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Andre Roberts welcomes increased competition from rookie Crowder

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Andre Roberts welcomes increased competition from rookie Crowder

When Andre Roberts signed with the Redskins as a free agent last year, it looked like the former Arizona Cardinals receiver would finally get the chance to be a starting wideout, the No. 2 option in the pass game to Pierre Garçon. That plan changed when the Eagles cut DeSean Jackson, and Washington quickly moved to bring Jackson to the 'Skins. From there, Roberts was again the No. 3 receiver, just as he was in Arizona behind Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. 

A year later, and now Roberts faces increased competition, this time from a rookie. Redskins GM Scot McCloughan did not sign Roberts, who mostly works in the slot and returns punts. But McCloughan did just spend an early fourth round draft pick on Duke's Jamison Crowder, an undersized wideout that projects as a slot receiver and punt returner.

"They're always bringing guys in every year. That's only going to help our team," Roberts said of the rookie Crowder. "Whatever he can do best to help our team and help us win is good for us."

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Roberts' numbers last year were underwhelming (36 catches, 453 yards, 2 TDs) but so was the whole Redskins offense. It did seem that Roberts dropped too many passes, particularly on third downs, but he did stabilize the Redskins punt returner position. Roberts returned 28 punts last season, and though he never broke any for a touchdown, he also limited the abhorrent mistakes in the punt return game that plagued Redskins special teams for a few years. It's almost a testament to how bad the Redskins punt return situation was for a few seasons that Roberts 7.4 yards-per-return average stands out.

"Our special teams the last couple of years have not been very good and it’s something we have to address," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said following Tuesday's session.

During punt return drills at Tuesday's OTAs, Roberts took the first reps. Behind him came Rashad Ross, then the rookie Crowder. Asked if he wanted to continue to return punts, Roberts was emphatic.

"Of course. I want to have the ball in my hands."

In college, Crowder was a dangerous weapon with the ball in his hands. His receiving numbers were impressive, 85 catches for 1,044 yards and six TDs, as were his punt return numbers (22 punt returns for a 12.7 yards-per-return average and 2 TDs). Just 5'9" and 175 lbs., Crowder will need to rely on speed and shift to make it in the NFL, though it's worth noting that smaller receivers have become increasingly effective weapons in modern NFL offenses. Wes Welker and Julian Edelman immediately come to mind.

"He’s got all the traits you want in a slot receiver, and obviously, he’s a heck of a punt returner," Gruden said of Crowder after rookie camp earlier this month.

At 5'11" and 192 lbs., Roberts has better size than Crowder. On the practice field, Roberts fits in with the receiver group where Crowder is the smallest player running wideout drills. During OTAs, both players made impressive grabs in both 11 on 11 and 7 on 7 drills. 

For his part, Roberts said all the right things about the increased competition from the rookie Crowder. McCloughan wants competition at every position, and Roberts welcomes that.

"It's good to be back to work," Roberts said walking off the field after OTAs. 

And what about the rookie at punt returner?

"That's not my decision, thats the coach's decision. Whatever is best for our team."

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Need to Know: A look at the Redskins' key 2019 free agents

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Need to Know: A look at the Redskins' key 2019 free agents

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 27, 16 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.  

Note: I am vacationing in the Outer Banks this week. In this space, I’ll be presenting some of the most popular posts of the last few months. I hope you enjoy these “best of” presentations and I’ll see you folks when I get back. 

Here is my sunrise view from this morning:

Looking at next year’s free agents

This post was originally published on March 18. 

There is still work that the Redskins can do in free agency and they still have some of their own players they want to retain. But with a lot of the player movement already in the books, we can take a look forward some of the key Redskin who currently are set to be free agents when the 2019 league year opens. 

QB Colt McCoy (Week 1 age 32)—Lots of questions here. Will the Redskins want to keep him around for another year as Alex Smith’s backup? Or will they want a younger and cheaper backup? Will McCoy want to move on rather than back up another QB who doesn’t miss many games?

OL Ty Nsekhe (32)—The Redskins gave him a second-round restricted free agent tender this year so it’s possible that he could be gone or on a long-term contract in Washington. If he is a free agent, his value and the difficulty of retaining him could depend on if he ends the season as a reserve tackle (easy) or as a starting guard (hard). 

OLB Preston Smith (25)—As we saw with Trent Murphy (three years, $21 million with up to $30 million), pass rushers get paid. Smith also makes big plays. Since Smith came into the NFL, he is the only player with at least 20 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 4 forced fumbles. If the Redskins can’t reach a deal on an extension with him this year the franchise tag is a distinct possibility. 

WR Jamison Crowder (25)—This year the supply of quality receivers both as free agents and in the draft sent contract prices skyrocketing. To guard against that happening next year, the Redskin should start talking to Crowder about an extension soon. 

ILB Zach Vigil (27)—As I noted here, Vigil went from being cut in September to a very valuable reserve in November. Both Zach Brown and Mason Foster will still be under contract, but the Redskin still should make an effort to retain Vigil for special teams and as a capable backup. 

Other Redskins who are slated to be UFA’s next year are DL Ziggy Hood and ILB Martrell Spaight. 

It’s also worth noting that WR Maurice Harris and DE Anthony Lanier will both be restricted free agents next year. Both positions were pricey in free agency this year, so both could require at least second-round tenders, which likely will increase to about $3 million in 2019. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

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Associated Press

Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 26, 17 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.  

Note: I am vacationing in the Outer Banks this week. In this space, I’ll be presenting some of the most popular posts of the last few months. I hope you enjoy these “best of” presentations and I’ll see you folks when I get back. 

Contract makes Alex Smith a Redskins for at least three seasons

This post was originally published on March 19. 

When the Redskins traded for Alex Smith on January 30, news also broke that he had agreed to a four-year extension with Washington in addition to the one year left on his contract with the Chiefs. While we got some top-line numbers on the deal, we have gone since then without any details. 

Until now. 

The details show a deal that has a slightly higher cap hit in 2018 than was on his original Chiefs contract and the numbers rise gradually over the life of the deal, which runs through 2022. 

Smith got a $27 million signing bonus and his salaries for 2018 ($13 million) and 2019 ($15 million) also are fully guaranteed at signing making the total $55 million (information via Over the Cap, which got data from a report by Albert Breer). 

But there I another $16 million that is guaranteed for all practical purposes. On the fifth day of the 2019 league year, his 2020 salary of $16 million becomes fully guaranteed. He almost assuredly will get to the point where that money will become guaranteed since the Redskins are not going to cut him after one year having invested $55 million in him. So the total guarantees come to $71 million. 

His 2021 salary is $19 million and it goes up to $21 million in 2022. There have been reports of some incentives available to Smith but since we have no details we’ll set those aside for now. 

The cap hits on the contract are as follows: 

2018: $18.4 million
2019: $20.0 million
2020: $21.4 million
2021: $24.4 million
2022: $26.4 million

The Redskins can realistically move on from Smith after 2020. There would be net cap savings of $13 million in 2021 and $21 million in 2022. 

The first impression of the deal is that the Redskins did not move on from Kirk Cousins because they didn’t want to guarantee a lot of money to a quarterback. The total practical guarantee of $71 million is second only to Cousins’ $82.5 million. It should be noted that Cousins’ deal runs for three years and Smith’s contract is for five. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler