Jay Gruden and Bruce Allen have some big decisions to make this offseason.
Although Jay Gruden doesn’t have the cap-penalty black cloud hanging over his first season in charge, that doesn’t mean he should tolerate any dead weight in Washington.
There were a lot of underperforming players on the team in 2013, but many of them—Josh Morgan, Josh Wilson, Santana Moss—will be free agents this year. That means Gruden can turn his attention to free agency, the draft and roster cuts.
Read on for five players who should be very nervous about the latter.
All salary figures via Spotrac.com.
Adam Carriker's injury risk doesn't justify his contract.
Adam Carriker has played two games in two seasons, which isn’t nearly enough to justify his cap hit for this year. He has become an unreliable luxury due to his propensity for long-term injury.
Carriker had three surgeries on the same quadriceps tendon within the space of a year. It’s not simply that he might not make it back to the Washington roster—if he fails to make a full recovery, his career could be over.
It’s a real shame, because when healthy, Carriker is a great addition to the team. He can stuff the run, deal with double-teams and clear space for the linebackers coming in behind.
Versatility and strength are what he was known for, but repeated injuries to the same area will kill those traits in very short order.
First and foremost, the NFL is a business. Carriker hasn’t proven his value to the team and there aren’t many people expecting him to be in burgundy and gold this year. Cutting him would grant the club an extra $3.17 million in cap space.
Stephen Bowen's standard of play took a real hit in 2013.
After a year in which Stephen Bowen both dropped his standard of play and tore his PCL, his cap hit rises by over $3.5 million. That’s going to sound huge warning bells when Gruden and his staff go over the tapes.
While cutting him would initially seem very attractive, there would be an extra $5 million in dead money to absorb. It’s an interesting situation, as a restructure would seem like the obvious choice, except that Bowen did that last year and didn’t even lose money—he just pushed it forward.
There's also the small matter of 2015, when Bowen is due to make $8,020,000. He’s not worth this at all, despite his good performances in 2012.
Bowen will know that he isn’t going to get anywhere near his current salary on the open market, so he could be willing to take a pay cut, remain in D.C. and be a part of the Gruden era.
If not, he should be shown the door.
Sav Rocca's time has simply run out.
Although it’s only going to produce a cap saving of $1.2 million, that money is better spent anywhere other than on a 40-year-old punter coming off a season where he was an absolute liability for his team. Washington can pick up any undrafted rookie this year and get much better results.
Rocca’s net average for punting yards in 2013 was 33.8—the worst in the league by nearly four yards per attempt. That sort of distance is huge over the course of a season and the shanked punt/special teams disaster became a feature of every Washington fan’s Sunday.
Rocca will know that his time is up, both in the nation’s capital and the NFL.
Chris Chester is not the player he was last season.
Chris Chester was a source of strength in 2012, anchoring the interior of the line and allowing Robert Griffin III the space and time to make some plays. That didn’t happen in 2013, and both Chester and center Will Montgomery allowed an abundance of pressure up the middle that just wasn’t there the year before.
Assuming that Gruden cuts Josh LeRibeus—which he certainly should—Washington could suddenly become a little thin at guard. Adam Gettis certainly hasn’t proven himself, so Chester could be a great help to the team in 2014.
However, spending in excess of $9 million on him over the next two years isn’t an appealing prospect. Should he be willing to take a pay cut, he could be a useful piece of the puzzle.
Cutting him, however, would save $2.7 million and the team could start the long-term planning by bringing in a lineman via the draft.
Kory Lichtensteiger is another lineman whose place is in jeopardy.
Another underforming lineman, Kory Lichtensteiger is never going to live up to the five-year deal he signed just a year ago. Cutting him in 2014 would be doing the team a favor in the long run.
His cap hit would increase to $4.3 million in 2014, and even performing at his best, he won't be worth that much money.
The only thing keeping him on the roster is the absence of talent at his position. Should Gruden cut both Chester and Lichtensteiger, he would likely need to spend both a draft pick and money in free agency.
With a rebuild in progress, that's not out of the question. However, Gruden will want to keep a balance of experience and youth, so Lichtensteiger could yet keep his place.
He doesn't necessarily deserve to, but it's possible.