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.