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Need to Know: Under the radar issues for the Redskins

Need to Know: Under the radar issues for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, February 21, 16 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.  

Timeline

Days until:

—NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 8
—NFL Combine (3/2) 9
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 55
—NFL Draft (4/27) 65
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 201

Under the radar offseason issues for the Redskins

We know the top line personnel issues for the Redskins this offseason—Kirk Cousins, Jackson and Garçon, D-line, etc. Here are some other issues flying below the radar:

Who’s the backup center? Kory Lichtensteiger retired and John Sullivan is a free agent. That leaves Spencer Long as the only true center under contract. Do they try to bring back Sullivan? Look for one in the draft? The free agent pool is very thin but perhaps a solid backup could get cut.

Guard depth Lichtensteiger also provided some insurance at guard so his absence hits creates a double hit on the depth chart. Right now, the only backup to Shawn Lauvao and Brandon Scherff is Arie Kouandjio. Scherff is durable but Lauvao hasn’t played a 16-game season since 2012. Unless they have more faith in Kouandjio than I suspect they do they will need depth. Perhaps they could spend a mid-round pick for depth this year and then let him compete with Kouandjio for the LG starting job assuming Lauvao moves on after his contract is up  

Need depth at cornerback The Redskins’ top two cornerbacks, Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland, aren’t bad. And maybe Kendall Fuller and Quinton Dunbar are good as the No. 3 and No. 4 CB’s although they perhaps should have some stiff competition. But it’s a long season and injuries happen. They have former Seahawk Tharold Simon and Dashaun Phillips on the roster and they may re-sign Greg Toler. They probably need one or two more veterans or draft picks to compete for the last one or two spots.

More Redskins: NFL Mock Draft 3.0

QB of the future? The most likely scenario in the Cousins saga is that he gets tagged on March 1 and if he does sign a long-term deal it will not be until closer to July 15. That would leave the Redskins in a bit of a tight spot, going through free agency and the draft not knowing if their starter at the most important position on the field will be back in 2018. What about Nate Sudfeld? Would he be ready to at least back up, presumably, Colt McCoy or another veteran? If not, do they need to look for one in the middle of draft, or perhaps earlier? If they are concerned about Cousins’ status and Sudfeld’s ability to develop into a starter this needs to be on the front burner.

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Ron Rivera sees releasing Josh Norman as an opportunity for Redskins to get younger

Ron Rivera sees releasing Josh Norman as an opportunity for Redskins to get younger

On Friday the Redskins released veteran cornerback Josh Norman, and on Saturday head coach Ron Rivera explained that the decision allowed the team to get younger at a key position. 

"The big thing is it's an opportunity for us to get younger. Josh is a veteran guy and again, just looking at the young guys that we have, we got to get these guys on the football field and more exposed," Rivera said. 

Rivera spoke to reporters at a charity event in Charlotte, and while everything he said is true, it's also not the full story. Yes, Norman just turned 32 in December, but Washington's decision to cut him was not solely about age. 

Norman was set to make $15 million in 2020, and the team will save $12.5 million on the salary cap by letting him go. And his level of play no longer validated the hefty price tag and probably hasn't for the last two seasons. Norman finished the 2019 season on the bench and only played in rare situations when the other active cornerbacks were hurt. 

As for a youth movement at cornerback, it's coming, ready or not. Quinton Dunbar is in the last year of his deal and will be 28 when the season starts. Fabian Moreau will be in the last year of his rookie deal and will be 26 when the season starts. Jimmy Moreland had an up and down rookie year in 2019 and will be 25 when the season starts this fall. 

Some NFL sources also expect the Redskins to be quite active in free agency, particularly at the cornerback spot. Two names to watch are unrestricted free agents James Bradberry and Bashaud Breeland. Bradberry played for Rivera in Carolina while Breeland nearly signed with the Panthers as a free agent in 2018 before a foot injury voided his contract. 

So sure, the Redskins released Norman in part of an effort to get a younger roster. But there was plenty more involved, Rivera just decided to take the high road with his public comments. 

NOTES: Rivera also got asked about taking the Redskins job earlier this offseason: "It's going well. It's a little bit of a transition obviously as well. It's an opportunity to change things and kind of put things in the way we want to have them done. "

The coach also got asked about the difference between coaching in Charlotte and coaching in D.C. "The area is huge. Compared to here there's a lot of people," Rivera said. "It's very loud. All the restaurants are very loud." True words. 

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How much do people love Ron Rivera? Watch this video from Charlotte

How much do people love Ron Rivera? Watch this video from Charlotte

Panthers owner David Tepper fired head coach Ron Rivera after Week 12 of the 2019 season. Usually an in-season firing means that fans have turned on the coach amid a lost season.

In Carolina, that wasn't exactly the case.

When Rivera was fired, he and his wife Stephanie took out a full-page ad in The Charlotte Observer to thank a number of people and show gratitude for his nine years as head coach of the Panthers. That's unusual.

It seems that many Panthers fans were waiting to get their opportunity to thank Rivera, and on Saturday, it came.

Hundreds of Carolina fans showed up in Charlotte to say goodbye to Rivera as well as raise money for the Charlotte Humane Society. Why? Rivera decided to hold a yard sale of sorts, selling much of his Panthers gear, signed shirts and memorabilia going to the Humane Society. The event raised more than $30,000. 

The whole idea is admirable, and it appears from social media that the execution was a hit. 

Rivera's relationship with Redskins fans is just beginning, but if the crowd in Charlotte is any indication, it should be a fun ride. Winning helps too, and for most of his nine seasons in Carolina the Panthers won. That will build goodwill with any fan base, and in Washington, fans are desperate for some playoff football. 

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