Life comes at you fast, as the old insurance company commercial said.
Within the blink of an eye, or the time that it took for Giants cornerback Donimique Rodgers-Cromartie to secure Kirk Cousins’ ill-advised pass down the middle in the last two minutes, the Redskins went from making plans to hit the road for the first round of the NFL playoffs to starting their offseason on Sunday night.
And it will be quite an interesting offseason. There will be plenty of time to hash over the details of what needs to happen but let’s take a quick flyover in rough chronological order.
Which coaches stay and who goes: it seems safe to say that Jay Gruden will be back. In tough times he has held on to the locker room and his offense is praised league wide. Today’s loss makes it unlikely that team will come after offensive coordinator Sean McVay, who was being talked about as a potential head coach. The status of Joe Barry would seem to be very much up in the air; he could be the scapegoat for the failure to make the playoffs.
Set the philosophy: Scot McCloughan loves to talk about building through the draft but then when Josh Norman became available the Redskins dropped a $15 million per year contract on him. The Redskins will have at least $60 million in cap space even after that big deal. McCloughan is going to have to decide if he is going to try to fill some needs in free agency or stick with the draft and leave a pile of unspent cap money.
Decide what to do with Cousins: The franchise tag is very much an option. His salary will jump from just under $20 million to just under $24 million, an increase that can be handled by a jump in the salary cap that should be in excess of $10 million. The better option would be a long-term deal but that will be a bear to negotiate. Supply and demand of even competent quarterbacks pushes the money up there. It may well take a contract north of $23 million per year to lock him up for the next several years.
Improving the defensive line: The Redskins need to quit relying on the likes of Ziggy Hood and Cullen Jenkins playing significant snaps on the D-line and get some more talent in the building. The first decision will be whether or not to bring back Chris Baker, the team’s best defensive lineman who will be a 29-year-old free agent in March. Should they bring him back with a significant contract or should they move on and start from scratch? There will be options in free agency, where McCloughan’s record is spotty, and in the draft, where McCloughan can’t seem to find a lineman who meets his standards for “a football player”.
Finding actual safeties: The Redskins again managed to go through yet another calendar year without being able to find an impact safety. Their solution this year was to convert three corners to safety and sign David Bruton away from the Broncos. It didn’t work out. They could solve this with some internal moves, converting Su’a Craves from his linebacker spot (a move that was planned from when the drafted him) and moving Bashaud Breeland for corner to safety. But they need to make those decisions or get to work on the free agents and draft classes.
The two receivers: Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson will both be free agents. With the cap space they will have available they likely could afford to sign them both. But investing heavily in two wide receiver who turned 30 recently may not be proper cap management. That makes it seem very unlikely that both will return but it’s certainly possible that one of them will. There also is a chance that neither will.
Set at running back? The Redskins liked what they got out of Rob Kelley this year but is he good enough for a team that aspires to go deep in the playoffs? Can Matt Jones, who possesses great physical talent but may lack the focus needed to succeed, be an asset? There has been talk that the Redskins might look for a dynamic back somewhere in the middle rounds of the draft.
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