5 Cap-Friendly Moves Washington Redskins Must Make This Offseason
With Thomas Threlkeld of DC Pro Sports Report linking Washington to high-priced free agents like Jairus Byrd and Aqib Talib on the eve of the March 11 start to free agency, Washington will have to make some cap-friendly moves if it's to fill the holes that turned a one-time Super Bowl contender into a 3-13 band of misfits.
With that said, here are five cap-friendly moves the Redskins must make this offseason.
Sign Dexter McCluster
The large gap in production between Pierre Garcon and the next Redskins wide receiver last season highlights Washington's need at WR.
Behind Garcon and his 113 receptions was aged slot receiver Santana Moss and his 42 catches.
Enter Dexter McCluster. Despite being the third-most targeted player on the Kansas City Chiefs, McCluster still managed to top Moss' totals and garner 53 receptions last season.
Where McCluster's true value lies, however, is as a punt returner. McCluster led the NFL with 686 punt return yards and two touchdowns in 2013.
As a team, Washington only had 225 punt return yards and scored zero touchdowns last season.
With the ability to fill two team needs with one player, signing McCluster would save cap space with which Washington could pursue other players.
Sign Darren Sproles
While Alfred Morris was a key cog in Washington's fifth-ranked rushing offense in 2013, he was once again a non-factor in the passing game.
After catching 11 balls as a rookie, Morris only tallied nine receptions last season.
In some ways, as a receiver, Morris is comparable to Cincinnati Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Green-Ellis only had four receptions last season.
With the common thread between the two being Washington head coach Jay Gruden, history says that Gruden will utilize another back to make up for this plight.
In Cincinnati, that player was the dynamic Giovani Bernard. Bernard caught 56 passes and three touchdowns in his rookie season.
Looking at Washington's roster, you'll find no such player.
While Roy Helu did tally 31 receptions in 2013, his longest gain over the past two seasons is just 28 yards. Simply put, he's not a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses like Bernard.
Sproles had 71 receptions last season, 24 of which resulted in a first down. There's also Sproles' ability to return kicks for one of the NFL's worst return units.
Release Roy Helu
Believe it or not, OverTheCap.com indicates that Roy Helu is the highest-paid member of Washington's backfield.
Helu's 2014 salary of $1.38 million dwarfs the $570,000 that leading rusher Alfred Morris will make next season. And for what?
Morris has proven to be durable in his first two seasons in the league. He's missed zero games. Aside from occasionally spelling Morris, Helu only garners playing time on obvious passing downs.
Merely a solid receiving option, Helu's play doesn't warrant his salary. With a back like Evan Royster capable of backing up Morris, like he did in 2012, Washington would be best-served by cutting ties with Helu.
Carrying a cap hit of roughly $1.54 million, the 'Skins would save $1.43 million by releasing Helu.
Draft Christian Jones
In need of a replacement for retired linebacker London Fletcher, Christian Jones would seem to be an ideal and, most notably, cheap option to fill this void.
An excellent athlete, Jones could provide Washington with the sideline-to-sideline linebacker it lacked with the aged Fletcher manning the middle.
Furthermore, as CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler states, Jones is also excellent in coverage. "[Jones] flawlessly flips his hips to blanket tight ends or receivers down the field in coverage," Brugler writes.
In an NFC East featuring tight ends like Jason Witten, Zach Ertz and Brent Celek, Jones' skills on this front would surely aid the Redskins in their effort to improve the NFL's 20th-ranked pass defense in 2013.
And based on CBSSports.com's predraft rankings, all for the cost of a fourth-round pick.
Draft Jason Verrett
In DeAngelo Hall and David Amerson, the Redskins have two starting-caliber cornerbacks. In today's pass-happy NFL, though, a team needs at least three.
As ESPN.com's John Keim notes, a favorite name being speculated to be the third is one Aqib Talib.
Dogged by questions about his durability and off-the-field history, the Talib-to-Washington talk needs to remain just that.
For the Redskins to avoid making yet another ill-fated splash in free agency, they'll have to turn to the draft to fill this need.
Enter Jason Verrett. Projected to go in the first or second round by CBSSports.com, the former TCU standout stole the show at the NFL Scouting Combine.
With a 4.38 in the 40-yard dash and a 39-inch vertical leap, NFL.com indicates that Verrett was among the top performers in his position group.
Although small in stature, Verrett has a bulldog mentality that has elicited comparisons to Cortland Finnegan.
Adept at pressing opposing receivers, Verrett could replace Josh Wilson as Washington's slot cover man and eventually be Hall's heir on the outside.