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Redskins' salary cap space tight but no real urgency to create more

Redskins' salary cap space tight but no real urgency to create more

After signing four veteran players in the past 10 days, including wide receiver DeSean Jackson, the Redskins’ cap space is getting tight, with just over $2.5 million left. That's less than all but three NFL teams. However, there is no particular urgency for them to do anything about it.

They released three players on Saturday but the impact on the cap was minimal due to the Rule of 51. That rule states that up until the final cuts are made in late August only the top 51 salary cap numbers on the team count towards the salary cap. This is how a team can afford to carry 90 players on the roster and still stay within cap limits.

When a player who has a cap number in the top 51 is cut, his number comes off the books and it is replaced by the player whose cap number was 52nd.

Josh Hull, Josh Bellamy, and Ryan Mouton, the three players who were released Saturday, all were on minimum salary contracts. They were replaced in the list of 51 top cap numbers by three others who also are making the minimum. So it’s pretty much a wash.

They have 71 players on the roster so they can sign 19 more to get up to the 90-man roster limit. Unless they sign anyone who is making substantially over minimum salary the cap impact will be minimal or non-existent.

Only two members of their draft class will have any immediate cap impact. The top two picks will count a total of about $500,000 against the cap. The rest will have cap numbers that will fall outside of the top 51.

So, unless another DeSean Jackson situation falls into their laps, the Redskins can roll along with their $2.5 million in cap space for the time being. They can sign their draft picks, some undrafted free agents and, if necessary, low-cost veterans to fill out their 90-man roster. When the season starts all of the 53-man roster plus players on injured reserve, the practice squad and any injury settlements paid count against the cap. They probably will need to create some more cap space by then. But they have plenty of time to evaluate and figure out the best course of action.

The Redskins have no salary cap urgency to make a move but they still need to carefully consider making a few. The offseason workout program starts tomorrow and players will report to Redskins Park to begin the conditioning phase. That marks the start of something of a danger zone for the team. If any player is seriously inured during the workouts and is out for the season the team will be on the hook for that player’s fully salary. And, once the season starts, it will count against the cap.

So if the Redskins have a higher-priced veteran player they think will have a difficult time making the team they might consider releasing him. Although the chances of someone getting seriously injured in conditioning drills are slim, weight room accidents and slips leading to torn ACLs do happen.

If they think that higher-priced veteran can help them they should keep him around. Again, there isn’t a great deal of risk here. But the lower the chances of a veteran making the 53-man roster are, the better it is to exercise an abundance of caution.

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Need to Know: How many starters are left from the Redskins' last playoff game?

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USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: How many starters are left from the Redskins' last playoff game?

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, January 19, 54 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 46
—NFL Draft (4/26) 97
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 233

Things change quickly

Two years ago today, the Redskins were in the process of picking up the pieces after their 35-18 home loss to the Packers in the wild-card round of the 2015 season playoffs. How many of the 22 players who started that game for Washington are still with the team? You may be surprised to find out just how few are likely to be with the Redskins when the season opens in September.

Offense:

WR DeSean Jackson—Signed with the Bucs as a free agent last year.
WR Pierre Garçon—Signed with 49ers as a free agent last year.
WR Jamison Crowder—Still with the Redskins
TE Jordan Reed—Still with the Redskins
LT Trent Williams—Still with the Redskins
LG Spencer Long—Set to be an unrestricted free agent
C Kory Lichtensteiger—Retired following the 2016 season
RG Brandon Scherff—Still with the Redskins
RT Morgan Moses—Still with the Redskins
RB Alfred Morris—Signed with the Cowboys as a free agent in 2016
QB Kirk Cousins—Set to be a UFA, you know the story here

Of the 11 offensive starters, five are still with the team, one has retired, three are employed by other teams, and two are headed into free agency. The chances of either Long or Cousins returning currently hover under 50 percent, although things can change.

