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.