Monthly Archives: June 2017

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Derek Carr’s new contract with the Oakland Raiders again hammers home the price of doing business with good quarterbacks. It’s an expensive lesson for the Washington Redskins, who will either pay several million more than they would have last year for Kirk Cousins or risk losing him. In other words, we remain in the same spot.

Carr’s contract doesn’t change any of that. But what it does remind everyone is that the new cost of a good free-agent quarterback is in the mid-20s, as in millions of dollars. If the Redskins want to keep Cousins long-term, they’ll have to accept that reality.

The question is: Will Carr’s deal, a five-year extension worth $25 million per year, alter Cousins’ demands? Not necessarily. Some of it depends on the guaranteed money; that’s always the key. But it certainly provides another benchmark for any quarterback whose contract is being negotiated. Remember this: The price always rises.

But would Cousins earn a deal greater than Carr’s only two or three weeks later? The deadline for any long-term deal with Cousins is July 17. Carr just turned 26; Cousins turns 29 in August. Carr has thrown a combined 60 touchdowns to 19 interceptions the past two years. Cousins has thrown 54 touchdowns and 23 picks during that same period.

Carr produced seven fourth-quarter comebacks, adding strength to his résumé, for a team that went 12-3 with him in control. It’s hard to imagine any negotiator opposite Cousins not using the last regular-season game, capped by his interception, to reduce the cost.

The Redskins have pointed, quite often, to that last game — for the team in general, that is — as the impetus for many changes in the offseason. Timing, though, matters in negotiations.

Cousins’ quest has never been to become the NFL’s highest paid quarterback; that’s not something I’ve heard in multiple conversations with people involved in the situation. If that happened, it would stem from the leverage he enjoys rather than his pecking order among young passers. He’s not Aaron Rodgers. Guess what? Few are. But Cousins is a good quarterback in a league in which play at that position matters. If they feel they can make do with Colt McCoy and Nate Sudfeld in 2018, then they won’t get it done with Cousins.

And nobody should be surprised that Carr has received such a contract; this isn’t like Brock Osweiler in 2016. Cousins’ side knew that had he signed a deal earlier this offseason, three others would surpass him rather soon: Carr, Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan. In fact, that was a selling point: Get it done now and he’ll soon be pushed down the ladder. They weren’t waiting to see what other quarterbacks received; they were waiting for an offer to kick-start legitimate talks.

But this has always been about the leverage, thanks to the franchise tag. Without it, Cousins would have been more affordable — but it exists and the Redskins used it, so he’s more expensive. This is important, too: They chose not to make a stronger deal last year, wanting to wait and see how Cousins responded to a second year starting. The price went up. It always does.

Once Carr signs, he’ll become the 12th quarterback to make at least $20 million per year. Stafford will become the 13th whenever he reaches an extension. Had the Redskins signed Cousins last year for $20 million per year, the talk now would be: What a smart move. They weren’t sold; it’s their right and there’s no crime in thinking he shouldn’t be paid a certain amount. The Raiders deserve praise for signing Carr now.

Cousins will make $23.9 million guaranteed this season. Carr’s deal doesn’t have to alter how much Cousins receives per year — the guaranteed portion will be most important. But if the Redskins’ offers don’t match the leverage — or at least come close — it’s not worth signing.

If Cousins wants to play hardball, he can demand more than Carr and tell them, “OK, if you really want to get it done now, this is what it’ll cost.” Otherwise, he can hit the market next offseason and perhaps get it at that time — provided his play continues at a certain level.

If Cousins really wants to be here, it doesn’t have to change much at all. Just meet the leverage and he’ll be good. So far, that has been the sticking point.

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ASHBURN, Va. — The first two years have only provided what-ifs and tales of a short-week stretch two years ago. Washington Redskins linebacker Junior Galette looked terrific for two weeks during training camp, testing left tackle Trent Williams in ways few have.

Then Galette was gone, injured a week before training camp. He returned last offseason, fueling the what-ifs again, posting video of his recovery — 360-degree dunks included. And, once more, he was gone again before anyone could see him play in a Redskins uniform, hurting his other Achilles while working out on his own shortly before camp opened.

Now he’s back.
Junior Galette has lost 15 pounds and said he feels more explosive, even with injuries to both Achilles. AP Photo/Alex Brandon
“I’ll be better than what I was,” Galette said.

Here’s why he’s confident: He’s lost 15 pounds — weighing in the upper 240s — and feels more explosive, even with injuries to both Achilles.

“I feel a lot lighter and more explosive,” he said. “People don’t believe it, but I’m going to show you.”

