The Washington Redskins enter a critical offseason with uncertainty in the front office.
Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan is not at the NFL Combine this week and radio station 106.7 The Fan in Washington reported Tuesday that McCloughan has been absent from the organization since Feb. 20.
McCloughan denied the report in a text message on Tuesday. He said he is missing the Combine due to the death of his grandmother, who passed away on Feb. 6. Team officials, including team president Bruce Allen, backed that assertion.
Regardless, McCloughan has been shielded from the media for months. He last spoke to reporters at a podium immediately after the draft last May. He declined to talk with reporters at the Senior Bowl in Mobile in January. That was odd for a respected executive noted for his player-evaluation skills.
If there is a rift in the front office, now is not a good time for it. The Redskins are negotiating with quarterback Kirk Cousins on a long-term contract after using the exclusive franchise tag on him this week ($23.9 million).
Washington is also about to let its top two wide receivers -- Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson -- hit the open market. Tight end Vernon Davis is a free agent as is defensive end Chris Baker, who has a total of 9.5 sacks over the past two seasons.
McCloughan's staff has gone through interviews with college players without him at the Combine this week. Washington has needs all over the defense, but especially along the defensive line and at safety. The Redskins pick No. 17 overall in the April draft and have 10 selections overall. That could help stock a defense that will play under its third coordinator in four years with former outside linebackers coach Greg Manusky in charge.
--One day after the Redskins used the franchise tag on Cousins for the second year in a row, coach Jay Gruden said he still believed a long-term contract will happen.
Gruden acknowledged on Wednesday morning at the NFL Scouting Combine that there remains work to do. Washington used the exclusive franchise tag on Cousins, meaning he and agent Mike McCartney can only negotiate with the Redskins.
Knowing Cousins is almost certain to become an unrestricted free agent in 2018, other teams might not have incentive to push hard with trade offers. Gruden isn't thinking along those lines anyway.
"We'd like to keep Kirk here, obviously. And we think he's going to be our quarterback for a long time," Gruden told reporters at an Indianapolis hotel. "And to have that opportunity to negotiate with him and get a long-term deal is what we wanted to do. So just move forward and tag him and try to get a deal done and go from there."
--The Redskins have seen plenty of staff turnover this offseason -- some expected and others not. Offensive coordinator Sean McVay, 31, was hired as the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry was fired.
Gruden promoted veteran assistant coach Matt Cavanaugh from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. Kevin O'Connell assumes Cavanaugh's role after being in San Francisco last season as an offensive assistant. Greg Manusky moved from outside linebackers coach to defensive coordinator. Torrian Gray is the new defensive backs coach replacing Perry Fewell. Gray spent a decade at Virginia Tech and last year at Florida.