By Brian Tinsman

WASHINGTON — The Washington Redskins are just nine days away from the deadline to use the franchise tag to retain a would-be free agent. They are just 17 days away from the start of free agency, and every day between then and now holds intrigue.

The Redskins approach free agency with quarterback Kirk Cousins, receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, and defensive lineman Chris Baker as four of Pro Football Focus’ top-50 free agents. Because of the talent and leadership at stake, the Redskins risk getting worse in free agency instead of taking an important step forward.

Cousins lands at No. 2 on the list because he is the most talented quarterback going into free agency. There are few doubts that he has earned a long-term contract from someone, but the Redskins reserve the right to tag him again and proceed on a one-year, big money deal.

What once seemed like a certainty now carries a degree of doubt, as general manager Scot McCloughan has not addressed the media in months. In his place, team president Bruce Allen has expressed optimism, but no hard deadlines to get a deal done. If McCloughan is no longer in control of the roster, does the decision fall to Allen, or perhaps team owner Dan Snyder? If so, a long-term deal seems less likely.

The other three players are less important than a franchise quarterback, but could shed some light on the team’s strategy this offseason.

Baker (No. 22) is called “anonymous quality,” meaning that few star players get less attention than Baker. A former undrafted free agent in 2009, Baker spent time with three other teams, including a stint in the UFL, before working his way up from the practice squad in Washington.

As PFF suggests, Baker could get the name recognition he deserves based on the size of his contract, either with the Redskins or elsewhere.

Jackson (No. 29) was a big free agent acquisition before the 2014 season and has performed well in his role. However, the team has young receivers like Jamison Crowder who could benefit from Jackson’s departure, and at a much more affordable price.

If Jackson enters free agency, some team will pay handsomely for his services. Even if the Redskins believe he is a luxury, does he provide a skill set that they can still win without?

Garcon (No. 32) is no longer the fringe WR1 he was when he came to Washington, but has moved into the true possession receiver stage of his career. In other words, expect his strong routing running, physical play and sound mechanics to attract a host of suitors. One team that has been linked to Garcon is a short trip of I-95 in the Baltimore Ravens.


Follow Brian Tinsman and 106.7 The Fan on Twitter.


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