wouldn't be surprising to see a team completely flounder and spiral out of control. But, that hasn't really been the case with Gruden. Dealing with what he has, the head coach has kept the team competitive for the most part. The team hasn't been a perennial playoff contender, but it also hasn't been at the bottom of the league.

For that ability to keep the Redskins out of the basement despite all the problems he's encountered, Gruden is someone Gantt respects.

"They're able to keep it out of the ditches," Gantt said about Gruden and former NFL head coach John Fox, who Gantt followed during his time in Carolina.

"I think again in the NFL there's something to be said for that," Gantt added. "When things get sideways a Jim Zorn can lose control in a hurry. I feel like Jay just got sort of a steady hand on the wheel."

Until Gruden takes Washington back to the postseason, the critiques will continue to come, as they would for almost all head coaches in similar situations. But when looking at Gruden's time in Washington with a wide view of everything that has happened, Gantt believes the head coach deserves at least a little praise for keeping things afloat.

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