Well, the Redskins had a crazy two week stretch, and now things seem like they’re starting to quiet down. They fired Scot McCloughan, made some moves in free agency and still could make some additional moves here and there.
Kirk Cousins also signed his franchise tender, locking in the guarantee of $24 million for this season. But this storyline deserves continued monitoring.
In this week’s mailbag, we take a look at the Cousins situation, how the free agent additions fit, and more.
Thanks, as always, for taking part, and keep those questions coming.
E-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line of “Mailbag question,” and we’ll do it all over again next Tuesday.
What’s the deal with Kirk Cousins? One day he demands a trade, the next day he signs his franchise tag and is planning to throw with his new supporting cast. Is something else going on behind the scenes? Is this for leverage? How do you think is ultimately going to wind up playing out with him?
– Stephen Christian
Funny how things play out, isn’t it? One thing you, me and everybody else has to be careful about this time of year is that all kinds of rumors will fly around. There are so many agendas at play. Teams have things they want to accomplish. Players and agents have things they want to accomplish. There are people looking for attention. Others are catching snippets of things and relay them incorrectly. So, what I try to do is slow down, take everything with a grain of salt and double- and triple-check everything. I never could find a single person to confirm that Kirk Cousins demanded a trade. I talked to a lot of people that know how he and his agent operate, and that’s not it.
Cousins himself cleared things up this week on podcast interview with ESPN’s Adam Schefter, and sure enough, he did not demand a trade. He approached Dan Snyder to figure out what exactly the franchise had planned for him. After receiving assurance that the franchise wants him, Cousins went his way and returned to letting his agent handle things while he prepares for another season. So, we’ll never know exactly what happened there, but multiple league insiders say that more than likely, that was spin out of the Redskins camp, throwing out that trade request on the morning of free agency (a week after the conversation took place), just to see if doing so would prompt any trade discussions.
Anyway, nothing happened – yet – and Cousins signed his franchise tender the day after free agency began. This isn’t to say he’s not going to be traded. But it seems unlikely. Yes, the Redskins control Cousins’s rights. But an opposing team would have to be able to work out a long-term deal with Cousins in advance of pulling the trigger on a trade, because they don’t want to be stuck in the same boat as the Redskins: renting him for one year and then risking losing him next year. So, the Redskins have to find a place that’s both willing to meet their asking price (and they want a lot for Cousins, I’m told), and that’s also appealing enough to Cousins to make him want to sign a deal.
Thus far, that hasn’t happened. I think Cousins will ultimately wind up playing out the 2017 season on the franchise tag. I think the Redskins will draft a quarterback to develop behind Cousins this year, and then turn to him next year. Yes, it makes a lot of sense to trade Cousins right now to get some compensation instead of paying him $24 million to be a bridge quarterback. But it’s easier said than done, because of the factors listed above. And for a coach and franchise that wants to win now, Cousins is their best option. They’ll go to work this year, try to win as much as they can, and then figure things out next year, which seemingly will be a parting of ways.
The only other possibility is that the Redskins use the transition tag on Cousins next year (paying him $28 million instead of the $35 million for a third franchise tag) and reserve the right to match whatever offers he receives. But it definitely seems more likely that Cousins will be in a different uniform in 2018.
Is Cousins-to-the-49ers in any way something the two teams have discussed, or is it just something that the fans have connected the dots on? If so, would the second overall pick be in play? And who would they peg as Cousins’s replacement?
– Will Lazer, Lusby, Md.
You can never say never in this league, but from everything I’ve been able to gather from talking to multiple people, the 49ers have no interest sending the No. 2 overall pick and another boat load of picks to the Redskins to get Kirk Cousins. I can’t say that San Francisco never made an inquiry. This made a lot of sense because of the Kyle Shanahan-Cousins connection. But that doesn’t mean it makes sense this year.
I do know that the 49ers want to keep all their picks and build the right way. They want a franchise quarterback, but they want to build this roster with those valuable building blocks, and then address their long-term quarterback situation later. They can go after Cousins next year when he will likely hit free agency, and that way, they will have avoided giving up draft picks while also committing a handsome salary to a quarterback. That’s why they signed Brian Hoyer. He’ll keep the seat warm while team officials continue to fill out the rest of the roster with free agents and draft picks, and then we’ll see what happens next year.
