In less than a year, the Redskins completed a stunning turnaround, ascending from a laughingstock in 2014 to a division champion in 2015. But now comes the difficult part: taking that all-important next step and improving from a franchise that was fortunate to get into the playoffs to one that can do some damage once it gets there. And that work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players.
In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine the 25 biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.
Who are surprise candidates to be cut for salary cap reasons?
Tandler: At this point I don’t think that anyone will be surprised when the inevitable happens and the Redskins move on from Robert Griffin III and his $16.1 million 2016 salary. So we can safely eliminate him from the discussion here.
And nobody will be shocked if DE Jason Hatcher and WR Andre Roberts depart for cap reasons as well. But who else might go?
Looking at the remaining players who have high cap numbers without productivity on the field to match, my eye immediately goes to safety Dashon Goldson. His cap number is $8 million, the eighth-highest on the team and the sixth-highest among NFL safeties.
For their $8 million the Redskins will get a player who is a stand-up leader and one who sets a great example in the locker room. But they won’t be getting a player who performed very well in 2015. He missed 32 tackles. Pro Football Focus ranked him 60th out of the 60 safeties who played at least 50 percent of their teams’ snaps.
Given that the Redskins don’t have a lot of depth at safety and that they do value Goldson’s leadership, they might try to negotiate a pay cut for the veteran, who will turn 32 during Week 2 of the coming season. But that can be problematic and you can’t rule out the possibility that they can’t come to an agreement and Goldson and the team have, as they like to say these days, a parting of ways.
El-Bashir: Can’t argue with anything Tandler said above. I'm also curious about the futures of wide receivers Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, who are due to count $10.2 million and $9.25 million against the cap, respectively, and center Kory Lichtensteiger, who is due just over $4 million.
But for the purpose of today's discussion, I'd like to highlight a couple of defensive players who stood out to me: linebacker Perry Riley and cornerback Chris Culliver.
Let’s start with Riley’s situation, which is a complicated one. He got off to a slow start in 2015 and even saw Will Compton take a lot of his playing time at New England in Week 9. However, in the three games that followed, Riley, 27, responded by playing his best football of the season. Then he suffered a broken foot in practice and did not play in the final five regular season games and the playoff game.
Riley’s cap hit in 2016 is $5,049,804—that’s the 10th highest on the team—and the Redskins could save $4 million by cutting him.
Here’s the question: Do the coaches envision Riley as a starter next season? Or are they okay with Compton and Mason Foster, who performed well down the stretch and figure to cost significantly less?
Culliver, meantime, is attempting to bounce back from a torn ACL that he suffered during a practice in late November. His health, however, isn't the only thing creating uncertainty about his future in Washington. According to The Washington Times, the four-year $32 million contract Culliver signed last offseason to be the Redskins’ No. 1 corner contained a clause that voided the $8 million he’s guaranteed next season...if he got suspended in '15. And, of course, Culliver was suspended in Week 2 for an off-the-field incident that occurred when he was a 49er.
Culliver is due to count $9.25 million against the cap next season—that’s the fifth highest hit on the team—but the Redskins can walk away with only a $3.75 million charge to their cap. And with another significant knee injury creating questions about his availability, it certainly makes you wonder.
25 Questions series
- Wednesday: Is McCoy the answer at backup QB for the Redskins?
- Thursday: Should the Redskins try to keep Alfred Morris?
- Yesterday: Should the Redskins cut Andre Roberts?
- Today: Will there be a surprise cap casualty?
- Tomorrow: Will DeAngelo Hall return?