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Redskins Playbook: Bye week could present opportunity to talk Zach Brown extension

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Redskins Playbook: Bye week could present opportunity to talk Zach Brown extension

For the purpose of this article, table the entire contract saga between Kirk Cousins and the Redskins. For the next few hundred words, erase that annual circus.

With that clean slate, consider this: The Redskins rank as one of the top clubs at keeping their own players. 

In most cases, the Washington front office locks up players they determine to be "core Redskins" well before those individuals hit free agency. 

Don't believe it? 

Chris Thompson and Morgan Moses got long-term deals done this offseason, a year prior to free agency. Jordan Reed got his deal done in 2016, a year before he would have hit free agency. 

Trent Williams. Ryan Kerrigan. Both got lucrative extensions with the club before they hit free agency. 

The team got an extension done with Vernon Davis almost immediately after the 2016 season, making sure to keep the veteran backup tight end in Washington before free agency opened. 

The Redskins have set a precedent: If they want you to stay in Burgundy and Gold, they will get a deal done. 

And it's time for the Redskins to try that avenue again. 

Plenty of credit belongs to plenty of people for the resurgent Washington defense. New coordinator Greg Manusky has instilled confidence and an aggressive attitude. Jim Tomsula has overhauled the defensive line. Torrian Gray speaks to his secondary in their language, earning their trust, far more than his predecesor Perry Fewell had. 

Players, too, deserve a lot of credit. 

Rookie Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis have become a highly productive duo up front. Preston Smith is playing the best football of this career, and Ryan Kerrigan remains a stout pass rusher. D.J. Swearinger has brought swagger, communication and leadership to the back end of the defense. 

With all that credit going around, one player still stands out. That's Zach Brown. 

Through four games, Brown leads the NFL with 42 tackles. He's missed one snap this season, and his lateral speed shows up week after week. 

In Kansas City, Brown chased down rookie phenom running back Kareem Hunt as he raced for the end zone. Through three games in the NFL, nobody had caught Hunt in that situation. Brown did, and 70,000 plus fans at Arrowhead, not to mention Hunt, seemed shocked.

The only problem for the Redskins as it pertains to Brown: the linebacker is playing on a one-year deal. In 2018, he's a free agent. 

If Bruce Allen and the Washington front office wanted to try and work out an in-season contract extension, the bye week presents a perfect opportunity. It would give Brown some security with 12 games still remaining this season, and the week off would be a reasonable time to try and begin those conversations with Brown and his representatives.

It helps that Brown is from Columbia, Md., and seems to like the comforts of being close to home. He's already gone back to his hometown to watch a high school football game at his alma mater, Wilde Lake, and has plenty of family and friends in the area. 

Agents around the NFL were impressed how the Redskins handled Moses' contract extension. The team recognized a hard worker, and a player that showed tremendous growth, and rewarded him for that. It helped, too, that the team compensated Moses greatly and the process went on behind closed doors. No news came out until the contract was signed. 

The sample size is much shorter, but with Brown, his impact is obvious through four games. His speed commands attention, and he makes sure tackles and big hits. 

Ultimately, this will be about money. Everything is about money. 

Last season, Brown finished second in the NFL in tackles, behind only Seattle's Bobby Wagner. 

Wagner is making $7.6 million this year, and has two years left on his deal worth a guaranteed $20 million. 

Brown is making $2.5 million this season. Nothing is guaranteed next year, or beyond. 

It would make sense that Brown wants to be paid among the top four or five inside linebackers in the game, as he's performed at that level. That would mean somewhere between the $8.75 million a year Brian Cushing makes and the $12.3 million Luke Kuechly makes. 

If he continues to play at a high level, like he did last season in Buffalo and has so far this year in D.C., Brown will get paid in free agency. His market was cool this past offseason, as the sixth-year draft pick had only produced at a Pro Bowl caliber level for one season. 

If he does it again, the cash will follow. 

If the Redskins want to keep Brown in Burgundy and Gold, maybe now is the time to start talking. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Jay Gruden know the pressure is on him in 2018

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Jay Gruden know the pressure is on him in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 24, 32 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The heat is on Jay Gruden

Jay Gruden knows that his Redskins need to win in 2018.

“This isn’t a two- or three-year process,” he said last week. “This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away.” 

Jay Gruden gave this answer to a question about Alex Smith, but his words should resonate with the whole team. He’s right. This is no longer a rebuilding team. It’s time for this team to get it together and make a playoff run. 

That puts the pressure on Gruden. 

This is his fifth year as coach of the Redskins. He is well beyond the point where he can credibly point a finger of blame at his predecessor for any problems that are lingering. Only five players who were around in 2013, Mike Shanahan’s last year in Washington. It’s Gruden’s show now. 

His tenure is now the longest for a Redskins head coach since Norv Turner made it nearly seven years, from 1994 through 13 games into the 2000 season. His 49-59-1 run with the Redskins spanned three owners in Jack Kent Cooke, John Kent Cooke, and Dan Snyder. 

