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With more high-priced players, draft is key for cap management

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With more high-priced players, draft is key for cap management

Draft becomes more important—manage salary cap through the draft.

The Redskins are starting to collect some players with sizeable contracts. When that happens in the NFL, collecting some quality, less expensive players to support the high-priced ones becomes more and more important.

Kirk Cousins is the latest to land a big payday, with his franchise tag designation carrying a one-year salary of $19.95 million. He joins Trent Williams (5 years, $66 million) and Ryan Kerrigan (5 years, $57.5 million) as players on the roster with contracts that average eight figures of compensation annually.

It appears that Jordan Reed will join that club or come very close to it at some point in the next year or so. Looking down the road to 2018, Preston Smith could be in line for a big deal if he continues to rack up impressive sack totals and Brandon Scherff might earn a contract in the vicinity of $7 million per year or more.

With the NFL salary cap in effect a team that has several high-priced players must have a bunch of relatively low-priced players to balance things out. The best way—in fact, the only way—to get quality players with low cap numbers on the roster is via the draft.

Under some previous Redskins regimes, a roster starting to get a little top heavy in terms of salaries would be cause for alarm. Drafts under Vinny Cerrato and Mike Shanahan were mediocre at best and if one of them was still in charge the chances of them being able to stock the team with quality, low-priced talent on a consistent basis would be very low.   

Enter Scot McCloughan and the chances of the Redskins being able to manage the salary cap through the draft increase dramatically. He came up with an excellent crop of contributors last year in Scherff, Smith, WR Jamison Crowder, and DB Kyshoen Jarrett. Others like RB Matt Jones, who showed that he has talent but also has a lot to learn, G Arie Kouandjio, who spent what amounts to a redshirt year, and LB Martrell Spaight, who spent the season on injured reserve, could start or contribute next year.

It may be asking too much for McCloughan to produce a draft class that contributes as much as his 2015 group did year after year. But if he can land a few quality players every year the team won’t have to bring in free agents like Pierre Garçon, DeSean Jackson, Chris Culliver, and Jason Hatcher. Combined, they are taking up $37.3 million in cap space this year, or 24 percent of the total available to spend. If their roles were being filled by draft picks working on their first contracts you can see that the Redskins would have plenty of room to maneuver. 

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Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

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Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 24, 18 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

The five highest-paid Redskins in 2018

Originally published 1/12/18

This is how the five highest-paid Redskins per their 2018 salary cap numbers stack up as of now. The list could change, of course during free agency and if a particular quarterback returns. Cap numbers via Over the Cap.

CB Josh Norman, $17 million—The Redskins do have a window which would allow them to move on from Norman. His $13.5 million salary for this year doesn’t become guaranteed until the fifth day of the league year so it would be “only” a $9 million cap charge to move on from Norman, who turned 30 in December. Don’t look for that to happen but the possibility is there.

OT Trent Williams, $13.86 million—He is one of the best left tackles in the business. Those of you out there who have advocated moving him to left guard should look at this cap number, which is way out of line for what a team can afford to pay a guard. At his pay, he needs to be playing on the edge.

OLB Ryan Kerrigan, $12.45 million—He has delivered double-digit sacks in each of the two seasons that his contract extension has been in effect. That’s good value in a league that values the ability to get to the quarterback.

TE Jordan Reed, $10.14 million—The Redskins knew that he might have a year like last year when he played in only six games when they agreed to Reed’s five-year, $50 million extension. They can live with one such season. If he has another one in 2018 they may rethink things.

G Brandon Scherff, $6.75 million—The fact that a rookie contract is No. 5 on this list is a good sign that, as of now, the Redskins’ cap is not top heavy like it was last year. The top three cap hits from Norman, Williams, and Kirk Cousins totaled $59 million, which was about 35 percent of the cap. This year the total cap numbers of the top three come to $43.3 million, 24.3 percent of the estimated $178 million salary cap.

Next five: OT Morgan Moses ($5.4 million), TE Vernon Davis ($5.33 million), DL Stacy McGee ($4.8 million), DL Terrell McClain ($4.75 million), S D.J. Swearinger ($4.33 million)

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.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 5
—NFL Draft (4/26) 61
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 197

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Martavis Bryant could make sense for the Redskins, at the right price

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USA TODAY Sports

Martavis Bryant could make sense for the Redskins, at the right price

A 2017 midseason trade for Martavis Bryant made no sense for the Redskins. A 2018 offseason trade for Martavis Bryant, however, might make sense for the Redskins. 

Bryant is on the trade block, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, and will be an intriguing prospect for receiver-needy teams across the NFL. In parts of three seasons with the Steelers, Bryant has 17 touchdowns and a 15.2 yards-per-reception average. 

A big play threat from any place on the field, Bryant would immediately make the Redskins receiving unit more athletic and explosive. 

It's not all good news with Bryant, though.

He was suspended for the entire 2016 season after repeated drug violations and caused some distraction for Pittsburgh during the 2017 season when he asked for a trade via social media. 

MORE: CAN YOU GUESS THESE REDSKINS BASED ON THEIR COMBINE NUMBERS?

Is the talent enough to overcome the off-field distractions? Many would say it is. 

Last year, in just eight starts, Bryant grabbed 50 catches for more than 600 yards and three TDs. In their lone playoff loss to the Jaguars, Bryant caught two passes for 78 yards and a TD. 

Remember, too, the Steelers have an explosive offense, and Bryant is coupled with Antonio Brown on the receiver front along with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback and Le'Veon Bell at running back. The Pittsburgh offense is loaded. 

Washington's offense is not nearly the prolific unit that the Steelers send out, but Jay Gruden does design a good offense. 

The real question surrounding any talk of trading for Bryant is the cost.

The Redskins are not in a position to send away any more draft picks this offseason after giving up a third-round pick, in addition to Kendall Fuller, to acquire Alex Smith. Bruce Allen and the Redskins front office need to improve their team in plenty of spots, and the team's draft picks are quite valuable. 

Bryant only has one year remaining on his rookie deal, and it's hard to balance that sort of short-term investment with the value of adding a rookie committed to the team for at least four years. Perhaps a late-round pick would make sense, but it would need to be a sixth-rounder. 

This could be one of those rare situations in the NFL where a player for player swap could work, though pulling that type of maneuver requires a lot of moving parts. 

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