Despite coming off a disappointing 5-11 season, where they were able to beat up on the NFC West (3-1) and the N.Y. Giants (2-0), but no one else, the Redskins are potentially in a good position going forward. They are coming off their strongest draft class in years, and it could get even stronger as 2nd round pick DE Jarvis Jenkins and 3rd round pick WR Leonard Hankerson each missed significant time due to injury.In addition, for the first time in about 15 years the Redskins head into a draft with their top 4 picks intact (also they have an additional 4th rounder).
On the free agency front the Redskins avoided the biggest splashes last year, instead making a number of minor-to-moderate signings. This approach netted three young, productive players in NT Barry Cofield, DE Stephen Bowen, and CB Josh Wilson. The Redskins will also head into this free agency period with a good amount of money to spend and pretty clean books (i.e. no dead cap).
Now not everything is rosy for the Redskins. They have numerous needs to fill among both starters and backups. While last years free agency approach netted some good players, it also landed some bad and questionable deals as well. Already the team probably regrets the Jamaal Brown and Santana Moss signings, while the additions of O.J. Atogwe and Chris Chester could go either way at this point.
Also the Redskins top two offensive players, OT Trent Williams and TE Fred Davis, were suspended the last 4 games of the year for violating the leagues substance abuse policy, and are one more strike away from a year long ban. Davis also leads a host of Redskins who due to injuries or lack of performance are questionable for the team to resign (London Fletcher is the Redskins top free agent, but he is a no brainer to resign). In addition to Davis, the Redskins have to decide on LaRon Landry, Adam Carriker, Will Montgomery, Kory Lichtensteiger (RFA), Tim Hightower, Kedric Golston and Rex Grossman.
Now I’ll look into more about who the Redskins should re-sign in a later post, but it is safe to say they won’t bring everyone back (and nor should they). Also, some guys who the team might want to have come back, could end up wanting too much money that makes it prohibitive to resign them. Instead I want to look at where the Redskins are in relation to the cap, and what players they might look to move or deals that they may restructure.
According to The Warpath.net the Redskins have a projected cap commitment next year of $82.75 million. Now even the Warpath.net will admit that their numbers aren’t official, but they do an excellent job of finding the information out from news reports and various other sources, and next to having access to the league’s official cap numbers it is about as good as you are going to get. Now I cross checked their numbers with other sources such as Rotoworld (which doesn’t always give the cap numbers and you need to guesstimate a lot) and Sportrac, and the Warpath numbers looked to be on in just about every case. So while they could be slightly off their numbers seem to be close enough to the mark to evaluate. All the numbers I use will come from the Warpath.net unless otherwise noted:
So alright we have roughly an $82.75 million figure, but what is that out of? Well the actual salary cap number for 2012 isn’t finalized yet, but most expect it to come in around $125 million (it was $120 million this year), so that puts us at roughly $42.25 million under the cap. Now it is important to remember that a chunk of that will be taken up by minimum salary guys, but when looking at minimum salary guys they don’t all count against the cap.
A salary cap number is made up of the top 51 salaries on a team (which is why a team can get by with an 80 man offseason roster). So as we sign guy for $1 million then it bumps one of the minimum salary guys from the 51 players counted, so the net gain against our cap is $625 K (i.e. $1 million- $375k). The same is true when looking at players we cut. So if we were to cut a player who had a salary of a $1 million, our gain would only be $675k.
Now when I talk about cutting players below, I won’t take into account the minimum player needed to replace. Now I realize that some people don’t like that approach, but I think it is important to look at it as a blank canvas approach, because we don’t know yet how the team will allocate those savings. For instance if a player was cut that would save the Redskins $6 million, people would say that because of the minimum replacement the actual reported savings should be $5.625. The problem with that is the team could look to spread out that $6 million savings. If they sign 3 players for $2 million each, then the minimum guys that the two new additions bump off the list mean that the team now has an extra $750K.
Now Brown is an interesting case, not so much because there is much of a case in keeping him, but rather different numbers have been reported. According to some various recent news reports, they are saying that Brown is scheduled to count $4.6 million against the cap next year (Warpath has it at $4.55), but the cap penalty is just $4.4 million (whereas Warpath has it at $5.2). Now if the recently reported numbers are accurate that means that cutting Brown would save $200K from next year’s cap, as opposed to adding $600K, which is a nice added bonus.
Now regardless of what number is accurate Brown needs to be cut now, if for no other reason than to clean the books for next year. One thing that has been suggested in various media reports is the team waits until after June 1st to cut Brown. This would mean that Brown would only count for $1.1 million (or $1.3 million) against the cap this year, but the trade-off is that he would count for $3.3 million against the cap next year (or $3.9 million). The Redskins would be far better off by getting him off the books now, instead of him counting twice against the cap. Especially since the team couldn’t spend that $3.3 million in savings until after June 1st, and it would go away next year. By cutting him now, you don’t save much money, but for next year you add an additional $4.4 million in cap room.
And if they want they can just structure someone’s contract to take that into account. Let’s say for instance that London Fletcher will resign for 2 years $12 million ($6 million a year average), but to maximize your cap room this year you give him $2 million in 2012, and $10 million in 2013, with essentially Brown’s $4.4 million windfall that comes off the books paying for that bump.
