Thanks, as always, for taking part in the mailbag. Keep the questions coming, and we’ll do it all over again next week. E-mail me at email@example.com with the subject line of “Mailbag question.”
I just noticed that the Eagles signed Zach Ertz to a lucrative contract extension with $20 million in guaranteed money. He was drafted the same year as Jordan Reed and has also battled injuries. Do you think Jordan Reed took notice of this deal? Does he strike you as the type of guy that would hold out? If we signed him to an extension the same offseason as we’re trying to re-sign Cousins, what cap ramifications could this have?
Even if Jordan Reed didn’t notice – which is hard to say, because he’s an easy-going guy – his agent certainly did. Ertz signed a five-year contract extension worth up to $42.5 million, which included an $8 million signing bonus and $20 million in guaranteed money. You can bet that Reed’s camp will ask for that kind of money, or more because he means even more to Washington’s offense. There’s no pressure to get something done right now. And even so, I don’t envision him holding out.
It’s possible that the Redskins could work to sign Reed to an extension just before the start of the season, similar to what they did with Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Williams last offseason, just before training camp. But doing so won’t completely hamstring them. The bulk of that money won’t count against the cap until next year. Using Ertz as an example, he originally was set to count for $1.7 million against the Eagles’ cap. However, after signing his new deal, he will now count for $3.31 million. So, as you can see, that’s not a dramatic spike.
I get that we need a “big-threat” wideout, but when are the Redskins going to go after a REAL tight-end with some size and speed?! I like Niles and the other guy but I don’t see them as true in-the-trenches, red zone, third-and-five go-to tight ends.
Not sure if you’ve heard of No. 86, Jordan Reed. Is he “the other guy” of which you speak? But, he’s definitely one of the most talented tight ends in the NFL. He led all tight ends in touchdown receptions (11), ranked second among the league’s tight ends in catches (87), and fourth in yards (952). Reed also served as Washington’s top threat on third downs, producing first downs on 54 of his 87 receptions. What more do you want in a tight end?
Reed this season finally lived up to his potential because he was able to stay healthy. He also made improvements as a blocker. He still has work to do in this area, but I’ve talked to scouts for opposing teams, and they say that Reed displays great fight as a blocker. His shortcomings aren’t for a lack of effort or desire. They believe that he will continue to improve based on the growth he displayed this season. The return of Niles Paul will help bolster Washington at tight end. But in Reed, the Redskins have one of the most dangerous tight ends in the game.
Do you think there is a chance that paying Kirk Cousins a lot of money will cause a setback in rebuilding the team, similar to the Ravens paying Joe Flacco? Do you have any question Kirk is a true franchise quarterback with not even a full season of quality starts?
We’ll hear from Scot McCloughan this week about the team’s plans for Cousins. But he’ll likely share that his goal is for the two sides to settle on a deal that will both satisfy Cousins and still leave the team with flexibility to continue to build. McCloughan doesn’t believe that this roster is anywhere close to complete. So, he’s not going to dump all of the team’s money in Cousins. I don’t expect Cousins to get a deal similar to Joe Flacco, whose cap hits the next three seasons are $28.5 million, $31.15 million and $24.75 million, respectively, and have left the Ravens with little flexibility. Instead, he’d probably get a deal similar to Alex Smith, whose cap hits from 2015-17 are $15.6 million, $17.8 million and $16.9 million.
Now, if the Redskins can’t sign Cousins to a multi-year deal, they would have to use the franchise tag, which would mean a cap hit of between $19 million and $20 million. But Redskins cap expert Eric Schaffer always comes up with creative ways to rework the team’s cap situation. He has a number of players whose contracts he could work to restructure to provide relief.
Back to Cousins, I think he will continue to improve. The growth he displayed in the second half of the season, in high-pressure situations, was encouraging. You have to pay for quarterbacks, but a deal similar to Smith’s is probably fair. Cousins has only one season of full-time work under his belt, but the Redskins can’t afford to let him walk, because then they’d have to find a contingency plan, which could wind up interrupting their progress.
While the Redskins made tremendous strides this season, the team does need to become more athletic, especially in the trenches. Through The Post’s evaluation of players, four defensive positions – nose tackle, defensive end, safety and inside linebacker – and two offensive positions – center (if nothing else than to back up Kory Lichtensteiger) and left guard (where Spencer Long could use competition) seem particularly in need of improvement. Which of these six positions could the team attempt to fill through quality, athletic free agents?
– Tim Foisie, Westport, Conn.
