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Need to Know: Does a top-heavy cap structure mean trouble for the Redskins?

Need to Know: Does a top-heavy cap structure mean trouble for the Redskins?

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, June 2, 11 days before the Washington Redskins start their mandatory minicamp on June 13.

Timeline

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/27) 55
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 69
—Season opener Eagles @ Redskins (9/10) 100

While vacationing this week I’m still keeping Need to Know rolling with some new content along with some of the most popular posts of 2017. This one goes into the latter category. It originally was published on February 22 and some numbers have been updated for today’s version.

Does the Redskins’ top heavy cap structure mean trouble?

After they put the franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins and he signed it, the Redskins have a very top-heavy salary cap structure.

As the website Spotrac noted, since the tag gives Cousins a fully guaranteed salary of that all hits the cap in 2017, he, Josh Norman ($20 million cap number) and Trent Williams ($15.1 million) will account for a total of $59 million against the cap or 35 percent of the $167 million cap for the 2017 season.

That’s a lot of money to go to 5.6 percent of the players on the roster. To compare, the top three players on the Cowboys’ cap account for 17.5 percent of the cap. The top three with the Giants take up 29.7 percent and in Philadelphia, it’s 17.8 percent. In fact, a check around the league shows that none of the 2016 AFC or NFC playoff teams has a higher percentage of their cap expended on its top three than the Redskins have on theirs.

This caused some consternation among Redskins fans and while it’s something to keep an eye on it does not present a big issue for the team at this time.

It’s a temporary situation. Let’s say that the Redskins hang on to Cousins with a long-term deal and he has a $22 million cap number in 2018. If that the case then Cousins, Norman ($17 million), and Williams ($13.9 million) would still be the top three players on the cap number list and they would total $52 million.  On a cap that is projected to be $178 million that would be 29.2 percent of the total. That’s still on the high side but certainly manageable.

And if you are going to have three players taking up a high percentage of the cap they should be your quarterback, left tackle, and No. 1 cornerback. Those, along with an edge rusher, are the most important players on the team and it’s appropriate to have them among you highest-paid players.

Still, the Redskins must be careful. Signing another free agent with a cap hit like Norman’s is out of the question. And as key contributors like Trent Murphy, Jamison Crowder, and Brandon Scherff become eligible for contract extensions or for free agency over the next couple of years, the organization needs to be sure that there is room to retain their own players when the time comes.

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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Redskins at Cowboys Week 12: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

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USA TODAY Sports

Redskins at Cowboys Week 12: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

It's Dallas week. Again.

The Redskins defeated the Cowboys in Week 7, but when they travel to AT&T Stadium for a Thanksgiving clash with their bitter rivals, things feel a lot different than they were just a few weeks ago. The Redskins will be without quarterback Alex Smith, who suffered a gruesome ankle injury this past Sunday against Houston and will miss the remainder of the season.

It's officially Colt McCoy time in Washington, and his first test comes on the road Thursday. The last time McCoy played in Dallas, he led the Redskins to a shocking upset over the Cowboys on Monday Night Football in 2014.

The Cowboys have been playing good football the past two weeks, defeating Philadelphia and Atlanta in each of their respective stadiums. Dallas returns home to host their annual Thanksgiving game, a date they have played on every year but two since 1966. The Cowboys overall record on Thanksgiving is 29-18-1.

The last time the Cowboys hosted the Redskins on Thanksgiving was two years ago, when Dallas defeated the Redskins 31-26. Prior to that, the Redskins defeated the Cowboys on Thanksgiving in 2012, 38-31.

The Redskins have not had much success on Thanksgiving, with an overall record of 3-10, although they did defeat the New York Giants on Thanksgivng 20-10 last year. Thursday's contest will mark the third consecutive season the Redskins play on Thanksgiving, a franchise record.

The Cowboys lead the all-time series record, 70-45-2.