The Redskins, and their fans, would be thrilled if he did. Galette has worked with the first-team defense in their nickel package as a pass-rusher. With Preston Smith and rookie Ryan Anderson also at outside linebacker, in addition to Ryan Kerrigan on the other side, they don’t need Galette to be a full-time player.

That said …

“We’re going to expect a lot of great things from Junior,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “He still has a good burst, he’s shown his stamina is starting to improve, he’s got great hands, he can bend, so it’s good to see him rush.”

That bend, and explosiveness, helped Galette record a combined 22 sacks in his last two years with New Orleans. The Saints released him less than a year after signing him to a big contract for a variety of reasons, including off-field issues.

In the summer of 2015, Galette became the rare player to beat Williams in one-on-one drills, getting low and displaying a burst from his four-point stance. A week ago in a practice open to the media, Galette showed some of those traits, albeit against backups who might not make the roster. He’ll test himself more in training camp.

Galette said his Achilles is healed — “stronger than ever,” he said — but that he feels about 80 percent of what he can do. There’s a reason he’s optimistic.

“It’s the level of confidence I have in myself and overcoming a lot of obstacles I’ve had in life,” said Galette, playing on a one-year deal. “It molded me into the person I am today. I do have what it takes and I don’t want to be 35 years old looking back and saying, ‘Why did I retire at 28, 29 years old? Why not give it one more shot?’ I see guys 30, 31 getting paid 50, 60 million dollars. I’m not going to turn that down.”

It’s hard to miss two seasons and return at a comparable level. Galette wasn’t a speed demon at outside linebacker pre-injury, once running the 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds. Rather, it was his quickness off the line.

“That’s something that God gave me and I feel that can never go away, even if I’m 285 pounds,” he said. “That’s all anticipation and a lot of pre-snap and being able to load that heel.”

The first injury was devastating for the Redskins. On the day it happened, coaches, notably Gruden, walked around in a daze. The second one stunned Galette.

“The second was a lot tougher than the first because you’re in so much shock that it can happen twice,” he said.

What helped, he said, was that it was the other Achilles. He knew what to expect from the recovery process. During this time, he said he played more video games and spent more time with his son. And he reminded himself that it could be worse.

“You know through a devastating moment that I’m still alive and I’m blessed,” he said. “Not everyone wakes up. You can’t take life too seriously. Have pride in what you do, but have fun with it. I have a beautiful son, a loving family. I have a lot to live for.”

He did give up basketball, per the coach’s request. The Redskins stuck with Galette because good pass-rushers are hard to find. If he doesn’t produce, the Redskins still have options. Kerrigan and Trent Murphy combined for 20 sacks last season.

“As an athlete who felt like he underachieved, you always feel you have more to prove,” Galette said. “I don’t care about no money; I’ve made a lot. Obviously I want to make more, but at this point I want to prove to myself that I can still play at an elite level.”

But first comes a simple goal.

“I want to take the training process one day at a time,” he said, “and make sure I’m healthy and make it through camp.”

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ASHBURN, Va. — The plan for nearly a decade changed on a yearly basis. Not a whole lot stuck. The Washington Redskins would form a new safety combination, only to seek another one the following year.

Since 2008 — the year after safety Sean Taylor, who was becoming one of the game’s best safeties, was murdered — the Redskins have had 24 different players start at least one game at safety. And only six players have started at least 10 games in a season for the Redskins in that time.

But the Redskins finally have two young safeties who, if they play well, could change this trend. It’s not a stretch to think they might: free agent signee D.J. Swearinger is a former second-round pick whose game finally matured last season with his third team, Arizona; and Su’a Cravens, another second-round pick, will play his more natural safety position after a year at nickel/dime linebacker.
Su’a Cravens will play his more natural safety position this season after a year at nickel/dime linebacker. Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Redskins corner Josh Norman knows what to expect from Swearinger, his high school teammate.

“We’re just balling. Dogs and ballers, that’s it,” Norman said. “I know he has that in him just playing with him. On one of those routes [in practice] he cut and I was like, ‘Bro, what [are you doing?].’ He’s like, ‘Man, I’m just out here balling.’ It’s fun to have that back here.”

And, if he works, it’ll be even more fun for the coaches.

“He just looks like a safety back there,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “No offense to the previous safeties we’ve had before, but D.J. is to a level in his career where he’s got a lot of confidence. He has got a lot of talent. We know that he’s a physical guy, but as far as coverages and breaking up things, he’s got a lot of confidence and he’s going to really, really emerge as a top safety not only for this team but in this league.”

The spring really will be about seeing how each one can handle the job. The Redskins will ask their safeties to rotate so they’ll both have to be skilled in the box as well as deep middle. Swearinger, only 25, had been more of a strong safety in his career until playing a lot of free last year, as well.

