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Redskins position outlook: Deal or tag? Cousins' status will affect '17 plans

Redskins position outlook: Deal or tag? Cousins' status will affect '17 plans

Over the next few weeks, JP Finlay and Rich Tandler will evaluate each position group’s performance in 2016, break down the current personnel situation and look forward to the unit's outlook for 2017.

Quarterback

2016 starter: Kirk Cousins

Backups: Colt McCoy, Nate Sudfeld

Free agents: Cousins

Rewind: In some ways, Cousins was better than he was in 2015 when he burst onto the scene and grabbed the Redskins’ starting quarterback job. But in some other ways, he was worse.

Cousins passed for 4,917 yards, shattering the team record he had set the year before. His average per attempt went up nearly half a yard. But he threw four fewer touchdown passes last year despite attempting 27 more passes. His passer rating slipped about four points, dipping below the 100 mark that is the rough equivalent of a baseball player batting .300.

But the difference between Cousins’ 2015 and 2016 season is not so much measured by the numbers as it was by looking at the results of games. Two years ago the Redskins needed to win three games down the stretch to make the playoffs. Cousins passed for 300 yards against the Bears, 319 against the Bills and 365 in the division clinching win over the Eagles.

This year, however, in two must-win home games down the stretch Cousins was not nearly as effective as the Redskins dropped two of their final three to miss out on the playoffs. The end came on an ugly interception Cousins threw in the last two minutes against the Giants.

Neither loss was completely on the shoulders of Cousins, just like the rest of the team had a lot to do with the 2015 wins. But Cousins did not step up and take his game to another level when the team needed him to. That’s what the best quarterbacks in the league do. Cousins could get there but he’s not there yet.

Cousins was the only quarterback to take a snap. The only buzz surrounding McCoy came when Jay Gruden revealed that he was the team’s emergency long snapper. Sudfeld was the inactive third QB all year.  

Fast forward: It is very likely that Cousins is back under center for the Redskins in 2017 whether via the franchise tag or a long-term deal. The way that it happens may influence how the team handles the position this offseason.

Should he sign a long-term contract they likely will stand pat. McCoy is under contract for another year and he would remain the backup. The organization would like to see Sudfeld develop to the point where he can become the active backup quarterback either in late 2017 or the year after that.

If Cousins gets and signs the franchise tag, however, it’s a different story. The organization would have to proceed as though he is in his last year as a Redskin. It would be easy to see them spending a second- or third-round pick on a quarterback to groom. At the very least they would need to invest in quarterback in the latter rounds of the draft to have someone to challenge Sudfeld since, at the very least, the 2017 third-string QB could very well play a key role in 2018.

Right now there seems to be a very slim chance that the Redskins will trade Cousins but that could change. If they do they will have to choose their starting quarterback from McCoy, a draft pick, or a horrendous list of possible free agents including Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Barkley, and Geno Smith.

2017 Position outlook series

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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Ron Rivera doesn't care what you think, and that's good for Redskins fans

Ron Rivera doesn't care what you think, and that's good for Redskins fans

The Redskins entered into the NFL's free agency period long on cash and short on playmakers. Washington looked poised to spend big money and add some sizzle to their organizational rebuild. 

Except that didn't happen.

Kendall Fuller marked the Redskins biggest deal in free agency, and on the list of big money given out to defensive players, Fuller's deal doesn't crack the front page. The Redskins made no headlines, though they did try hard to get Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper. 

In the end, however, Washington didn't do much.

And new boss Ron Rivera doesn't care how that gets perceived as he sets out to turn the Redskins into consistent winners. 

"The truth of the matter is there is no time frame, there really isn’t, but I do know that it’s got to happen soon, I can tell you that much. I understand I get that part of it. But it’s not going to happen overnight," Rivera said this week. "What we need is we need everybody to come in and understand what the vision is and they’ve got to buy into what the vision is going to be. Once they’ve done that, it gives us an opportunity to be successful."

For much of the past 10 years, the Redskins cared about perception and lacked a clear vision. Bruce Allen was the architect of most of that era. He cared about "winning" personnel moves, turning things from opportunistic to antagonistic. How things appeared mattered, greatly at times, even though the actual results were often bad. 

The Redskins weren't close, but Allen said they were. The Redskins didn't have a good culture, but Allen said they did. The Redskins weren't winning off the field, as if that mattered, but Allen said it anyway. 

Rivera isn't saying much, but what he is saying shows he doesn't care about the perception around his first offseason as the leader of the organization. 