Defense:

DE Chris Baker—Signed with the Bucs as a free agent last year.
DE Jason Hatcher—Retired following the 2015 season
NT Terrance Knighton—Signed with the Patriots following the 2015 season but was cut and he hasn’t played and subsequently retired
ILB Will Compton—Set to be an unrestricted free agent
ILB Mason Foster—Set to be an unrestricted free agent
OLB Ryan Kerrigan—Still with the Redskins
OLB Trent Murphy—Spent 2017 in injured reserve, set to be an unrestricted free agent
CB Bashaud Breeland—Set to be an unrestricted free agent
CB Will Blackmon—Released last September, currently unsigned
S DeAngelo Hall—Set to be an unrestricted free agent, likely to retire
S Dashon Goldson—Released after 2015 season, currently unsigned

Only one starter, Ryan Kerrigan, is under contract for 2018. Of the free agents, Breeland is likely to depart and things are up in the air regarding Foster, Compton, and Murphy.

To sum it up, out of 22 starters in that game played 740 days ago, only six are certain to be with the team in 2018 while nine have either signed elsewhere, spent 2017 out of football, or have retired (10 if you count Hall).

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.

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Looking at cheap, reasonable and expensive wide receiver scenarios for Redskins

Looking at cheap, reasonable and expensive wide receiver scenarios for Redskins

Most NFL teams usually carry at least six wide receivers, but going into the 2018 season, only Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, Maurice Harris and Robert Davis hold signed contracts with the Redskins.

That means Washington must consider adding receiver help via free agency, especially considering Harris and Davis rarely played in 2017. Terrelle Pryor and Ryan Grant both played with the Burgundy and Gold in 2017, and while Grant has a solid chance to return, it would seem Pryor will head elsewhere after a disappointing season in D.C. 

Like every year, a number of receivers will be available via free agency, but what guys make sense for Jay Gruden's team? Let's take a look at three different scenarios, knowing Washington likely needs to add at least one free agent wideout. 

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  • Expensive: Jags WR Allen Robinson - A second-round pick in 2014, Robinson posted a 1,400-yard season in 2015 and has shown the ability to be a true No. 1 wideout in the NFL. He's 6-foot-3 with speed and leaping ability. In 2016, his numbers dipped to less than 900 yards receiving, but that season the Jacksonville QB Blake Bortles struggled significantly. Here's the thing: Robinson blew out his knee in the NFL opener in 2017, and that might make his price tag drop a bit. Word is the former Penn State star should be fully cleared by early March from the injury, and just 24 years old, he will be intriguing. Washington showed they would spend for a wideout in 2017 with the Pryor signing, but they did so on a one-year deal. If Robinson finds the free agent market not as robust as he wants, maybe a similar short-term deal could be reached?
  • Reasonable: Colts WR Donte Moncrief - A third-round pick in 2014, Moncrief also had a big sophomore season in 2015. He grabbed 64 catches for 733 yards and six touchdowns. That was his only full 16-game season, as injuries have continued to be an issue for the 6-foot-2, 220 lbs. wideout out of Ole Miss. In 2016, only playing in nine games, he still contributed with seven touchdowns. In 2017, his numbers slipped big-time, and he posted less than 400 yards receiving in 12 games. Moncrief's problem isn't talent, it's health. That means he could be relatively cheap, and at just 24 years old, that contract might bring a strong return. 
  • Wild Card: Jets WR Eric Decker -  The Redskins have lacked a true veteran wideout since DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon left the team following the 2016 season. Decker will turn 31 in March and would give Washington a different presence in the WR meeting room. He posted two 1,000 yard seasons playing with Peyton Manning in Denver and went to the Super Bowl in 2013. In 2015, while teamed up with Ryan Fitzpatrick playing for the Jets, Decker again hit the 1,000-yard mark and hit the end zone 12 times. Throughout his career, Decker has been a solid red zone threat and has shown the ability to win on tough routes. He will need to take a big pay cut from the $4.5 million, one-year deal he signed in Tennessee in 2017, but that has to be expected considering his paltry production. In 16 games with the Titans, Decker logged 563 yards and only one TD. Decker might make sense, though the cost would need to be low. 

There are plenty of other names to watch, guys like Seattle's Paul Richardson or Buffalo's Jordan Matthews. Free agency opens in mid-March, and some connections between the Redskins and wideouts will start prior to that.

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