REDSKINS at DALLAS COWBOYS WEEK 12

Who: Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys

What: Game 11 of the 2018 NFL regular season

When: Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018, 4:30 p.m. ET

Where: AT%T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

TV Channel: FOX

Live Stream: You can stream Redskins Kickoff Live, Redskins Postgame Live and Redskins Overtime Live right here using the MyTeams by NBC Sports App.

Radio: Redskins Radio Network

Point Spread: Dallas, -7.5

Over/Under: 40.5

Weather: 61 degrees, partly cloudy

REDSKINS at COWBOYS TV SCHEDULE:

3:00 PM: Redskins Nation 
3:30 PM: Redskins Kickoff Live (NBCSW+ and the MyTeams App)
7:30 PM: Redskins Postgame Live (NBCSW+ and the MyTeams App)
8:30 PM: Redskins Overtime Live (NBCSW+ and the MyTeams App)

Click here to access NBC Sports Washington's Channel Finder 

REDSKINS 2018 REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE

Week 1: Sun., 9/9, @ Arizona Cardinals (24-6, W)

Week 2: Sun, 9/16, vs. Indianapolis Colts (21-9, L)

Week 3: Sun., 9/23, vs. Green Bay Packers (31-17, W)

Week 4: BYE

Week 5: Mon., 10/8, @ New Orleans Saints, (43-19, L)

Week 6: Sun., 10/14, vs. Carolina Panthers, 1:00 p.m. (23-17, W)

Week 7: Sun., 10/21, vs. Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 p.m. (20-17, W)

Week 8: Sun. 10/28, @ New York Giants, 1:00 p.m. (20-13, W)

Week 9: Sun., 11/4, vs. Atlanta Falcons, 1:00 p.m. (38-14, L)

Week 10: Sun. 11/11, @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1:00 p.m. (16-3 W)

Week 11: Sun., 11/18, vs. Houston Texans, 1:00 p.m. (23-21, L)

Week 12: Thu., 11/22, @ Dallas Cowboys, 4:30 p.m. (FOX)

Week 13: Mon., 12/3, @ Philadelphia Eagles, 8:15 (ESPN)

Week 14: Sun., 12/9, vs. New York Giants, 1:00 p.m. (FOX)

Week 15: Sun., 12/16, @ Jacksonville Jaguars, 1:00 p.m. (FOX)

Week 16: Sat., 12/22, @ Tennessee Titans, 4:30 p.m. (CBS)

Week 17: Sun., 12/30, vs. Philadelphia Eagles, 1:00 p.m. (FOX)

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

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Thanksgiving is a huge game for the Redskins and a huge opportunity for Colt McCoy

Thanksgiving is a huge game for the Redskins and a huge opportunity for Colt McCoy

For decades, the most iconic image of America came from Texas. 

Hollywood loved the cowboy, silently toiling in the heat and cold, staring down danger and prepared to answer any challenge that came his way.

But over time, industrialization and modernization, cowboys drifted from the national consciousness, or at least from the movies and television screens. 

As things shifted, however, another Texas icon emerged: the quarterback. 

Friday Night Lights, first as a book, then a movie, and later a TV show, made the country care about small town Texas high school football. The sophomoric Varsity Blues helped too. 

As that mythology grew, one real life QB emerged to fit the storybook casting: Colt McCoy.

With blue eyes and a humble voice, McCoy came from tiny Tuscola, Texas, a town of fewer than 800 people about three hours west of Dallas. He went on and excelled as the starting quarterback at the University of Texas, becoming the winningest Longhorn QB ever. 

Then the storybook ended.

In 2010, he was drafted by a terrible Browns team. In two seasons he started 21 games, but went 6-15. 

His career stumbled, he landed on a few bad San Francisco teams after that. He battled injuries, often, and didn't play all that well in spurts. 

His chance at NFL stardom, like he'd found in college, faded. Eventually, he caught on with the Redskins in a weird situation. 

