The first surprising Redskins cuts of the summer hit this morning when word got out that linebacker Perry Riley and defensive lineman Stephen Paea had been released. For coach Jay Gruden it was a decision that had to be made.
“It's what goes into every decision when we release anybody,” said Gruden. “It takes a lot of thought. A lot of times now when you have the depth we feel like we have it's not so much about the players we release as about the players we kept and we'll leave it at that. We've got some guys at linebacker we feel have played extremely well and we've got some guys on the defensive line we feel like are competing and playing well.”
The play of others certainly was part of the decisions to let Paea and Riley go. Although Gruden did not say it, it’s likely that money was involved as well. Releasing the two players saves a total of $7.3 million in salary. Although there is nearly $5 million in dead money that will have to be accounted for, that cash has already been spent. The bottom line is that Riley ($4 million) and Paea ($3.3 million) were making too much to be backups and that’s what thy were.
But to their teammates it’s much more than about dollars and positions on the depth chart. Riley and offensive tackle Trent Williams both came to the Redskins in the 2010 draft.
“It's tough, man, it's tough,” said Williams. “Especially with Perry. He was one of my best friends on the team, we came in together, we got drafted together, roommates together. I think the whole team was kind of blindsided by that one.”
Paea and Riley both are 28 and both are likely to get another shot at the NFL.
“Those two guys are excellent football players, I imagine they'll catch on somewhere else and do well,” said Gruden. “They have a lot of football left in their career. They're both great guys who worked hard and it was just a part of the decision process.”
Mason Foster should know. He came in after the season started last year when some linebackers started to get banged up. One of them was Riley. Foster took over the starting job when Riley went out with a broken foot. Now Foster is the starter and Riley is out of a job.
“He’s a great player, everybody knows he's a great player,” Foster said of Riley. “He'll get a chance to play someplace else.”