But since you asked, if some unexpectedly desperate team swoops in and pulls off a Cousins trade, I’d expect the Redskins to roll with Colt McCoy and draft another quarterback to groom behind the veteran and then turn the wheel over to the kid in 2018.
If the season started today (and Trent Murphy is still suspended for the first four games) who is starting on the ends and who is starting at NT?
– Josh Edney, Brooklyn, N.Y.
I think a lot of this still has to be sorted out. Both Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee played end at their previous stops, but McGee also can play nose. Some people actually believe that nose is his more natural position even though he didn’t see much time there in Oakland. Also, I don’t know that the Redskins are done making moves. They still could add another veteran defensive lineman, and draft another. So, that depth chart certainly isn’t locked in yet.
It’s possible they could go with McClain and McGee as the ends and Phil Taylor at the nose. Or, you never know, they could go McClain at one end and Anthony Lanier at the other, and then McGee at nose tackle. I think you’ll probably see plenty of four-man fronts as well this season, just as we have in the past. And so, that could mean McClain and McGee as the interior linemen and Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith at the end positions. But again, it’s still way too early. The construction is still ongoing.
Could you provide more insight or at least your opinion on what happened to Preston Smith last year? I think most would say he regressed. All the indications during the previous offseason was that things had “clicked.” He looked strong and was expected to build on rookie season. The edge rushers could be quite formidable with a rotation of Kerrigan, Smith, [Trent] Murphy and [Junior] Galette. However, we know Murphy is likely to be suspended four games and Galette is a wild card. What’s your outlook for Preston in 2017? Thanks.
– A.J. Sisodia, Boston, Mass.
Preston Smith was a curious case last season. He had probably two dominant games, a few other flashes where he made his presence felt but still came up short, and then some nearly invisible games. People close to him believe he was thinking too much and just needs to pin back his ears and go.
It’ll be interesting to see how Greg Manusky uses Smith this year, and if he can get more out of him than he did last season. Manusky helped Kerrigan and Murphy have more productive seasons despite decreasing their workloads. But Smith never really caught on. It’s hard to say what to expect from this group. You assume Kerrigan will have another solid year. You’d hope Smith could bounce back, that Murphy can pick up where he left off once he returns from suspension, and that Junior Galette can make an impact. But there are still a ton of question marks at the edge rusher position. It probably would make sense for the Redskins to draft another guy to throw into the mix.
After all of the signings last week things are kind of getting quiet. Do you think we are done and are moving on to the draft? Also how come we haven’t had any talks with Dontari Poe or Donta Hightower – two top defensive players that are still out there that can really help our defense? Was there any interest in them?
– Malik Brandon-Bey
I don’t think the Redskins are totally done in free agency. They would like to add a couple more pieces, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. But I think they are looking for more bargain deals. I would expect them to pass on Poe, and go after more of a Johnathan Hankins type, although so far, there’s no indication they have made earnest pursuits of either. It also doesn’t seem like they’re interested in Hightower. The Redskins remain intent on building primarily through the draft and only using free agency to supplement their needs. They don’t want to spend big there, and so, that means passing on guys like Poe and Hightower.
With the signing of D.J. Swearinger, do you expect the skins to release DeAngelo Hall soon? He has been a great Redskin, but his age, injury history and cap number are working against him.
– Brian Benz, Norfolk
So far, the plan is to keep DeAngelo Hall in the mix. Yes, he’s got a cap figure of $5.06 million, he’ll be 34 this November, and he’s had three straight injury-plagued years. But he remains a well-respected member of the franchise. I wouldn’t be surprised if they reworked his contract, lowering the base salary and rolling in more incentives that give him the chance to earn that money back if he meets certain benchmarks. Swearinger signed a three-year deal that will pay him an average of $4.5 million per year, so you have to assume he’s going to start at one of the safety positions.
It’ll be interesting to see how things go with the Su’a Cravens transition from linebacker to safety. This is the position he played in college, so it should come back to him. Some league insiders still wonder about his ball skills, but others see no reason why he shouldn’t be able to make the switch and develop into an impact player. It’ll be interesting though, because he’s probably best suited as a strong safety, and the same applies for Swearinger. So, if anything Hall is an insurance policy for now for both in the event that one of them can’t get it done at free safety.