McCoy joined the team in 2014, the same year Jay Gruden took over as head coach. Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins were already on the roster, and a multi-year awkward dance ensued. 

All three QBs got starts in 2014, but by 2015, Cousins got the starter's job, McCoy became the backup and RG3 hit the bench. In 2016, Griffin went to Cleveland, with McCoy firmly entrenched as Cousins' backup.

For two years, Cousins took every snap in Washington, and McCoy worked hard on the scout team to press the defense. 

Things seemed to be coming to a head as Cousins' contract situation reached a breaking point in 2018. Finally, maybe, McCoy would get his chance. 

And then Washington traded for Alex Smith.

McCoy again seemed destined to the bench, but much like fictional characters Johnny Moxon or Matt Saracen, the backup got thrust into the spotlight. 

After 10 games and a 6-3 start, Smith went down with a broken leg last week in a loss to Houston, and now, after a long, long wait, it's McCoy's team.

"For me, now is not a time to really kind of think about what got me to this point right here," McCoy said Tuesday. "Now, it's time to play."

That said, a small town upbringing is a big part of his story, and for McCoy, he can't forget it.

"I certainly wouldn’t change where I grew up, where I came from," McCoy said. "Everyone there means so much to me and that's a special part of me. Right now, my focus is on this team and how I can help this team this week because I know they're counting on me."

What McCoy might not know, or realize, is that his story is part of what makes him so appealing. 

The small town hero, the Texas gunslinger, McCoy fits all those bills. 

Redskins running back Chris Thompson tried to describe the intangible trust that comes from playing with McCoy, and the best he could muster was labeling it that "Texas thing." 

Watching McCoy enter the game for the Redskins last week at FedEx Field, there was an undeniable electricity that shot through the stadium. It was palpable, and multiple Redskins players said they felt it, too. 

And now, after four starts in four years in Washington, McCoy has the chance to lead a good team into the NFL playoffs in a league where a backup quarterback got named Super Bowl MVP last season.

"This opportunity is a great one for him," Gruden said.

"We don't have to change a thing with Colt at quarterback. We just go on as scheduled. I know the players all have a ton of respect for Colt and they're going to play hard for Colt and they know the ball's going to be thrown in the right spot."

Of course it starts on Thursday, on national television, and of course it starts in Dallas with the Redskins installed as big underdogs. 

McCoy found success once before playing against the Cowboys in Dallas on national television. It was a riveting win, down to the wire, and the Redskins entered the game as big underdogs, too. 

That came in 2014, in the middle of a lost season for Washington, but the victory still resonates for a lot of fans, in the same way Colt McCoy resonates with a lot of fans. 

The story is easy to root for and the person makes it even easier. McCoy, despite some circumstances where other players would complain, publicly or privately, never did. He never really got his chance to start, but kept soldiering on. 

"It's not easy but at the same time, I'm thankful for where I am and for the things that I’ve gone through. Hopefully some of the ups and downs that I've been through in my career will help me now, help me in this situation. I think if I didn’t enjoy football, if I didn’t love football, I probably would have maybe been through. But I love the process. I love the challenge each week."

This week's challenge is much different than it has been for McCoy. 

The challenge is no longer staying engaged in meetings or practices when playing time isn't on the horizon. 

The challenge is the Dallas Cowboys, on a short week, with a surging defense and a vicious pass rush.

The challenge is a beat-up Redskins offensive line and the pressure of maintaining a one-game lead in the NFC East. 

For years, the challenge has been mental. Now, the challenge will be very, very real. 

This game is huge for the Redskins. For their playoff hopes. For their coach's job security. For the organization's direction in 2019. 

And it's also huge for McCoy. To validate his hard work. His patience. To validate Tuscola. 

"I'm thankful for the opportunity but I think it's even more than that. It's time to just go play and put everything else aside," he said.

"We have a huge game this week. It's a huge game."

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