Did the Redskins pay too much for Kyle Allen, sending a fifth-round pick to Carolina for a potential backup quarterback that the Panthers likely would have cut? Rivera doesn't care. 

"I mean he’s the right kind of person for that room and that’s what I felt really strongly about and that’s why we were able to make the deal with Carolina to bring him in," the coach said of the trade. 

Did the Redskins get enough back by trading away cornerback Quinton Dunbar for just a fifth-round pick? Rivera doesn't care. 

"He was looking for something that we weren’t prepared to give and that was a new contract. He had a year left on his contract. We didn’t know him and just felt that because of that situation and circumstances – his agent and his attitude just didn’t seem to change. We just felt that we were going to move in another direction, so we decided to move on. We felt good about the fact that we got what he was valued. Fair value for a college free agent player that came out and had played well."

What about Trent Williams, the mega-talent left tackle that held out all of 2019 and now very publicly wants to be traded or released? Rivera doesn't care.

"We’re not quite sure what’s going to happen at the end of the line. He is a player under contract. He is a Washington Redskin, and we’re going to leave it at that and just see how things unfold."

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This list can go on and on, but the frank reality coming to light for Redskins fans is that Rivera is building this team, his team, with his vision. He didn't care about the reaction when he hired unproven Scott Turner as offensive coordinator back in January, and he doesn't care that technically his team is now operating without a general manager. 

Rivera doesn't care that some people question his relationship with team owner Dan Snyder either. Plenty of former Redskins coaches thought their relationship with Snyder was strong too, right up until it wasn't. It's too premature to question that now, but Rivera's honest assessment of the situation did seem different. 

"We talk through things, I’ve asked him for advice on certain things and certain issues. For the most part he’s letting us do our thing," Rivera said of the team's owner. "He’ll call in and just ask how things are going, what do you think, where are you guys now, more so than anything else. Like I said the conversation is daily, to almost every other day. It’s been good, it really has."

What happens on the field will likely drive Rivera's relationship with Snyder, just like it will with Redskins fans. 

That seems like the one perspective Rivera cares about, the team's fanbase. Once among the proudest in the NFL, Washington fans have been dragged through more than their share of rough times, and it's starting to reflect at FedEx Field.

Rivera wants that changed, but the coach understands the team needs to hit a level of play that shows promise. 

"We also need to have the fans get behind us. It’s one of the things that I was very fortunate to happen for us when we were in Carolina. Our first two years we showed promise. We gave fans a reason to come out and cheer for us."

Actions matter far more than words in the NFL, and considering the Redskins lack of major moves so far, it seems Rivera is taking a wait-and-see approach to the 2020 season to determine what players will be part of the long-term future in Washington. 

That doesn't mean much for playoff prospects this year, or much more than the foundation of a rebuilding project. That's an honest look at what Washington has, considering the offense has real questions at quarterback and major holes at left tackle and tight end. Defensively things should be better, and maybe quick, but the secondary still has big questions. 

So, why didn't Rivera try to fix more this offseason?

"One of the things that we tried to do when I was in Carolina, we looked at guys and I.D. guys that were on the cusp of becoming solid starters," he said. "Not a flash in the pan type guy that you’re hoping for, but a guy who’s done it steadily over a couple of years. We I.D. a few of those guys and we went out and brought those guys in and had them become a part of our football team. We feel good about the young guys. We feel good about some of the veteran guys. We think it’s a good mix right now."

Above all else, through more than three months under Rivera's leadership, the Redskins appear to have a long-term vision in place. The team missed on Cooper but didn't chase the next wideout available. It wasn't about just signing somebody, it was about signing the right guy, and once Cooper was gone the big money didn't need  to get spent. 

Rivera must feel confident in his approach, and confident that he will have the time to see that approach through. 

"As we develop and grow, it’s not going to happen overnight," the coach said. "That’s one of the things that we feel we have more time to be patient and develop these guys.”

Whatever you think about the Redskins approach to 2020 so far, Rivera doesn't care. He wants to show results, and while that may take time, actions clearly speak volumes more than words. 

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Chase Young or Tua Tagovailoa? NFL Draft provides plenty of intriguing betting options

Chase Young or Tua Tagovailoa? NFL Draft provides plenty of intriguing betting options

With live sporting events on the shelf for the foreseeable future, the eyes of the sports world will be glued to the NFL Draft on April 23. 
 