“I like free safety better,” he said. “I’m always in the middle so a lot of receivers won’t be lurking in the middle when they see me back there so I like that better.

“I like going against the quarterbacks and you’re going against the quarterback.”

Cravens was a standout freshman safety at USC, earning placement on freshman All-American teams, before becoming more of a hybrid safety/linebacker. He was ecstatic late last season, his first, when the Redskins decided to use him full time at safety. Cravens is not a speed demon in the 40-yard dash, but he always has played faster on the field because of his instincts. A key will be the angles he takes — on runs or passes.

It’s too early to judge, but now is the time for first impressions. There’s plenty to learn: Wednesday, the offense hit some deep passes down the field; on one play, Cravens vacated the middle. He’s more natural playing in the box but still must prove to the coaches he can play deep, too. As a nickel linebacker last year, Cravens showed he could make plays and tackle. But with safeties, it’s often hard to gauge their true progress until they’re in live hitting situations.

“He looked like he was fluid, looked like he has some range,” Gruden said. “I like the way he’s bought into the safety position. I think he’s fired up about it. That’s half the battle. He feels like he belongs out there. The confidence is going to grow the more he understands the system and plays within the system. He still has a ways to go, but he has got a great chance to be a very good safety because he can play in the box, and if he shows us the range that we think he might have, he can be very versatile. And D.J. can come down, he can play back, whatever, so it’s a good mix.”

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Josh Doctson is showing progress after missing almost the entire 2016 season due to an Achilles tendon injury.

The Washington Redskins wide receiver posted videos of himself doing football drills on his Snapchat page, via the Washington Post’s Master Tesfatsion.
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#Redskins WR Josh Doctson is running drills at Redskins Park today, per his Snapchat account.
10:58 PM – 24 Feb 2017
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The workout might not be full-speed but is a progress indicator after the first-round pick appeared in just two games last season. The development comes after coach Jay Gruden noted last month that February would be a vital time in Doctson’s rehab.

The No. 22 overall pick strained his right Achilles tendon during spring drills last season, and the injury lingered the rest of the summer. He opened the season on the roster, but played little. He corralled just two catches for 66 yards in the first two games of the season. He has been sidelined since Week 3.

With both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon set to garner wide-ranging interest on the open market, Doctson’s health will be under the microscope this offseason. If both veterans leave, Doctson will need to play a big role alongside Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed in the Redskins’ passing offense.

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The pairing isn’t what you’d expect: a current Washington Redskins tight end in Jordan Reed and a retired Pro Bowl wide receiver in Chad Johnson. Reed doesn’t like to talk a whole lot and isn’t known for his celebrations. Johnson, well, is the opposite. But it actually makes more sense that Reed works out with a former player such as Johnson.

That’s what he apparently was doing Tuesday — Johnson tweeted a photo of the two after a workout. It happened to be the first day of voluntary workouts for Washington.

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#Legendary @Real_JordanReed & @The_FootDoctor
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Johnson, who lives in South Florida, also has worked with Pete Bommarito. Johnson was a six-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro during his 11 NFL seasons (he would have spent an offseason with current Redskins coach Jay Gruden in Cincinnati before being traded to New England. Johnson played one game for Monterrey in a professional football league in Mexico earlier this year).

When Reed worked out with Bommarito, they often include him in running back drills because of his speed. Though he’s a tight end, Reed moves more like a receiver and he often gets locked in coverage against defenders who also might cover a back.

Also, Reed has worked on improving various aspects of his game to increase his versatility. He was a threat from multiple spots on the field after entering the NFL as a third-round pick in 2013. But Reed has wanted to sharpen his routes from various positions, whether as an in-line tight end from the slot or split wide.

Enter Johnson.

Last offseason, one of Reed’s trainers in Houston, David Robinson, said they had been working on increasing Reed’s “IQ at the receiver position and teaching him different release techniques and different moves at the top of his routes.”

“He has to make the move on the run rather than at a standstill position,” Robinson said last offseason. “We worked on not being lackadaisical and still run full speed out of cuts and create more separation.”

The focus at this time of the year often centers on who shows up for voluntary workouts. DeSean Jackson often missed these workouts, but coaches didn’t fret: They knew what he’d do once the season rolled around. With Reed, he, too, knows the offense and coaches know his offseason approach. He doesn’t take much time off and trains hard. It’s why he’s caught a combined 153 passes with 17 touchdowns the past two seasons. Multiple concussions, not defenders, have been his big issue.

While it’s uncertain how much Reed worked with Johnson, but there’s little doubt he’s looking for more of an edge in something he already does well: run routes.