In the shadows of a menacing cap penalty, the upcoming free-agent market and April's impending draft, Washington Redskins fans seem to have lost sight of priorities when it comes to offseason moves.
Because of that $18 million penalty—one that could very well stay firmly in place regardless of the team's efforts—general manager Bruce Allen and head coach Mike Shanahan are prepared to face tougher obstacles than those of a typical offseason. And when it comes to breaking down Washington's to-do list, taking care of business at home should be nestled at the top.
Although the speculation that brews as a natural result of free agency is entertaining and makes for fun conversation, the Redskins will first need to attend to current players who are due money under existing contracts. The front office has to do its best to help alleviate the expected cap hit for 2013.
Taking certain things into account such as past performance, potential and future with the team, there are five players on the current roster with notably unfriendly cap numbers (via Spotrac) for the upcoming season. It's unfortunate that each of them played a key role in the Redskins' success last year, but the team will need to make tough decisions with respect to the cap and its reported $4 million excess.
If it were me, I might start something like this.
London Fletcher ($6.2 million)
This is a tough call to make, simply because we don't know whether the soon-to-be 38-year-old inside linebacker will be back next season. He could very well hang up his cleats and call it a brilliant career.
If the ageless wonder decides to return, I would likely look to restructure his deal. In addition to his effectiveness on the field, Fletcher's leadership in the locker room is invaluable.
DeAngelo Hall ($8.0m)
Despite what appears to be the popular decision to restructure Hall's hefty contract this offseason, I believe the Redskins' best bet would be to cut him and re-sign him.
Although there were times last year when Hall played very well, it was never to the tune of $8 million. The 29-year-old Virginia native has expressed his desire to stay with the Redskins, and it would seem that the team has the upper hand.
If the team were to restructure Hall's contract, it would be pushing Hall's $9 million salary in 2014 into future years as well.
Brandon Meriweather ($2.9m)
When he did play last season, Meriweather was effective. But as soon as he got back onto to the field in what coaches and fans thought was a healthy state following a left knee sprain, he blew the ACL in his right knee.
Seeing as he hasn't played a full season since 2010 and the Redskins are in dire need of rebuilding the secondary, releasing the 29-year-old safety may be in the team's best interest.
Santana Moss ($6.2m)
After leading the team in receiving touchdowns with eight last season, fan-favorite Santana Moss enters the final year of a three-year deal and he's set to turn 34 this June.
I tend to fall on the side of most—bring Santana back. He's reliable, he's the surest pair of hands on the team and he's an asset in the locker room. His numbers, however, call for a restructured contract.
Despite those eight touchdowns, Moss hauled in just 41 catches for 573 yards in a limited role (489 total snaps according to PFF). If we assume a healthy Pierre Garcon next season and development out of Leonard Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson, Moss' snap count could diminish even more.
Trent Williams ($8.0m)
Not only did the Silverback have his best year as a pro last season, there are high expectations for him moving forward. Shanahan drafted him fourth-overall in 2010 for a reason—to be a legitimate and consistent All-Pro tackle.
Williams is entering the third year of his six-year rookie deal and he's expected to be in Washington for a long while.
And because he's in the team's long-term plans and because he's emerging as one of the league's top athletic offensive tackles, pushing Williams' salary into future seasons doesn't necessarily hurt the team's wallet. He's a guy it plans on paying anyway.
Next, the Redskins should look to the coming free agents they can afford to lose.
Perhaps I mention that sounding somewhat lackadaisical, but the team shouldn't have trouble saying goodbye to guys like Rex Grossman, Bryan Kehl, Jordan Black, Chris Wilson, Cedric Griffin, Madieu Williams and Tanard Jackson.
Following that bunch, the Redskins would make slightly harder decisions on this group.
He'll always be a Redskin and he'll always be a fan-favorite, but Cooley's run appears to be over (at least in Washington).
Cooley is set to turn 31 in July and he only played 93 snaps after returning to the field in Week 8. The Redskins simply don't have the luxury of keeping him on the roster to block for a minute number of plays.
I'm as much a fan of Sav Rocca as the next guy, but he'll turn 40 at the end of this year and is set to undergo knee surgery to repair a torn MCL that he suffered last season.
Ideally the team would look for another punter, preferably younger, that could also help by way of kickoffs.
The latest report on Davis is that he's cleared to resume running and other rehab activities just four months following surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon.
Encouraging? Sure. Promising? Not necessarily.
