Latest Salary Cap Breakdown for Washington Redskins
As with last year, the cap penalty looms large over every decision the Washington Redskins must make this offseason. However, there are more players reaching free agency this time around, making these decisions more difficult.
A large part of Washington’s success last year was due to consistency from the offensive line. With the exception of Tyler Polumbus, the line did a good job of protecting Robert Griffin III and allowing him the time to make his decisions. Even Polumbus did a good job against the run, so it will be tempting to try to retain them all.
Similarly, last year’s franchise player Fred Davis looked good prior to injury, and the front office knows that he has yet to reach his potential. A long-term deal will cost less this year, but it remains a risk.
This piece breaks down the roster by position and looks at some critical elements pertaining to the cap, free agency and the draft.
Note: All salary cap figures from Spotrac.com
The Redskins found their quarterbacks last year. Both Griffin and Kirk Cousins showed that they belong in the NFL, and fans have few concerns about giving the reins to Cousins if Griffin is unable to return from injury in time for Week 1.
Of course, this leaves another signal-caller in limbo—for the second successive season.
Rex Grossman held the clipboard all year in 2012, and it’s likely that he will remain with the team for another 12 months. He knows the system, is experienced enough to instruct the younger players and adds an extra degree of comfort with Griffin still being so young and inexperienced.
It may not be comforting for the fans to see Grossman take the field, but he’s the best option that the team has, in case an emergency. Should Griffin be unable to return and Cousins also go down with injury, Washington needs someone under center who can run the offense.
Grossman can do that, so expect to see him be given another one-year deal in a similar vein to last season—a deal that was only a $1,300,000 hit against the cap.
With Alfred Morris performing so admirably in 2012, the Redskins need to build upon that success and give him some support. With RG3 expected to be out for at least a portion of next season, it’s difficult to see Morris having the same type of impact in a Cousins-led offense, and that should be the scenario that the team is planning for.
With this in mind, who should return?
Roy Helu counts for $672,563 against the cap, while Evan Royster’s cap hit is $566,450. Keiland Williams counts for $630,000, while Dorson Boyce and Tristan Davis make $405,000 each.
The fact that Morris’ own cap hit is only $510,775 shows just how well he performed, and that he is a victim of his own success as a sixth-round pick.
It’s difficult to see all of those backs returning next year, and either Helu or Royster could see themselves on their way out of Washington. Neither constitutes a huge cap hit, but it simply comes down to a matter of saving space wherever possible.
Mike Shanahan has had 21 picks over the last two drafts, so there’s every reason to expect him to accumulate more than the seven he’ll start with this year.
Both Helu and Royster have had problems with injuries, so if Shanahan makes a move in the draft for another back, that could spell the end for one of these players. Helu has the pace, so he fits better as a third-down back than Royster, and that gives him the early advantage. However, he has to prove that he can stay healthy throughout camp and the preseason.
As mentioned in the introductory slide, consistency will be a factor here. Kory Lichtensteiger is a free agent this year, which makes him the obvious choice to be let go. Josh LeRibeus was drafted last year with this in mind, and he performed well in his limited time last year.
Lichtensteiger remains valuable due to his ability to play center, but LeRibeus also spent time at center last season. This decision rests on whether Shanahan deems LeRibeus ready to be a full-time starter.
If Lichtensteiger returns, it’ll have to be as a backup on a reduced contract, but it will also mean that LeRibeus isn’t quite ready to make the jump to a starting position.
Tom Compton is obviously a player who Shanahan thinks highly of, but he’s inexperienced and isn’t ready to usurp Tyler Polumbus as the starting right tackle. Jammal Brown’s contract is set to automatically void on Friday, according to The Washington Post, which would then free up $1,300,000 in cap space.
Brown counts as $3,300,000 in dead money this year, but also acts as a $4,000,000 saving in 2014, when the cap penalty will disappear. In the same article, Mike Jones speculates that the Redskins are $4,000,000 over the cap right now, and have until March 12 to get back under that threshold with some roster tweaking.
In terms of the tackle position, Shanahan almost always drafts a lineman, and the middle rounds look promising this year. North Carolina’s Brennan Williams and Louisiana Tech’s Jordan Mills are both good prospects, but they are both equally unlikely to start this year.