Atogwe as mentioned above is one of the signings that didn’t really workout. Now his issues were due mainly to injuries, but if the team doesn’t think he will stay healthy, he is a possible cap casualty. Atogwe makes a modest, but manageable $3.9 million next year, but releasing him would save $2.3 million. My guess is he’s here for one more season, but he was at least worth mentioning.
While some of Moss’s struggles are easily blamed on the injury, that doesn’t account for all of them. Moss dropped a high percentage of balls thrown his way, and never really looked right last season. While Moss is pretty pricey and will count $4.8 million against the cap, his release fee of $4.33 million should keep him with the team for another year. While some might equate this to a Brown situation, Moss is at least moderately productive, and the team can release him in 2013 with only a $2.16 million cap hit (as opposed to his cap number of $6.3 million).
Chester was the other major expenditure from last off season that didn’t fully workout. Now that is not to say that Chester was bad, just that he didn’t fully live up to the expectations placed on him. Chester also isn’t going anywhere due to his back loaded contract. He only accounts for $3.5 million this year, but cutting him would cost the team $4 million. Since he’s at the very least a valuable ‘6th man’ along the offensive line, I don’t see the team cutting him any time soon.
What the Redskins could do with Chester’s contract is restructure it. His base salary is $2.5 million this year and the team could look to reduce that to $1.5 or even $1 million, freeing up some extra money this year and moderately adding salary to each of the next two years. Given how strong this free agent class is, and that the salary cap is expected to explode in the coming years with more major revenue streams being added. As to why Chester would agree to it? The team could offer to guarantee that money these next two years, since barring injury he’s not really looking like a cap casualty.
Cooley is coming off his worst year as a Pro and multiple injuries. He also carries a hefty $6.23 cap hit, and would traditionally be viewed as an obvious cap casualty, even with the potential $4.16 dead money hit. Cooley though I don’t think will end up being cut.
While part of it has to do with his role on the team as somewhat of a leader, I think it is more likely to do with his willingness to restructure. If Chris Cooley wants to be apart of the Redskins, and is willing to restructure to free up the $2 million that they’d get by cutting him, then it is is a no brainer to keep him. In fact depending on how you restructure his deal, the Redskins could even save more than the $2 million they’d save by releasing him.
Now even with Trent Williams’ suspension and questionable work ethic, I doubt there is any consideration to release him. But he does carry a $13.35 million cap charge this year and if they cut or traded him they’d save $6.3 million (but have a $7.05 cap hit), so the team isn’t without options. I wouldn’t really consider trading him since given his suspension, his trade value is at it’s lowest right now, and cutting him creates a pretty big hole on your roster. So for me that leaves restructuring. If I’m the Redskins I’d look to try to bring his cap hit down below $10 million. Yes that would move some money to future years, but his contract goes down the last three years as it is, so it wouldn’t make any of those seasons untenable. Now Williams could resist, but I don’t think he is in the best negotiating position right now.
Now some might ask why not trade Hall, and if the Redskins can find some team willing to give them a late round pick by all means they should accept it. But Hall needs to go, and there isn’t much case for him to stay. In addition to Hall’s performance continuing to falter on the field, and him not living up to his Captain’s status, Hall carries a $6.8 million cap hit for next season. Not only that, but the cap penalty for cutting him (or trading him), is just $600K, meaning the Redskins would free up $6.2 million by releasing him. Now this would leave the Redskins pretty thin at CB, but they could use those savings to land a pretty decent corner, in what looks to be a deep market.
Gaffney surprised everyone and was the Redskins leading receiver this past year. While it is unlikely that they’d consider getting rid of him, they might change their mind if the Redskins target a big name free agent. While Gaffney is easily cheap enough at $2.65 million to keep, the team could look to move him since there wouldn’t be any cap penalty (unlike if they wanted to move Moss). Since Gaffney isn’t under contract for next year it doesn’t affect the Redskins long term, and they should be able to pry away a late round pick for him. While I wouldn’t consider this a very likely move, it definitely is possible.
I doubt this needs much debate, and I’m sure this salary will be earmarked for whomever the backup QB is, but cutting Beck saves $1 million.
I think it is clear that Mike Sellers time with the team has come to an end. He’s just not effective any more on offense, and even his special teams contributions are lacking. The team could save $925K by releasing him, and I think that is exactly what they will do.
Doughty just hasn’t been too effective in a backup role, and given the concerns with the starter (Landry and Atogwe) the team would probably rather add a quality back-up, who might be a big more expensive, but is also more of a sure thing to fill in. The team could save $1.15 million by cutting him.
Now what does that all equal up to? Well it of course depends on what moves they make. I’ll give a total based on all the probable cuts (Brown, Hall, Beck, Sellers, Doughty) and one that includes the trade of Gaffney and the restructuring of Cooley’s, Williams’, and Chester’s contracts.
Remember though a chunk of that will go towards signing our own free agents, draft picks and minimal players used to round out the roster. So our number will be dependent on who we resign and how those deals are structured (i.e. my Fletcher example from earlier).