And that means the eyes of the sports betting world will also be all over the NFL Draft. There are countless wagers to be made on the draft and I will take a look at a handful over the next couple weeks.

Who will be the second overall pick?
Chase Young (Ohio St.) -715
Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama) +400
Joe Burrow (LSU) +3300
Justin Herbert (Oregon) +3300
Isaiah Simmons (Clemson) +3300

Despite a new coaching staff in town, I would be stunned if the Redskins used the second overall pick on Tua Tagovailoa. But does that mean Chase Young is a lock to be the second pick? Not necessarily. 

The Redskins do not have a second-round pick this year after moving back into the first round last year to select Montez Sweat. Washington head coach Ron Rivera has said that not having a second-round pick is a “burden.” However, talking to reporters on Tuesday, Rivera struck an interesting tone. 
 
“If you're going to make a trade and you're going to go back, that guy you're going to take at that spot has to be able to make the kind of impact you need to validate missing an opportunity to take a player that's a high-impact guy,” Rivera said. 

It sounds like Young is the guy, but it doesn’t completely rule out a trade. If Miami wants Tua, they have the assets to move up. The Dolphins own six of the first 70 picks in the NFL Draft: No. 5, 18, 26, 39, 56, 70. Miami also has three fifth-round picks and three seventh-round picks.

Come the night of April 23, I do believe the Redskins will select Young, the Ohio State defensive end and DeMatha Catholic alum. But if you’re putting money down, is it worth the risk? At -715, you have to put down $715 to make $100. 

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We have seen plenty of examples of organizations trading up to get the quarterback of the future. In 2016, the Rams moved from 15 to secure Jared Goff with the first overall pick and the Eagles made multiple trades to get to two and select Carson Wentz in the same draft. The odds on Chase Young are too rich for my blood. 

My official play: Pass

What team will draft Tua Tagovailoa?
Miami Dolphins -110
Los Angeles Chargers +160
Washington Redskins +1100
Jacksonville Jaguars +1100

While we all would love to hit on an 11-1 long shot, I don’t think the Redskins (or the Jaguars) are going to draft Tua Tagovailoa. This is a two-team race between the Dolphins and the Chargers. Miami has been searching for a franchise quarterback since Dan Marino retired in 2000. The franchise passed on signing Drew Brees in 2006 due to concerns over his injured shoulder and opted for Dante Culpepper instead. In 2012, the Dolphins used the eighth overall pick on Ryan Tannehill. He is now a Tennessee Titan. 

Can Miami afford to miss on another quarterback? How healthy is Tua's hip? Do the Dolphins like Oregon’s Justin Herbert more than Tua? ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. recently said “there has been some buzz around Herbert to Miami, but it's still early.”

These are all legitimate questions to think about when deciding if you want to put some money down on the Dolphins.

What about the Chargers? Does Los Angeles, a team with a small fan base, need to make a splash in the draft? 

If the Detroit Lions use the third pick and Tua is still available at four, I would not be surprised if the Chargers called the Giants and traded up to select the former Alabama quarterback.

While I understand there has been a lot of smoke recently about the Dolphins not being in love with Tua and there are legitimate concerns with his injury history…it makes too much sense.

My official play: Dolphins -110

First Wide Receiver selected?
Jerry Jeudy (Alabama) -121
CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma) +175
Henry Ruggs III (Alabama) +250

The 2020 NFL Draft wide receiver class is loaded. There are plenty of quality players at the position to be had on the second and third days of the draft. That said, three players will go in the top half of the first round. But, who will go first? 

If you search, one mock draft will say Jerry Jeudy, another will say CeeDee Lamb, and a third will say Henry Ruggs III. The New York Jets own the 11th overall pick and after losing Robby Anderson, New York will likely be in the market for a top tier wide receiver. The Las Vegas Raiders at 12 need help at wide receiver and the San Francisco 49ers, who traded DeForest Buckner to Indianapolis for the 13th pick, lost Emmanuel Sanders to free agency. There is a good chance all three will be gone 13. 

Another team to keep an eye is the Denver Broncos at 15. Could John Elway look to trade up to add another weapon for Drew Lock?

This comes down to value here. Ruggs ran a blazing 4.27 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. While he is not considered the most complete receiver in the draft, I could see a team being enamored by his speed. Additionally, there has also been some steam on Ruggs being the first receiver selected. I personally played Ruggs being the first wide receiver selected at +400 two weeks ago. I still believe there is value there now.

My official play: Henry Ruggs III +250

Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook

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