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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Gruden extension, Cousins' status

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Gruden extension, Cousins' status

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, March 11, 37 days before Washington Redskins start offseason workouts on April 17.  

Timeline

Days until:

—NFL Draft (4/27) 47
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 74
—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 126
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 183

The Redskins week that was

This week has been one of the craziest in Redskins history with reports, many of them conflicting, flying around. Because of that I’m doing the week that was a little differently today. Instead of linking the most popular articles of the week I’ll list the top five topics and give you my take on those. These are presented in no particular order.

The end of the road for McCloughan—The McCloughan-Redskins relationship seemed to be doomed from the start. McCloughan was a genius with a fatal flaw and the Redskins were one of few places where he had an opportunity to resume his career. But the atmosphere at Redskins Park—or at many other NFL facilities—is not conducive to handling issues like McCloughan has. While McCloughan had a hand in his own demise the Redskins could not have handled the whole thing any worse.  

Kirk Cousins—Will he sign it or won’t he? Will he get traded or will he stay? Is a long-term deal out of the question? Other than the fact that he did sign the tender we don’t really know a whole lot more about his status for 2017 and beyond than we did a week ago. No matter what happens, we’ll always have the memories of the whacky Ian Rapoport report that said that a trade that would send Cousins to the 49ers, high draft picks to the Cowboys, and Tony Romo to Washington was a possibility.

Gruden extended—Yes, that did happen this week, although it seems like an eternity ago. There was a PR element in the timing, no doubt about it. But it had been in the works for quite some time. The extension does give a sense of stability although it may be a false sense. The money in the additional two years is guaranteed; the job is not. If things go south Dan Snyder will not hesitate to stroke the check and send Gruden packing. Regardless, his power at Redskins Park increased with the new contract; Gruden was one of the few at Redskins Park who ended the week better off than he was when he started it.

Terrelle Pryor signedThe Redskins get to put Pryor on a one-year tryout before deciding if they want to give him a pricier, long-term deal. At 6-5 he gives the Redskins a huge red zone target to send out along with the 6-2 Josh Doctson. Pryor is still learning the position and once he learns the tricks of the trade like using his big body to shield away defenders. At the very least his addition gives the team a year to develop a receiver if they draft one in the middle rounds at the end of next month.

Defensive free agents—D. J. Swearinger isn’t an ideal safety to pair with Su’a Cravens since both are probably better at strong. But Swearinger did play single high with the Cardinals so that’s a possibility. I think you also could see a three-safety look with Will Blackmon playing free. Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee are “just a guy” types with injury histories. They got relatively modest deals and if they can stay healthy they can contribute in a rotation.

Tandler on Twitter

In response to an Adam Schefter tweet saying that FOX is trying to get Tony Romo in a broadcast booth:

In case you missed it

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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Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott has said privately he will hold out from training camp, per report

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Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott has said privately he will hold out from training camp, per report

Since entering the NFL in 2016, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has established himself as one of the elite rushers in the NFL.

Now, he wants to be paid like it.

Elliott, who has two years remaining on his rookie deal, has privately said he plans on holding out from training camp until he receives a new deal, per ProFootballTalk.

Slated to make just $3.5 million in 2019, Elliott is one of the most underpaid players in all of football. He's set to make $9.09 million in 2020, the final year of his rookie deal.

Dallas has put off extension talks with Elliott simply because he's still under contract for two more seasons, per the report.

Quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper are both free agents after the season, and the Cowboys would like to keep both at all costs, ProFootballTalk said. Additionally, Dallas just signed defensive end Demarcus Lawrence to a five-year, $105 million contract extension this offseason.

Should he not receive a contract extension, Elliott could face a situation similar to what Demarco Murray had with the Cowboys in 2014. Murray set a franchise record for most rushing yards in a season, yet Dallas still chose to let him walk in free agency.

Elliott's not the only star running back threatening to holdout this offseason. Los Angeles Chargers' Melvin Gordon has publicly stated he will skip training camp until he gets a new deal and is not afraid to miss regular-season games, similar to what Le'Veon Bell did last year with the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

Since entering the NFL in 2016, Elliott has led the NFL in rushing twice. His 4,048 total rushing yards over the past three seasons are the most in the NFL, and he has over 600 more rushing yards than Los Angeles Rams' Todd Gurley, the next most rushing yards over that span.

Whether he actually holds out or whether the Cowboys turn their attention to extending their star running back will be seen in the coming weeks.

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10 Questions for training camp: Can the Redskins count on Montae Nicholson?

10 Questions for training camp: Can the Redskins count on Montae Nicholson?

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?

The Redskins spent a ton of money to fix their safety position this offseason, shelling out $45 million guaranteed for Landon Collins.

There's only one problem, however, as a modern NFL defense requires two safeties.

Assuming health, Collins will undoubtedly start at safety. What player lines up next to him will bring concerns regardless of the direction the Washington coaching staff leans.

The leading contender for the job is Montae Nicholson, a third-year pro out of Michigan State. As a rookie, Nicholson looked like a potential draft steal, especially early in the season when he showed speed, pop and a nose for the football. His rookie season ended after just eight games though due to injuries and a concussion.

Going into this second year in 2019, Jay Gruden heaped significant praise on Nicholson, and compared his importance to the defense as Jordan Reed was to the Redskins offense.

Things didn't go well.

Nicholson never seemed to understand the new scheme in place, where he and DJ Swearinger occupied sides of the field instead of a more traditional strong and free safety role. Nicholson has the track background to play a real center field, and seemed bewildered at times playing close to the line of scrimmage.

As the 2018 campaign staggered along, Redskins team president Bruce Allen traded with Green Bay for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, effectively benching Nicholson. Clinton-Dix wasn't much better in D.C., and eventually he signed with the Bears as a free agent this offseason.

There was also a late-season arrest for Nicholson outside of a Loudon County bar. While charges eventually got dropped, the Redskins suspended Nicholson for the final few games of 2018.

Add all of that up, and it's hard to believe Redskins' brass when they speak about how much they trust Nicholson and expect great things from him. Still, the NFL is no place for hurt feelings, and both the franchise and the safety need to turn the page from an ugly 2018 and hope 2019 fares better.

The reality is the Redskins don't have many options if Nicholson can't reclaim his starting role. Troy Apke showed next to nothing in an injury-plagued rookie season last year. Deshazor Everett has been with the Redskins for four seasons and has been a valuable special teams player, yet, when the team has needed somebody to fill a revolving door at either safety spot, he rarely gets a chance.

Odds are there isn't more help coming.

The draft came and went without Washington adding a safety. Same with the second wave of free agency.

Maybe a veteran safety with legit speed emerges on the marketplace - an unexpected training camp cut - but the Burgundy and Gold can't count on that. It's also possible veteran defensive back Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie can make the Redskins 53-man roster and help at safety in passing situations.

Remember, however, that DRC retired from football last year halfway through the season. Let's see him get through the grind of two-a-days in Richmond before considering the 33-year-old part of the solution.

Add all of that up and it's very clear the Redskins need a lot from Nicholson.

Collins should help Washington immediately, as a leader and as a sure tackler. He's had some elite seasons in the NFL, but that last happened in 2016.

Collins on his own as the last line of defense will help the Redskins, but not to the tune of an average salary of $15 million.

Collins paired with a healthy and fully engaged Nicholson could be special. But that requires Nicholson to be both healthy and fully engaged. Time will tell on that.

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