Despite reports, Davis has plenty of work to do before picking up where he left off. Tearing your Achilles isn't a drop in the bucket.
After being franchised last year, the Redskins could, technically, hit the 27-year-old tight end with the tag again this season for about a million dollars more—bringing his salary to $6.5 million. Steep.
I may be in the minority regarding the issue, but if the Redskins can't workout an incentive-laden deal to help accommodate Fred's Achilles and the cap, I would prefer the Redskins move on.
Even as one of the worst starting tackles in the league last season, I wouldn't be completely opposed to bringing back Polumbus next season as a swing tackle. That is, for a reasonable rate.
Otherwise, adios amigo.
As a guy that has consistently shown up and done his job since joining the team in 2006, the Redskins may have to move on from Kedric Golston, who will turn 30 in two months.
Although he's great to have in the defensive line rotation, Golston would be more of a luxury at this point. It seems like he'd have to come along with a team-friendly discount in order to stay in Washington.
After that would come the team's restricted free agents.
Maybe there's a chance the team still sees something in Banks. Maybe not. The speed that he once threatened with is something the team can find elsewhere and his return ability was nearly forgotten following Richard Crawford's play to end last season.
Baker was decent last season, but he didn't exactly solidify his spot if we're talking about an exclusive the list for the Redskins on who to bring back.
Another thing to consider, too, is that nose tackle Truck Neild is set to return this season following an ACL tear. He showed well before going down with an injury and he's under a contract the team doesn't need to worry about right now.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Baker playing somewhere else next season.
If a team puts its long snapper on IR, that's usually a good indication it likes him. I would expect Sundberg to be retained.
Finally, the Redskins face their toughest decisions with the following five players.
If it were up to me, I would bring back each of these guys because they're all important for the team today and moving forward. The cap penalty, however, could force the front office to formulate and prioritize.
5. Kory Lichtensteiger
Shanahan has called Lichtensteiger one of the team's best run-blockers, so keeping the soon-to-be 28-year-old left guard in Washington is atop the list of things to do.
According to Pro Football Focus, however, Lichtensteiger didn't put together a very productive 2013, finishing the season with an overall rating of -12.3.
The Redskins also drafted guard Josh LeRibeus in the third round of last April's draft and he did well during very limited action at the end of last season. I place 'Steiger at No. 5 for this reason alone.
Although Shanahan appears committed to Lichtensteiger, the emergence of LeRibeus at the end of last year may give the front office some leeway.
4. Logan Paulsen
Stepping in for the injured Fred Davis is no easy task. And Logan Paulsen is far from Fred Davis. But if you take Paulsen for his hustle, his work ethic and his surprising reliability as a pass-catcher on big downs, then the restricted free agent is a very important part of this team moving forward.
If the team decides to move on from Davis, heading into the season with Paulsen and perhaps an explosive rookie would seem comfortable.
3. Rob Jackson
Like Paulsen, Rob Jackson is a restricted free agent that was asked to step up big in the absence of one of the team's more dynamic players—in his case Brian Orakpo. Jackson finished the season with 26 tackles, 4.5 sacks, four interceptions and two forced fumbles.
He was also very effective dropping back, registering seven pass break-ups and ranking tops amongst 3-4 outside linebackers in pass coverage, according to PFF.
When Jackson was asked to step up, he did. And that says something about a guy. Even with Orakpo expected back next season, no one is positive the injury bug is gone for good. In all likelihood it isn't.
Not to mention, is having too many good outside linebackers a bad thing? Rather than assuming the spot is safely filled by Orakpo, why not get creative and find ways to have Jackson, Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan on the field all at the same time?
2. Lorenzo Alexander
He's not only a quality backup linebacker, he's also the Redskins' top special teams player and an outstanding figure in the community. Bringing back Lorenzo Alexander is definitely an offseason priority.
Alexander is set to turn 30 this summer and he's willing to take a hometown discount in order to stay in Washington. As long as the Redskins don't disrespect Alexander and his talents, this deal seems like a want and a fit for all parties involved.
1. Darrel Young
The unsung hero of the Redskins' 2013 season was fullback Darrel Young.
Set to turn 26 this April, Young was an integral part of the team's top-ranked rushing offense. He was durable, an effective blocker and a sleeper to rip off big catch-and-runs out of the backfield.
Moving forward, given his age and development within the offense, Young is a restricted free agent the Redskins have to keep around. Just because he doesn't show up in the box score doesn't mean he's not one of the top players in the league at his position.
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