The Washington Redskins face some tough decisions in the bye week that will affect their future.
In an ideal world, the Washington Redskins would have the $36 million they were docked via the cap penalty and could look to strengthen the roster in 2013, both through free agency and the draft.
However, the team will instead lose $18 million in cap space next year and be forced to restructure contracts, as well as say goodbye to underperforming players.
The Redskins have again suffered with injuries, but up until the Steelers game they had at least been competitive in every fixture. That in itself is a testament to what Robert Griffin III has been able to achieve in his rookie season, with some credit also going to Mike and Kyle Shanahan.
The problem with the 2013 situation is that 2012 needs to be a success in order for the cap penalty to be less of an issue. The difference between 6-10 and 7-9 is huge at this point, as it will determine whether the roster is tweaked or whether more sweeping changes are necessary.
Continuing from my previous article, I’ll take an early look at the 2013 cap position of the Redskins, as well as touching on the 2013 draft and free agency.
Note: All salary figures and cap information is from Spotrac.com
Salary Cap Hangovers
The salary cap for the 2013 season is expected to be around $120.9 million (via ESPN.com), which means the Redskins need to be under $102.9 million.
Spotrac currently has the Redskins’ 2012 total at $86,416,049, which includes $94,171,432 of active contracts (including bonuses), $5,744,617 of dead money and buyouts, and $13,500,000 cap rollover.
Adding the $18 million cap penalty to this means the Redskins have a total of $104,416,049 towards the salary cap in 2012.
This doesn’t tell the whole story, however, nor is it representative of next year’s information. Trent Williams, for instance, counts for $14,000,000 towards the cap this year, with DeAngelo Hall not far behind at $9,800,000.
Williams is likely to be the victim of some restructuring, as his contract is by far the biggest on the team. He counts for $8,000,000 in 2013, then $11,000,000 and $14,250,000 in 2014 and 2015, respectively. His play has improved, definitely, but those numbers are not conducive to what he has given the team thus far.
Fred Davis’ $5,446,000 may have been fully guaranteed, but it doesn’t count towards the salary cap now that he’s on injured reserve. Jammal Brown, too, counted for $4,600,000 towards the cap before he was placed on the PUP list and is now not included in the total figure above.
The Redskins may wish to franchise Davis again, or use his injury as an opportunity to negotiate a long-term deal at a lower rate. Davis is a true playmaker and the team misses him, so a balance needs to be struck between value for money and value for the player.
Davis knows he would fetch good money in free agency and it would be a shame to lose him from the organization.
Injuries and Underperforming
In contrast to Davis, Jammal Brown is a different story. He has struggled with injuries since 2009, and although he is confident of a return to full strength after his operation, he has not proved himself worthy of his contract.
It’s not unfair to say he has to play at a Pro Bowl level immediately upon his return to have a chance at a future with the team. The issue of releasing him comes with two options.
If he is released before June 2013 there would be $3,300,000 in bonus money owed to him. When added to the cap penalty that’s a lot to absorb just to have him not play anymore.
The more attractive option would be to release him after June 1, 2013, which would incur a $1,100,000 cap hit in 2013 and $2,200,000 in 2014. 2014 is less of an issue, since the cap penalty will have expired after next season (via The Washington Times).
DeAngelo Hall is a similar proposition. He has been on the field all year, but hasn’t lived up to his contract, either. He counts for $11,300,000 towards the cap next year, which is an astounding amount for an underachieving cornerback.
Hall is a ghost of his former self, and Jimmy Kempski at BloggingTheBeast.com illustrated it nicely with a table that showed Hall would have been the third-highest paid cornerback, should he have been in this year’s free agent class.
What changes should be made in the secondary?
Hall needs to get a lot better after the bye week to even have a chance at justifying that kind of money, and when Shanahan talked of evaluating players, Hall was the player that sprung immediately to mind.
