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Need to Know: Can the Redskins really afford to franchise tag Kirk Cousins in 2018?

Need to Know: Can the Redskins really afford to franchise tag Kirk Cousins in 2018?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, May 24, 20 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp on May 22.

Timeline

It’s been 143 days since the Redskins played a game. Their season opener against the Eagles at FedEx Field is in 109 days.

Days until:

—Redskins minicamp (6/13) 20
—Training camp starts (7/27) 64
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 78

Is the 2018 Cousins tag threat a bluff?

On Monday, Redskins president Bruce Allen reiterated that the team is willing to use the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins for the third straight year.

“In the collective bargaining agreement, we really have one year and an option that we can do at the end of next season if we don’t get a contract,” said Allen when asked if the team would use the franchise or transition tag on Cousins in 2018. He has said something similar on previous media interviews this year.

This year Cousins is getting the tag for the second time in his career. That gives him 120 percent of his 2016 salary which comes to just under $24 million. A third franchise tag in 2018, which would either give the Redskins exclusive negotiating rights or a possible choice between matching an offer sheet from another team or getting draft pick compensation, would get Cousins a 144 percent increase over this season, or a whopping $34.5 million.

The franchise tag would give the Redskins the power to unilaterally lock up Cousins for the 2018 season. It is expensive, by design. Could the Redskins afford to wield that power? Or is Allen just bluffing?

A look at the numbers makes it look like Allen is bluffing.

According to Over the Cap, the Redskins have $127 million in salary cap commitments in 2018. Based on recent growth trends the salary cap will be an estimated $178 million. That gives the Redskins $51 million in cap room.

Cousins’ $34.5 million salary for a third tag would hit the 2018 cap all at once as soon as the tag is applied. You don’t have to be a master capologist to do the math and figure out that such a move would leave the Redskins with $16.5 million in salary cap space.

A look at the top-line number doesn’t seem that bad. Eight teams would have less cap space than Washington so others, like the Cowboys, Eagles, and Chiefs, would be worse off.

But the problem with the Redskins’ situation is twofold. First, 21 of their current players are slated to be unrestricted free agents in 2018. Not all of them are key contributors. But they would have to squeeze to bring back the likes of Zach Brown, Terrelle Pryor, Spencer Long, and Bashaud Breeland. If they don’t re-sign them they will have to go to the free agent market for replacements and that will tough to do with so little money to work with.

The other issue is that they don’t have any fat to cut from their cap. They could save from $4.5 million to $8 million by cutting one of the four players with the highest cap numbers. But they aren’t going to be better if they cut loose Josh Norman, Jordan Reed, Trent Williams or Ryan Kerrigan.

Going down the list of top cap hits, they would save no money by letting Brandon Scherff go since his salary is fully guaranteed. Washington would take a net loss of cap space by cutting Morgan Moses and releasing Vernon Davis would save just $1.1 million. In fact, other than the top four mentioned above there are no players the Redskins could release who would save more than $1.6 million in net cap space.

The Redskins could create more cap room by restructuring some of their highest-paid players. But a simple restructure, where salary is converted to signing bonus, spreading the cap impact over the remaining years of the deal, doesn’t save any real money. The cap hit is merely pushed back into future seasons. Bruce Allen has been reluctant to do this and he is right to think that way. Restructures should only be used in a “break glass in case of emergency” situations, not as a regular way of doing business.

In short, tagging Cousins for $34.5 million would force the Redskins to lose quality players or to use cap management tactics that run against their philosophy, or some combination of both. While you can’t rule out the tag on Cousins, there is enough there to make the possibility remote.

Mike McCartney, Cousins’ agent, can look at these numbers and figure out that Allen is bluffing about a 2018 franchise tag as well as I can. It will be close to a non-factor in negotiations.

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

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Need to Know: The five best teams the Redskins will play in 2018

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Need to Know: The five best teams the Redskins will play in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, July 15, 11 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The best teams the Redskins will face in 2018

This week we’ll be looking at the best of what the Redskins will face during the 2018 season. Most of the focus will be on individuals such as quarterbacks and pass rushers, but we’re going to get started with the best teams on the schedule. These are roughly ranked by Football Outsiders’ DVOA, although I did some juggling based on offseason moves and other factors. 

