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Will Jay Gruden increase his 'big role' in the Redskins' personnel process?

Will Jay Gruden increase his 'big role' in the Redskins' personnel process?

While it hasn’t been the best offseason for the Redskins organization in many respects it has been a good one for coach Jay Gruden. In the midst of turmoil over the status of general manager Scot McCloughan, Gruden got a two-year contract extension.

Although the final agreement on the deal came on March 4 in a steakhouse in Indianapolis during the NFL Combine, team president Bruce Allen said that talk of extending Gruden started much earlier.

“It was after the season, Dan [Snyder], Jay and I got together and we talked about the game plan because we’d made some changes on the coaching staff as well following the season,” Allen told CSN’s JP Finlay at the owners’ meetings in Arizona.

Gruden became the team’s head coach in 2014. His original five-year contract was set to expire after the 2018 season but now he is in the fold through 2020.

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Gruden’s record in Washington is 21-26-1, not the kind of record that normally has an organization rushing to extend a head coach. But after a 4-12 inaugural season, Gruden has led the Redskins to records of 9-7 and 8-7-1 the last two years. While by many standards that is a modest achievement, it marked the first back-to-back winning seasons in Washington since 1996-1997. The hope is that Gruden will keep them moving in the right direction.

The extension is likely to be popular in the locker room as players have come to like Gruden’s style.  

“His directness, his sarcasm and at the same time he gets his coaching point in but the guys do like his sense of humor as well,” said Allen. 

It’s not known if Gruden’s extension gives him more authority over personnel. His original deal gave him very little, with first Allen and then McCloughan having the final say in personnel selection and control over who makes the 53-man roster. Some NFL head coaches have final say in free agency acquisition and in the draft while many have control over who makes the 53.

MORE REDSKINS: 3 takeaways from talking to Allen

Gruden does have some informal influence when it comes to the draft.

“He’s got a big role,” said Allen. “First of all, he coordinates all the coaches’ reports and when we set the draft board, Jay will be up there. He watches every player who will be on the draft board and he will have an opinion.”

There is a power vacuum at Redskins Park with McCloughan gone. A new general manager won’t get hired until after the draft and the authority of that GM will have will be a matter of negotiation. It would not be surprising to see Gruden ending up with roster control.

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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Redskins Free Agent Targets: Darqueze Dennard

Redskins Free Agent Targets: Darqueze Dennard

NBC Sports Washington is taking a long look at potential free agents that could help the Redskins in 2020. 

Cincinnati Bengals CB Darqueze Dennard
2014 first-round pick by Cincinnati
Unrestricted free agent
5-foot-11 | 200 lbs. | 28 years old

Cornerback is a significant need for the Washington Redskins and one they were likely expected to address in free agency. With the release of veteran Josh Norman last Friday, upgrading the position now becomes a necessity. 

One cornerback the Burgundy and Gold should target in free agency is a name many Redskins fans are not familiar with: Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Darqueze Dennard.

The 28-year-old was drafted in 2014 and has spent all six of his NFL seasons with the Bengals. During his time in Cinci, he played the majority of his snaps from the slot but proved he has the ability to play on the outside as well. The 5-foot-11 cornerback has a strong frame and is one of the best at his position defending the run. 

Injuries have hampered Dennard throughout his career, but he's been productive when on the field.

Last season, although he played in just nine games, Dennard posted the 15th best coverage grade from Pro Football Focus. The 28-year-old excelled in coverage downfield, allowing just four catches of 10 or more yards all season. In contrast, Redskins' cornerbacks posted the fourth-worst grade by PFF in such situations.

Dennard was a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, but never blossomed to the shutdown cornerback the Bengals hoped they drafted. Nonetheless, he's a very viable starter and one that could greatly benefit a Washington secondary that struggled mightily a season ago.

As it stands now, the Redskins starters at cornerback are Quinton Dunbar and Fabian Moreau starting on the outside with Jimmy Moreland in the slot. 

