It’s officially the offseason, and the NFC East has yet another Super Bowl title to claim – but not the one Cowboys fans hoped for. As the Eagles parade through Philadelphia, the rest of the division is soul-searching for how to beat Philly (and the rest of the league) come fall. We caught up with beat writers from each NFC East team to see what their team’s focused on and what the Cowboys can expect come fall. Here’s the second installment from The Washington Post’s Kimberley Martin:
1) What should the Redskins’ top three priorities be this offseason?
Martin: Step 1: Officially, close the book on the Kirk Cousins era.
The quarterback position was the biggest question mark heading into the offseason and one would think the Redskins’ acquisition of Alex Smith means the door is completely closed on Cousins. But anything’s on the table with general manager Bruce Allen, and that means, so too is the possibility of tagging and trading Cousins.
Regardless of how the organization handles Cousins, the front office needs to secure more weapons for Smith. That entails adding a speedy receiver and shoring up the running game (their No. 1 and 2 backs, Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson, were placed on injured reserve by the midpoint of last season).
Another important offseason need: addressing the defense. In addition to fortifying the defensive line (possibly through the draft), the Redskins need to re-sign inside linebacker Zach Brown, one of the most productive run defenders and tacklers in the game. Or if not, add a quality signing.
2) Will Alex Smith prove an upgrade from Kirk Cousins, and do you think the trade made sense?
Martin: Depending on who you ask, Smith is either an upgrade, a downgrade or a lateral move compared to Cousins. The Redskins paid Smith less than they would have ended up paying Cousins in the long run and, while more conservative with the football than Cousins, Smith is more mobile and takes better care of the ball. Smith, who threw for 4,042 yards, 26 touchdowns and five interceptions in 2017, also has shown he can get a team to the playoffs. But the Redskins have far fewer weapons than the Chiefs, and the last thing Smith wants is to be in the same position as Cousins: trying to win games with a depleted offensive line, no star wide receivers (the Redskins let DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon walk in free agency last offseason) and an inconsistent defense.
3) Catch up the Dallas fan trying to keep up with Washington’s front office: Will the Redskins tag Cousins, and if so, why?
Martin: Cousins played under the tag the past two seasons, and he’ll garner the most attention of any free agent quarterback if and when he hits the market. The Redskins, of course, could keep that from happening if they tag him. But they wouldn’t be able to trade Cousins until he signs the franchise tag. Washington, which gave up a third-round pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller in exchange for Smith, could attempt a tag-and-trade with Cousins in order to get a high draft pick in return. But it’ll be a time-consuming and potentially frustrating process for the front office if they decide to tag Cousins by the Feb. 20 deadline.
4) What changes should Cowboys receivers anticipate from the Redskins secondary without Kendall Fuller?
Martin: Though Fuller is only 22, he’s an up-and-coming talent who was the highest-rated player on the team, according to Pro Football Focus. Replacing won’t be impossible, but it’s also not easy. And with free agent Bashaud Breeland not expected to return, the secondary could look a lot different this season. Star cornerback Josh Norman will be back, but he had a statistically down year (no interceptions). Now, the Redskins must figure out who will start opposite him. Quinton Dunbar, who didn’t surrender a touchdown playing in coverage last season, signed a three-year extension in January. Plus, the team has 2017 third-round pick Fabian Moreau, but he’s still a work in progress and likely will be used in the slot.
There’s a good chance the Redskins will address the cornerback or safety positions in free agency or during the draft. There’s also the question of whether safety Su’a Cravens will be in burgundy and gold in 2018. Though he technically has three years left on his rookie deal, his bizarre absence from the team and subsequent talk of retiring last Labor Day resulted in him being placed on the reserve/left squad list. Cravens recently applied for reinstatement, but it’s unclear if he’ll end up playing for the Redskins. If he does, that’s one extra secondary piece Jay Gruden didn’t have at his disposal last year.
5) Best-case scenario for the Redskins at pick 13 in April?
Martin: Prior to the Smith trade, some early mock drafts had Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield headed to the Redskins. With Smith under center, the Redskins can turn their focus to a different position. Possibly defensive tackle or wide receiver.
Former Redskins general manager and current NFL.com analyst Charley Casserly recently mocked Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea to the Redskins. Other draftniks have so far connected the Redskins to a few different Alabama prospects (defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne, wide receiver Calvin Ridley and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick), as well as Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith and Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward. The point is: It’s still early in the process and there will be plenty more mock drafts between now and late April. Keep in mind, we still have the NFL Combine and pro days to get through before we can get a better sense of what will happen within the top 10 spots. Members of the Redskins scouting department are currently sequestered in all-day draft meetings, so they haven’t even finalized their board yet.
The key for the Redskins is getting an impact player, regardless of position. This team has far too many roster holes to draft a prospect who isn’t ready to be a starter on Day 1.
Bonus: Current NFC East pecking order
The Eagles are the defending champs, so everyone else in the division is playing catch up.
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