The cap penalty restricts the options available for the Redskins in free agency, so the most likely option is that Polumbus is re-signed and again assumes the starting role with either Compton or a rookie serving as backup.
Fred Davis is the question mark here. His potential makes him a guy you’d prefer to have on your team, but his past makes him a risky pick. Even assuming the drug problems are over—which they look to be—his injury last year makes him an unreliable player this time around.
Davis has had a lot of chances to prove himself in a Redskins uniform and has always fallen just short. However, he’s shown enough to make him worthy of a new deal, albeit one laced with performance incentives and provisions to safeguard against injury and suspension.
Basically, he’s a playmaker and the team needs him. Logan Paulsen performed well in his absence last season, but he’s not going to break out an 80-yard run for a touchdown that leaves players in his wake.
Niles Paul is still a converted receiver rather than a true tight end, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Shanahan look to strengthen this position and add another receiving threat.
The problem with this is that any target must also have the ability to block within the Redskins’ zone-stretch scheme—an area in which Davis showed a lot of improvement last year.
Free agency doesn’t offer a lot of promise, either. Texans RFA James Casey has worked at fullback and tight end, but again, he doesn’t have the same type of pace that Davis brings.
Re-signing Davis looks to be the best option, especially that he’ll now come cheaper.
Pierre Garcon is the highest-earning player on the Redskins roster for the 2013 season, counting for $8,200,000 against the cap. This figure won’t be coming down, so there’s a lot of pressure on Garcon to deliver. When healthy, he looked like a true No. 1 receiver, but his persistent toe injury last season bothered him from Week 1 onward.
According to Zac Boyer at the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, Garcon is still undecided on whether to have surgery in the offseason, but is leaning towards rest rather than the knife. Either move carries risk, but Garcon performed well enough in his return to make people forget that he was injured, so rest may actually solve the problem.
Josh Morgan is another free agent acquisition who carries a big cap hit, as he is due to make $5,100,000 this year. Morgan wasn’t spectacular, but he was reliable and he consistently impressed as a blocker, often creating gaps for Griffin to run through and pick up vital first downs.
The rest of the receiving corps is less stable. Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson, Aldrick Robinson and Dezmon Briscoe all had chances, and they sometimes delivered, but none are certainties to make the roster.
Briscoe dropped most things that were thrown at him, and it was clear that Shanahan didn’t trust him enough to put him in too much. Don’t expect to see him return without another strong preseason.
Moss hauled in eight touchdowns from the slot last year and deserves to start in the same position in 2013. However, he carries a $6,167,000 cap hit, so he’ll be forced to restructure his contract. It’d be a shame to see him leave, as he looked like Washington’s most reliable receiver at times, but he has to be a team player and drop his salary at this point in his career.
That leaves Hankerson and Robinson. Both showed flashes of brilliance last season, but Hankerson, in particular, hasn’t shown as much development as was expected. His injuries have slowed his progress, but he seems to be a player always on the verge of a breakout, rather than in the middle of one.
For many, Brian Orakpo is going to be the focus of this offseason. It’s arguable that his injuries don't warrant the awarding of a long-term deal, but it was clear last year that the Redskins are less of a defensive force without him.
Special praise must go to another player entering free agency this year as well, Rob Jackson. Jackson was impressive in Orakpo’s stead, and the Redskins should make every effort to bring him back. He doesn’t offer the same bull-rushing skills as Orakpo, but he showed a lot of ability.
It’s safe to assume that Shanahan will offer Orakpo a new deal, but it’s likely to be for less money than the player could make in free agency. He carries a risk due to his persistent shoulder injury, but the amount of pressure that he generates affects the whole defense.
Ryan Kerrigan, in particular, benefits from the amount of attention Orakpo receives from opposing teams. Without him, Kerrigan still played hard, but he wasn’t as effective.
London Fletcher is another uncertainty. The veteran’s ability to still perform at a high level is incredible, and the Redskins would dearly love another year out of him. However, Fletcher is undecided on his future, which means that the team must make plans to potentially continue forward without him.