Dunbar, who had a career-best season a year ago, was rumored to request a trade from the Redskins a couple of weeks ago. He later backtracked on his statement, saying the situation had been blown out of proportion.

Regardless, Dunbar enters his final season under contract with Washington and has zero guarantees remaining in his contract; there's no assurance he's back with Washington in 2021 and beyond. Moreau also enters the final season of his rookie year as well.

So, the Redskins likely need to sign at least one, if not two, cornerbacks in free agency. Dennard could be an ideal fit and a cheaper option than other cornerbacks on the market.

Head coach Ron Rivera said that part of the reason he released Norman was so the team could get younger at the position, and at 28, Dennard still has plenty of football ahead of him.

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Questions facing Ron Rivera: What will cornerback look like now that Josh Norman is gone?

Questions facing Ron Rivera: What will cornerback look like now that Josh Norman is gone?

With Josh Norman no longer a Redskin and Quinton Dunbar seemingly unhappy with his standing on the team, cornerback is an issue that's rising up Ron Rivera's lengthy to-do list.

Finding a solution to the Trent Williams dilemma, making sure Dwayne Haskins has what he needs to succeed and figuring out what to do with the No. 2 draft pick are all likely ahead of fixing corner on the coach's list, and rightly so.

That said, he probably now has circled CB and drawn an upward arrow next to it, indicating its increasing prominence.

The Norman release was an easy place for the team's new leader to begin. While it would've been intriguing to see Rivera try to reinvigorate Norman's career, No. 24's age, decline in speed and salary all made him extremely expendable. Still, it does mean the franchise is now without a DB who started the overwhelming majority of games in the past four seasons.

Next, Rivera will have to get an idea about how another starter is feeling.

While Dunbar has apparently backed off his recent trade demand, it's clear he's not pleased with the money he's making and is also a bit insecure about where he stands in this new version of the organization. Can Rivera change his opinion, either by initiating a contract adjustment or calming Dunbar's mind about his future, or will the receiver-turned-defender be moved this offseason, too?

The ending of that storyline will obviously impact the entire depth chart in a big way.

Those are the two important secondary pieces who wore Burgundy and Gold in 2019 that Rivera focused on (in Norman's case) or will soon focus on (in Dunbar's case). Others from 2019, like Fabian Moreau and Jimmy Moreland, will return and contribute in their own right.

But there are also lots of guys who wore lots of different colors last year who'll soon be worth monitoring in free agency as well. Fortunately, there'll be plenty of targets for Rivera and Kyle Smith, depending on how aggressive they want to be.

There are the well-known names who are about to cash in, like James Bradberry, a former Panther who's already stated that he wouldn't mind a reunion with Rivera if he can't work out a deal with Carolina. Chris Harris also falls into this classification.

Then there are some mid-tier options, such as Bashaud Breeland. Breeland was drafted by the Redskins and recently won a Super Bowl with the Chiefs. He also was slated to sign with the then Rivera-coached Panthers a few offseasons ago before a fluky injury voided that agreement. Bradley Roby and Darqueze Dennard are in a similar place as Breeland.

Beyond those groups, there are even cheaper free agents as well as later draft picks. Looking ahead, as long as the Redskins keep the second pick in this April's draft, they won't be selecting a cornerback. That, plus the fact that they don't have a second-rounder as of now, means whatever prospects they end up with will come later in the event.

As two former linebackers, Rivera and Jack Del Rio surely understand the significance of fortifying and in turn want to fortify the front line of their defense, and they are one Chase Young choice away from doing so. They'll also be keen on improving their old stomping grounds to ensure the middle of the unit is reliable.

However, cornerback can't be overlooked. With the way the NFL has slanted toward the offense during the last decade and the continued influx of talent at wideout and tight end, having multiple corners who can match up with those pass catchers is a must. Because of that, corner should certainly be close to the center of Rivera's mind.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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