1. Eagles (13-3, Super Bowl champs)—They were fifth overall in DVOA and the second-ranked team on the schedule. But DVOA is calculated for the regular season only and you have to say that by the time the playoffs were over that the Eagles had taken their game up a few notches over everyone else. They haven’t lost much over the offseason, putting them at the top of the heap and the Redskins play them twice. 

2. Saints (11-5, lost in divisional round)—New Orleans was the top team in DVOA in 2017. After a couple of mediocre seasons, the Saints have retooled, and they will make a push to get Drew Brees his second Super Bowl ring. They play in Week 5, which means that Mark Ingram will be back from his four-game suspension to open the season and he will be alongside Alvin Kamara in the Saints backfield. They both had over 100 yards from scrimmage when the teams played last year. 

3. Jaguars (10-6, lost AFC title game)—They finally made the jump after failing for the last few years as the trendy preseason pick. It was no fluke as they outscored their opponents by 149 points on the season. Their quarterback situation is far from ideal with Blake Bortles, but they are strong enough defensively (first in defensive DVOA) to rely on their running game. 

4. Panthers (11-5, lost in wild-card round)—They certainly have had the Redskins’ number, winning the last six matchups, a streak going back to 2009. This doesn’t seem to be one of those fluke situations. The Redskins simply have problems matching up with Cam Newton. Carolina also is solid defensively (No. 7 in DVOA). 

5. Falcons (10-6, lost in divisional round)—Even though the Cowboys ranked a couple of notches ahead of the Falcons in DVOA, I’m putting the Falcons ahead of them. Dallas doesn’t have a good enough defense to win with their running game. I’ve always been a big Matt Ryan fan and a lot more people would be too if he hadn’t been victimized by poor defense and bad play calling in the Super Bowl a couple of years ago. Add in Julio Jones and their running backs and you have a scary offense. Defensively they are not that good but I still like their unit better than that of the Cowboys.

Rest of top 10:

6. Packers—Almost put them ahead of Falcons, their DVOA suffered last year with Rodgers out.
7. Cowboys—Even with problems on D, still have the Redskins’ number.
8. Texans—Way down the DVOA rankings last year but they will the tough with J.J. Watt and Deshaun Watson back. 
9. Titans—I’m not sure if they’re ready to take the next step up but they will be hard to beat. 
10. Bucs—The bolstered a defense that already with tough with Jason Pierre-Paul and Vita Vea.  

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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Timeline 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 11
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 25
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 48

The Redskins last played a game 196 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 56 days. 

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Breaking down the Alexander pick

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Breaking down the Alexander pick

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, July 14, 12 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The Redskins week that was

Is Junior Galette hinting at a possible return to the Redskins? I would be very surprised if Galette ever wears a Redskins uniform again although it would make sense for them to talk to him. I think the Redskins should be very nervous about their depth at outside linebacker. Pernell McPhee can get them some pressure, but he has missed 10 games over the last two seasons. Ryan Anderson’s next NFL sack will be his first. You can’t have too many pass rushers; the Redskins could well find themselves in a spot where they don’t have enough. 

Upside outweighed risk in Redskins' selection of Alexander—The selection of Adonis Alexander wasn’t quite a no-brainer, but it was not a tough call for the Redskins to make. Torrian Gray, who recruited and coached Alexander at Virginia Tech, gave the green light so it came down to his potential and what draft pick they were willing to give up. They have two in the fifth round next year and they had three in the sixth. They might as well get one of those late Saturday afternoon picks in a year early and see what they have. We have more analysis of the Alexander pick here and here

If Guice is legitimate, the Redskins running game could explode—With the exception of the 2012-2013 seasons, when quarterback Robert Griffin III was kicking in a lot of yards on the ground, the Redskins have not been in the top 10 in the league in rushing yards since 2008. Derrius Guice could help change that. Read the post for my in-depth look at the running back position. 

Madden has a clear answer for the Alex Smith-Kirk Cousins debate—I don’t know much about Madden ratings, so I don’t have a lot to add here. It doesn’t look to me like the difference between the ratings of Smith and Cousins constitute and “clear” advantage but, again, what do I know?

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Joe Jacoby belongs in the Hall of Fame. If you’re reading this, I think you know that. 

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

Timeline 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 12
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 26
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 54

The Redskins last played a game 195 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 57 days. 

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