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Over/under: Redskins QB Kirk Cousins' numbers in 2017

Over/under: Redskins QB Kirk Cousins' numbers in 2017

Now that the contractual matters are settled, at least until January, it’s time to see what Kirk Cousins can do in his third season as the Redskins’ starting quarterback.

He faces challenges after the departures of his two top wide receivers and offensive coordinator Sean McVay and the pressure of playing for a huge contract. On the plus side, he still has Jordan Reed, Jamison Crowder, and a passing-oriented head coach in Jay Gruden.

Will he go over or under his 2016 performances in key statistical areas? Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay get out the crystal ball and give their analysis.

Completion percentage: 67.0

Tandler: Two years ago, Cousins posted the seventh-best season completion percentage in NFL history (69.8). He reverted toward the norm last year, finishing eighth for the season. Some of that was by design as he threw deeper passes. With some new receivers, I think his completion percentage will fall off just a bit from last year.  Under

Finlay: Agree with Tandler here. Cousins has a career 66 completion percentage. I think he comes in north of that but still below 67, maybe 66.5. Under

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Yards passing: 4,917

Tandler: So basically, we are asking if Cousins will put up the tenth 5,000-yard season in NFL history. Quarterbacks not named Drew Brees have done it just four times. I think they run a little more often than they did last year and even if Cousins is very efficient passing he might not have enough attempts to get over 5K. His attempts should drop from the 606 he had last year and only Dan Marino got over 5,000 yards in a season with fewer than 600 attempts. Under

Finlay: 4,600 is the magic number. Cousins and the Redskins threw the ball too often in 2016, and some of that added to the gaudy yardage total. The Redskins need a bit more balance in 2017 to win more games, and some of that will require a better run game. Under

Passing touchdowns: 25

Tandler: This is easy. The Redskins were 29th in red zone efficiency last year. They were in the top 10 in that stat in 2015. They added Terrelle Pryor, 6-4, and Josh Doctson, 6-2, should be in the lineup after his lost rookie season, giving Cousins a pair of prime red zone targets. They may not revert to the top 10 but they will be better in the red zone, good enough for Cousins to throw around 30 TD passes.  Over

Finlay: Cousins hasn't thrown 30 touchdowns in a season yet in his career. This is the season he does it. A healthy Jordan Reed can make a big difference in the red zone, as well as a stronger run game. Over

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Rushing touchdowns: 4

Tandler: Cousins is not thought of as a running quarterback. But looking at 2015-2016 combined, he leads the team in rushing touchdowns with nine. How many will he add this year? On the one hand, he has better red zone targets so he might not have to scramble as much. But last year he appeared to have some openings to run that he didn’t take. I’d say he’ll get four on the nose but since that’s not an option I’ll say he gets three. Under

Finlay: All offseason Cousins has talked about being better off-schedule. That will carry over into the red zone as well, and Cousins will again show the wheels. Over

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These hidden factors could make Brandon Scherff less interested in an extension with the Redskins

These hidden factors could make Brandon Scherff less interested in an extension with the Redskins

In Brandon Scherff, the Redskins have a 27-year-old guard who has delivered on his first-round status, a lineman who has become one of the best in the league at his position and should have many more years of production and defender-mauling left.

Therefore, it's in the Redskins' best interest to extend Scherff this offseason, and the veteran confirmed on Monday there have been talks about getting that done

But during a discussion on the Redskins Talk podcast, J.I. Halsell, a salary cap expert and former agent, laid out something that could force those negotiations to stall.

"There are some things you have to take into consideration because 2020 is the final year of the collective bargaining agreement, so there are some things you have to work around when structuring the deal," Halsell said.

Not only is that deadline approaching, but another one is, too. In 2021 and 2022, the NFL's TV deals with Monday Night Football, FOX, CBS and NBC expire as well.

So, there's a very real possibility the league's salary cap could look much, much different in a few seasons. And that, according to Halsell, may make Scherff much less willing to accept an extension now.

"If you're Brandon Scherff, in 2021, with a new collective bargaining agreement, the salary cap might be $250 million or something crazy like that, with all the new revenue coming into the league," he explained. "And so why would I take a deal today and preclude myself of taking advantage of a very lucrative and larger revenue pie?"

Essentially, it comes down to whether Scherff wants to take a present risk that could pay off down the line (kind of like how Kirk Cousins did a few years back with the Burgundy and Gold). He could probably lock something in over the next few months — Halsell's projection was an agreement for five years, including $45 million guaranteed and a $14.5 million average per year — or step away from talks now and try to cash in later.

Haslell told Redskins Talk he'd probably advise the lineman to take the second route.

"You would say, 'Look, you're a former first-round pick. You've made a decent amount of money in your career thus far,'" he said. "You have the financial wherewithal to not take the bird in hand today that may not be as lucrative as what is out there in 2021. So, bet on yourself and play out the last year of your rookie deal, force them to tag you in 2020 and then see what this new NFL salary cap world looks like in 2021."

Now, who knows truly how much these factors will play into Scherff's back-and-forth with the 'Skins. Nevertheless, you can see why the Pro Bowler's next contract may not be as much of a no-brainer as previously thought.

"If the kid is willing to bet on himself," Haslell said, "then it could be very lucrative on the back end."

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Brandon Scherff confirms that he and the Redskins have 'been talking' about a contract extension

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Brandon Scherff confirms that he and the Redskins have 'been talking' about a contract extension

Bruce Allen identified getting a contract extension done for Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff as one of the Redskins biggest priorities of the 2019 offseason. To this point, however, nothing has happened. 

That doesn't seem to have Scherff concerned. 

"We've been talking, but I'm not really worried about that," he said after OTAs on Monday. "I'm here for another year, so that's all I'm worried about right now. Everything will take care of itself."

Scherff, the fifth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, has played at an elite level since his rookie season. He's made two Pro Bowl teams in four years, and until last year, had been remarkably durable. 

In 2018, Scherff's season started very strong. 'Skins coach Jay Gruden described the former Iowa Hawkeye as the best pulling guard in the NFL and it was well-earned praise. Then, in a Week 8 loss, Scherff went down with a torn pectoral muscle. His season was over. 

At OTAs, however, Scherff was a full participant with no brace or apparent encumbrances from the injury. 

"I'm feeling really good, just taking it slow and making sure I'm 100 percent," he said. 

Expect the free agent market to be quite bullish. Once a lesser-paid position than tackle, guards have recently started pulling in significant cash. Zach Martin's recent contract extension in Dallas pays him more than $14 million per season, and Jacksonville is paying Andrew Norwell more than $13 million this year. 

For Scherff, expect top of the market money. He has the talent, pedigree and ability that if Washington won't pay in the neighborhood of Martin and Norwell, he can wait for free agency. 

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