It should be noted that Turner’s third and fourth years at the helm closely resembled Gruden’s past two years. Turner’s team went 9-7 in 1996 and 8-7-1 the next year, narrowly missing the playoffs both years. That looks a lot like Gruden’s 8-7-1 and 7-9 records over the past two years. 

Gruden does not want this year’s team to resemble the 1998 Redskins. Turner’s fifth team started out 0-7 before winning four of their last five to finish 6-10. 

Turner kept his job in part because of the team’s uncertain ownership situation after the elder Cooke passed away in 1997. Gruden will not have a similar set of circumstances to help him out if he needs a lifeline in January. 

Gruden wants his fifth year to turn out more like Turner’s sixth season. That team went 10-6, topped the NFC East standings and won a playoff game. 

To get there, he needs a lot of his decisions to go right. While the trade for Smith was not his call, every indication is that he was on board with it. 

Last year, it was his decision to say no, thanks to Wade Phillips, who wanted to be his defensive coordinator and promote Greg Manusky into the job. The results were mixed as the Redskins were sixth in pass defense DVOA but 29thagainst the run. It was viewed as a marginal improvement on defense but the unit still seeme to be more of a liability than an asset. 

This year, the Redskins re-signed inside linebackers Zach Brown and Mason Foster and added defensive lineman Daron Payne with their first-round pick after spending their first-round pick on DE Jonathan Allen in 2017. There will be no excuses for Manusky and, by extension, Gruden if the defense does not improve. 

Joe Barry, Manusky’s predecessor who also was hired by Gruden when Phillips was an option, was out after two years of failing to significantly improve the defense. Any reasonable analysis would have to conclude that Barry did not get an infusion of talent anywhere approaching what Manusky has received in his two seasons. Manusky is getting a second year but he probably won’t get a third if the defense is still considered to be an impediment to the team’s progress. 

And if Manusky has to go, you have to wonder if Gruden will get a chance to hire a third defensive coordinator. 

I’m not sure if there is a certain number of games that the Redskins have to win for Gruden to return in 2019. It feels like he would not survive a 6-10 season or maybe not even another 7-9 finish. On the other end of the spectrum, making the playoffs and winning a game when they get there would certainly punch his ticket for a sixth season. 

Anything in between would leave Gruden in some jeopardy and the call would come down to the vague “moving in the right direction” criteria. 

There are some holes on this team, to be sure. But every team has some and the ones that are well coached figure out how to overcome them. The pressure will be on Gruden to best utilize their strengths and minimize any damage brought about by the weaker points. 

From his statement, it’s apparent that he is well aware of that. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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I put out a tweet correcting the Super Bowl ring count to two.

Timeline  

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 32
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 46
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 60

The Redskins last played a game 175 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 77 days. 

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Roster competition, Brown vs. Pryor

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Roster competition, Brown vs. Pryor

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, June 23, 33 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins  and NBC Sports Washington.

Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense—NFL coaches and others like to tell you that competition determines who wins roster spots in the league. And that may be true to an extent. But many roster spots are predetermined by a player’s contract situation and/or draft status. It is unlikely that an undrafted player like Fish Smithson will win a roster spot over Troy Apke even if the former outperforms the latter in every way during training camp. Apke was a fourth-round pick and they aren’t going to give up on him in favor of an undrafted player. It would cost $3.2 million in dead cap to cut Stacy McGee and only $150,000 to move on from Ziggy Hood so McGee will win a “competition” that is even remotely close. (Offensive projection here)

Redskins will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor at training camp—While this is something that could add a little spice to the Jets’ visit to Richmond, don’t look for much of anything to happen. Zach Brown might give a little extra shove to Pryor here and there but he’s not going to do anything that will draw blood or even cause a deep bruise. If nothing else, a big hit on Pryor would invite retaliation by the Jets on Josh Doctson or Paul Richardson. And that might lead to more retaliation and you end up with a brawl like the Redskins and Texans had a couple of years ago.

Trent Williams very much of approves of Smith and Guice—Williams is going into his ninth NFL season and he has yet to be on the winning side of a playoff game. He thinks that Alex Smith and Derrius Guice can help change that. 

The curious case of Alex Smith and the NFL Top 100 list—I normally greet this list with a big yawn and this year was no exception. But I do find the omission of Smith, who led the NFL in passer rating and was third in adjusted net yards per attempt, odd. In an update to this post, the NFL released the names of the top 10 players and Smith is not on it. He shouldn’t be, but he should be somewhere on the 100, perhaps in the middle of the pack. The only Redskins player to appear on the list was Trent Williams at No. 57.

The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger—It’s likely that nine players who are 25 or younger will line up as starters for the Redskins this year. I don’t have a rundown of how that compares to the rest of the league but it’s notable that in the last two years six of them have replaced players who were either approaching age 30 or over it. I’ll engage in some speculation here and say that five of the young players—Daron Payne, Derrius Guice, Preston Smith, Jonathan Allen, and Montae Nicholson—are good enough to potentially make a Pro Bowl at some point in their careers. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline 

Former Redskins defensive tackle Dave Butz was born on this date in 1950. 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 33
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 47
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 70

The Redskins last played a game 174 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 78 days. 

In case you missed it