I think they’ll use a mix of free agency and the draft to fill these holes. Obviously, you’d like to find and develop your own talent. But you have only so many draft picks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the team both draft and sign defensive linemen. I’d expect them to draft a safety to groom behind Dashon Goldson and DeAngelo Hall. They drafted an inside linebacker last season, and Martrell Spaight, who missed all of last season while on injured reserve, will have a chance to compete for a key role this season. But that doesn’t mean he’s starter-ready. The team likely will look for veteran options in free agency – if they don’t re-sign Mason Foster to return alongside Will Compton.
A veteran center to compete with Lichtensteiger wouldn’t be a surprise, although it’s possible that Spencer Long will make the switch to center this year. Left guard would come down to Shawn Lauvao, if he can make a full recovery from ankle surgery, and Arie Kouandjio, if he has improved to the point where coaches see him as a starter.
Many fans were upset last January when the Redskins hired Joe Barry as the defensive coordinator over more-accomplished candidates like Wade Phillips, whose defense this season in Denver has carried them to the Super Bowl. Despite the improvement in the Redskins defense this year, it’s hard not to be disappointed when you see what Phillips has done. Was Phillips even interested in the Redskins job? Would his (typical) scheme have been a reasonable fit with the personnel here?
– Michael Starsinic, Bowie, Md.
There might have been some different wrinkles to a Wade Phillips defense. But considering the deficiencies that Washington had because of injuries and age, it’s very possible that Washington’s defense could’ve suffered from some of the same problems. Washington didn’t have all of the pieces in place to field a dominant defense, regardless of the scheme. Phillips did want the job here. But Jay Gruden felt better going with a younger guy. I was told that Barry conveyed a stronger fire and hunger than did Phillips. Gruden saw Barry as better for the long-term.
I think Joe Barry did a good job considering the limitations that he had to overcome. There were times where he probably could have been more aggressive with press coverage, or sending all-out blitzes. But on the whole, he seemed to have his players in position to make the correct plays. Execution was a problem at times, however.
And so, McCloughan will work this offseason to fix some of the problem areas. He’ll work to make the defensive front more explosive and disruptive. And he’ll look to address the long-term stability of the secondary. Next season, with additional pieces acquired through free agency and the draft, the defense should make some strides.
Joe Barry showed signs of encouragement, but appeared to be passive by default. Lots of four-man rushes and zone coverage. He did mix man and pressure, but I figured there would be more. Did injuries and circumstances to start the year make him go “safe?” Reason I ask is because when hired, he made it appear he’d be extremely aggressive.
The constant shuffling in the secondary did prompt Barry to go with a more conservative approach at times. But he does, however, believe in letting his front seven primarily apply that pressure so he can keep as many defensive backs in coverage as possible. The Redskins have more work to do on defense because they need more from their front seven, especially their defensive linemen. Barry needs some more disruptive pieces to work with. Meanwhile, stability in the secondary will allow Barry to be more creative as well. It’ll be interesting to see how the unit progresses in Year 2.
Do you see any possible position changes this offseason to better maximize the roster, i.e. Trent Murphy or Preston Smith moving to defensive end, Spencer Long to center. Do you have any information concerning Eric Rogers the CFL WR that has worked out for several NFL clubs including the Redskins. It appears what the Redskins really need at 6-foot-4 215 pounds. Free agent talk: Your thoughts on Marvin Jones (WR, Cincinnati/Gruden may have heard of him) and my favorite Alex Mack (C, Cleveland) … even though he will be turning 30, he would certainly solidify the o-line.
– Bowen Carpenter, Raleigh, N.C.
There has been some discussion about moving Trent Murphy moving from outside linebacker to defensive end. It’s not clear where things stand on that front this early in the offseason. But such a transition will require him to gain weight. Preston Smith seems set at outside linebacker, and for him, the task of the offseason is to become stronger and more fundamentally sound.
And, it’s too early to know about interest in Jones and Mack. I think the team would prefer to go younger at center rather than sign a 30-year-old. But as far as Jones goes, he did play under Gruden for two seasons, when Gruden served as offensive coordinator for the Bengals. He has the size (6 feet 2, 198 pounds) that Washington lacks at wide receiver. And he has produced (65 catches for 816 yards and four touchdowns in 2015). But I haven’t yet heard his name mentioned as a player of interest for the Redskins. But that doesn’t mean they won’t be interest.
Who are a couple players the Redskins could draft with the 21st pick?
Everyone – including the Redskins – is still working to determine what their options at that position could include. Their positions of need seem to be defensive back, defensive line, inside linebacker, a wide receiver with size and possibly a running back. This could very well be a best-player-available type of scenario for them.
But some of the players that figure to be on the board in that 20th-to-25th pick range include Alabama inside linebacker Reggie Ragland, Alabama defensive tackle Jarran Reed, Baylor nose tackle Andre Billings, Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott, USC defensive back Su’a Cravens and Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller.