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Balanced salary structure helps Redskins stay under the cap

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Balanced salary structure helps Redskins stay under the cap

Since the offseason started the Redskins have been quite busy spending money. They put the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins, signed free agent cornerback Josh Norman, gave Jordan Reed a contract extension, and decided to retain wide receivers Pierre Garçon (cap number $10.2 million) and DeSean Jackson ($9.25 million).

And they did it without busting their salary cap. They have a shade over $11 million in cap space left this year. The Redskins also are in good shape next year with about $40 million on hand next year.

Cap management primarily falls on the shoulders of Eric Schaffer, the Redskins’ vice president of football administration. The Washington Times summarized what Schaffer told them about how to sign and retain talent and still stay under the cap:
A successful team has approximately half of its roster signed to rookie contracts to supplement premium-priced established players, and the goal should be to have enough cap space to extend home-grown players when their rookie deals expire.
It should be noted that the Redskins aren’t just paying home-grown players; three of their six highest-paid players (Garçon, Jackson, and Norman) are premium free agents from other teams.

So where to the Redskins sit now in terms of contracts? Are they paying half of their roster on rookie deals? Well, technically they are not quite there but they are very close and they have enough contracts that are similar to rookie deals to make their cap work.

Of the 53 players projected here to make the final roster (offense, defense) there are 25 who are either on the contracts they signed as rookies or first-year players (either drafted or undrafted) or on exclusive rights free agent contracts, which are one-year deals at around the minimum salary.

The rookie deals are not all cheap. Four players on their rookie deals have cap hits of over $1 million this year led by Brandon Scherff, who has a $4.8 million cap number. The other 21 rookie contracts all have cap hits under $1 million.

The Redskins also have some veteran contracts that carry a cap hit of less than $1 million and combined with the 21 rookie deals in that range they have 27 players who have cap hits of less than $1 million. So that gets the Redskins where Schaffer wants them to be in terms of lower-end contracts with just over half of the projected roster (50.9 percent, to be exact) playing for something near the league’s minimum wage.

That structure allows the Redskins to handle six contracts with cap hits of $8 million or more, led by Kirk Cousins with his franchise tag number of $19.953 million and still have some cap space to spare.

The key to keeping the plan on track is the draft. It’s possible that Bashaud Breeland and Morgan Moses will sign contract extensions next year, moves that may push their cap numbers into the $5 million range, perhaps higher. But as long as the Scto McCloughan keeps a steady supply of inexpensive, quality players in the pipeline through the draft they will be able to absorb those contracts without any problem.

Here are the 2016 cap numbers of the projected 53-man roster (Rookie/exclusive-rights free agent contracts are in red; all cap information via OvertheCap.com):

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

For years, the Redskins struggle with their home field as the fall turns to winter. It's been happening so long it's become an expected passing of the seasons, like the transition from Halloween jack-o-lanterns to Christmas lights dotting people's front yards. 

Well, on Thanksgiving night, the turf at FedEx Field again showed how bad it can be. On a second half interception returned for a New York Giants touchdown, replay showed that Kirk Cousins' foot got stuck on the dirt, and it played a role in his sailing a ball to the sideline. The bad turf was not the only reason for the interception, but it was definitely a reason. 

Beyond the pick, the field was just ugly. Twitter blew up making fun of the Redskins home grass, and the national broadcast showed just how unsightly the long brown patch between the hash marks looked. 

On Friday, the normally diplomatic Cousins opened up about the grass.

"It probably doesn't look like a professional NFL field should," the quarterback said on 106.7 the Fan (full audio here). "If you think the field is rough now on Thanksgiving, we've got two more home games in mid-to-late December. That's probably going to be a bigger challenge."

Asked about the field's impact on the interception on Thursday night, Cousins ignored it. But plenty of other players have suggested the field is a known problem in the second half, and something they just must deal with. 

"I don't know why it is that way or what causes it," Cousins said. "I've kind of learned to accept it and understand it's part of the deal. Playing here on the field has never been that great in the second half of the season for whatever the reason."

[h/t @BenStandig for the Cousins quotes]

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When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

At halftime of the Redskins’ Thanksgiving night game against the Giants, Samaje Perine had three yards rushing and his team had three points. Washington had racked up all of 113 yards.

Coincidence? Not entirely. Although the Redskins are primarily a passing team they need to run the ball to pass effectively.

“We had to get the running game going,” said Jay Gruden after the game.

In the second half, Perine and the offense did get it going. Perine ran for 97 yards and Redskins put up 210 yards and 17 points. It’s safe to say that it wasn’t a coincidence.

The Redskins didn’t make any halftime adjustments to get the ground game in gear.

“We just had to stay the course,” said Perine. “We knew they were going to come out fired up, they just came off a big win. We just had to stay the course and then things started going our way.”

MORE REDSKINS: MUST-SEE PHOTOS OF THE WIN

Perine was more steady than spectacular. His longest run was 16 yards. He came out of the locker room and ran for six and 10 yards on his first two carries. Later in the third quarter the Redskins were backed up at their own 10. Perine ran four straight plays for 39 yards and the Redskins were near midfield.

Although they didn’t score on that drive they did change field position. That was part of the Redskins’ strategy playing with an injury-depleted offense.

“If you had to punt in a game like this and play field position, it’s not the end of the world because our defense was playing so good,” said Gruden.

Not only did the running game flip the field, it flipped the time of possession. In the first half, the Giants had the ball for 17:40 compared to 12:20 for the Redskins.

“We had to get on the field and control some of the clock,” said tackle Morgan Moses. “We had to give our defense a rest. Samaje put his foot in the ground and got extra yards when needed and we were able to move the chains.”

Moses wasn’t the only one enjoying seeing Perine pile up some yards.

“As a defensive player, you want to see that,” said safety D.J. Swearinger. “We say, keep running it. Keep running him. Let him keep getting those carries, put a dent in the defense. It was a good sight to see.”

RELATED: FIVE KEY MOMENTS IN RESKINS VS GIANTS

Swearinger got to watch a lot of Perine. The Redskins piled up 22:17 in possession in the second half, while Swearinger and his defensive mates had to defend for just 7:43.

Last night was the second time in four days that Perine has rushed for 100 yards or more; he had 117 in New Orleans on Sunday. No Redskin has rushed for 100 yards in consecutive games since Alfred Morris did it in November of 2013.

He will have a chance to extend that streak to three on Thursday against the Cowboys, who are ranked 17th in rushing defense. That would put him in some elite company in Redskins history, including Larry Brown (twice) and Stephen Davis.  A steak of three straight 100-yard games was last done by Morris in 2012.

It may be a little early to look forward, but the Redskins record is five straight 100-yard games, held by Clinton Portis (twice) and Ladell Betts.  

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.