If Chase Minnifield is healthy next year, there’s no reason to think that he would be any worse than Hall, and at a fraction of the price. In fact, it’s much more likely that he’ll be a lot better, if for no other reason than he will be hungry to assert himself in the league.
The secondary has obviously been a problem, and Josh Wilson may find that his contract is up for restructuring.
He started very brightly indeed, but has regressed in recent weeks and given up big plays at key times. Against Carolina it was Wilson who suffered, while Hall was better. Obviously this excludes the DeAngelo Williams touchdown, where Hall decided he’d rather throw his hands up in the air to claim a penalty than tackle Williams (via BloggingTheBeast.com).
Wilson gave up an 82-yard pass to Armanti Edwards and was flagged for two pass interference penalties, rounding off a poor day for the Maryland product.
Wilson accounts for $5,333,333 towards the cap next year, which should drop by at least $1,000,000 to sit below his cap hit for this year. If his salary is to improve, his performances must do the same. He needs to finish the year as he started it.
The players mentioned are not the only ones who are at risk, just the highest earning. London Fletcher could also find that his time is up, along with Santana Moss. Fletcher has been an unbelievable servant to the Redskins, but we are seeing the start of a decline that is only likely to increase.
There is no place for sentimentality when running a football team, and Moss could also feel the door shut behind him.
The money saved on restructuring and/or cutting players should ensure that the Redskins remain under their diminished salary cap for 2013, plus the carryover from this year will grant them some breathing room.
Free Agency and the Draft
Any breathing room leaves them with the opportunity to bring in good players via free agency and the draft. Safety and cornerback are the obvious positions in need of an upgrade, but the lack of pass rush with Brian Orakpo out has also been startling.
Tyler Polumbus has struggled at right tackle, and if Brown is released then that position also needs to be addressed. Polumbus is an unrestricted free agent next year and it’s unlikely that the team will bring him back.
Obviously the Redskins are without a pick in the first round, so their drafting will need to be precise and tactically sound. The return of Minnifield would again make things easier as it would grant the team an extra player, in a similar manner to the return of Jarvis Jenkins this year.
The selection of Josh LeRibeus raised some eyebrows, and he has been on the inactive list for every game of the season. It’s frustrating to see, especially as cornerbacks Jayron Hosley and Brandon Boykin were still on the board when the Redskins took LeRibeus and have both contributed this year.
However, the LeRibeus pick was clearly planning for the future, so it may be that Kory Lichtensteiger is sacrificed next year and allowed to walk, while LeRibeus takes his place at left guard. For the record, I don’t think this would be a good move, but it remains an option.
Prior to the season, I wrote a piece about 2013 draft prospects for the Redskins and mentioned Carrington Byndom and Ray Ray Armstrong. Byndom hasn’t lived up to last year’s performance so could fall to the second round, while Armstrong was dismissed from Miami and denied eligibility by the NAIA to play for Faulkner University.
Armstrong will be picked up by an NFL team, and the Redskins may yet take a chance on him. His violations that led to his dismissal were related to boosters, and although he repeatedly offended in this area, those sorts of character issues don’t raise as many flags as DUIs or drug charges.
Plus, for someone who was supposed to be the next Sean Taylor, Washington would be a fitting destination.
An Unenviable Position
In addition to the cap penalty, Mike Shanahan is forced to address injuries and players who are just in it for the paycheck, as well as next year’s draft and free agent strategy. All this needs to be looked at over the bye week, as well as the usual film study and preparation for the Week 11 game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Shanahan currently sits on a 14-27 record as head coach of the Redskins, with a 5-15 record at FedEx Field. While some fans will call for his own $7,000,000-a-year contract to be cut, the truth is that he bought himself the time to see out his five years with the acquisition of Griffin.
Even though Griffin has exceeded expectations while the defense has regressed—the exact opposite of what was expected—the quarterback’s development still hinges on coaching stability. Despite his sometimes exceptional play, Griffin is not yet the finished product and wouldn’t benefit from a coaching change after his rookie season.
In Shanahan we trust.