Lorenzo Alexander may have gone to the Pro Bowl as a special teams force, but he also performed well on defense, particularly against the Vikings. Alexander is a free agent in 2013 and has to be brought back. With Danny Smith out as special teams coach, Alexander will have more responsibility as a special teams captain. The team—as well as new coach Keith Burns—needs his leadership.
Adam Carriker will return, which immediately makes the line stronger. Also, Jarvis Jenkins showed a lot of improvement as the season went on in 2012, and the hope will be that he can build upon this progression with more game time. The team is hoping that he can become a real force in 2013.
Barry Cofield was massive at nose tackle in 2012, and along with Stephen Bowen, the 'Skins have a good set of players along the line. This unit has the potential to dominate, and with the linebacking corps, these guys can take a lot of pressure off the secondary.
Putting aside Fletcher and Moss, Cofield and Bowen rank in the top five slary cap hits for the team in 2013, counting for $6,300,00 and $5,500,000, respectively. These figures aren’t likely to change, either, as their performances make them worthy of their salaries.
Chris Baker is a free agent, but the team should look to bring him back in order to provide a solid backup for Cofield. Aside from that, the unit looks to be in good shape, and barring injury, this areas should be one of the team's bright spots in 2013.
This is where the Redskins were continually undone in 2012. The corners got no help from the safeties, while a succession of injuries meant that the projected starters hardly ever saw the field.
This gives Shanahan an interesting decision to make.
Brandon Meriweather had a big impact in the one (half) game that he played in, and he’ll return at strong safety for another year. What he isn’t, however, is a long-term solution. Although the crop of safeties in this year's draft class is deep, the priority will be to find a versatile free safety in the draft who could help out at both positions, if needed.
Waiting on Tanard Jackson isn’t worthwhile, so he won’t return to Washington this year. Madieu Williams underwhelmed at times, but he also put in some decent performances. He is a free agent, but he is worth retaining as a backup. He’s not a starter, but the Redskins remain the team on which he’ll be able to see the most playing time, so Williams shouldn’t count for much against the cap.
Cedric Griffin is another player set for free agency this year, but re-signing him as a third corner is less of a priority than seeking a player for the future. This year’s draft class is also deep at cornerback, so Shanahan has a lot of options here.
If he stays true to form, the coach will trade down and create more picks. More than one of these extra picks could be used on corners without a lot of controversy. Richard Crawford has a lot of talent, so he could again see playing time at nickel, as well as a punt returner in Brandon Banks’ absence.
However, there remains a concern with Crawford’s ability in coverage, and he was inactive for Weeks 7-13. He’s not quite ready, but his instincts are good and the coaches obviously see good things in him. His performances in the last two games brought a lot of praise, and picking off Tony Romo in the final game of the regular season will live long in the memories of both the Redkins organization and their fans.
He’s got breakout potential, no doubt, but Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall remain in his way.
Hall, in particular, needs to take a pay cut in order to remain with the team. He counts for $8,000,000 against the cap this year, but he is no longer worth that type of money. He showed what he was capable of as the defense got itself together down the stretch, but his price is still too high.
He’s stated that he’s willing to take that cut in order to be part of what’s happening in D.C., which is encouraging. Hall is of value to this team, and can make big plays to turn big games—he just has to do it consistently.
As mentioned before, Lorenzo Alexander should be the top priority for this unit, but punter Sav Rocca and long snapper Nick Sundberg are also free agents in 2013. Both performed well in 2012 and have done nothing to suggest that they will be allowed to walk.
Sundberg is a restricted free agent, and both him and Rocca are likely to be brought back in cap-friendly deals. With a new special teams coordinator, the players will have a bigger role to play in the early weeks, although Burns will obviously have his own ideas.
Burns has worked under Shanahan before, having spent 10 seasons as a special teams player with the Broncos. His relationship with Shanahan bodes well for the unit, and his background in Alexandria is also a bonus.
Burns was the assistant special teams coach with the Broncos, so this is his first role leading a unit. He was a great special-teamer in his playing days, leading the Broncos in special teams tackles on seven separate occasions and winning two Super Bowls.
He’ll be a good fit in Washington, and his first task will be to get the aforementioned players to re-sign.