Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, April 5, 21 days before the NFL draft.
The salary cap and succession planning
It’s too early to panic, or even be concerned, but the Redskins are in a bit of a salary cap squeeze. No, not this year. They have about $15 million to work with after accounting for signing their draft picks. The problem is a year down the road.
According to Over the Cap, the Redskins have about $9 million in 2019 salary cap space to work with, assuming that they exercise their fifth-year option on guard Brandon Scherff. Only two teams have less to work with.
The Redskins will have options to create more by releasing some high-priced players. But if they are going to do that without creating a need to sign high-priced free agents to take their places they need to do some succession planning and that starts in the draft.
Here are a few areas where they could be looking for eventual starters in the draft.
Cornerback: The veteran who might have the biggest target on his back next offseason is Josh Norman. He will turn 31 in December and his 2019 cap number is $14.5 million. If they move on from him, they would create $8.5 in cap space. It would not be surprising to see them draft a cornerback. That player may not directly replace Norman; he could be a later-round pick who serves as depth behind potential starters Fabian Moreau and Quinton Dunbar. It’s also possible that Orlando Scandrick will be one and done, saving $3.75 million.
Inside linebacker: There was some celebration among Redskins fans when the team re-signed Zach Brown last month. And his salary cap number this year is a very manageable $2.95 million. But a year from now, Brown will be 30 and he will have a cap number of $8.75 million. The Redskins could trim $5.75 million in cap space by drafting Roquan Smith or Tremaine Edmunds and moving on from Brown.
Tight end: You need a crystal ball to figure out this one. Will Jordan Reed ($9.72 million cap charge) stay healthy for enough games in 2018 to warrant that salary? Will Vernon Davis ($6.33 million), who will be 35 next offseason, finally fall to the undefeated Father Time? Even if both play well this year, $16 million for tight ends may be too much for a team that is in a cap crunch. If the right tight end is on the board, the Redskins could grab him at any point after the first round.
At this point in time, it is far from automatic that any of these players will be salary cap casualties. If they have good seasons, of course, the team will find a way to keep them on.
Releasing players is not the only way to create cap space. The Redskins could get more breathing room by restructuring some contracts, although the cap space they can create this way is limited because the best candidates for such a move, Norman, Trent Williams, and Ryan Kerrigan, will only have two years left on their contracts. They also could ask some players to take pay cuts.
But if you see a player picked a cornerback, tight end, or linebacker, there is no need to wonder what the need is. The Redskins would be anticipating needs for 2019.
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