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5 possible salary cap casualties for 2019 Redskins

5 possible salary cap casualties for 2019 Redskins

All discussions of the Redskins 2019 salary cap situation must be framed by the $20 million the team owes QB Alex Smith. 

If Smith was healthy, the number would be normal for a starting quarterback. In fact, as quarterback salaries skyrocket, $20 million for a healthy Smith might have been advantageous for Washington. 

But Smith isn't healthy, and his $20 million cap number is going to be a problem. 

It seems highly unlikely Smith plays in 2019, and that means the Redskins highest paid player will be a drain on the team's salary cap. To stay competitive, Bruce Allen and the Redskins front office might need to create more cap space, and that could mean cutting other expensive players. 

Who could that be? Let's take a look at five possible spots:

1. CB Josh Norman - 2019 cap number: $14.5 million: 

In 2016, Norman signed the richest-ever contract for a cornerback at five-years, $75 million. The deal included guaranteed money for the first three seasons, but in 2019, the guarantees are done.

Washington could release Norman in 2019 and save $8.5 million against the cap, but that would come with a $6 million dead money hit. In 2020, the numbers tilt more favorably in Washington's favor. The Redskins could release Norman and take a $3 million dead money hit while saving $12.5 million against the cap.

Norman forced seven turnovers in 2018, and the team could use him next year on a defense that will have to carry the load. 

2. TE Jordan Reed
2019 cap number: $9.6 million

There is no guaranteed money left on Reed's contract, and releasing him would bring a $3.6 million dead money hit against $6 million in salary cap savings. The money doesn't demand that Reed get cut, but questions about his subpar 2018 season might add to the discussion. Reed played 13 games for the first times since 2015, but managed only 558 receiving yards with just two touchdowns.

The Redskins expect more out of Reed and pay him to deliver like a top-five tight end in the NFL like he showed in 2015 and 2016.

This might not be the wise time to cut Reed, as he should be fully healthy for 2019 offseason work and could be a great option for Colt McCoy or whatever QB ends up starting for the Redskins this fall. 

3.  LB Zach Brown
2019 cap number: $8.75 million

 Last season, keeping Brown was the Redskins' biggest priority on defense. The team kept their star linebacker with a three-year, $21 million deal in free agency, but only the 2018 season carried guaranteed money. A tackling machine in 2017, Brown fell off in 2018, not getting to 100 tackles after two straight seasons hitting that number.

Part of it was playing through injury, but it also seemed like frustrations boiled up. Washington benched Brown late in the year in favor of rookie Shaun Dion Hamilton, and now Brown could be on the wrong side of the Redskins ledger.

To cut Brown would cost $3 million in dead money but would account for $5.75 million in cap savings. 

4. TE Vernon Davis
2019 cap number: $6.3 million

When the Redskins agreed to a three-year, $15 million contract with Davis in 2016, details of the deal revealed that the 2019 season would probably never happen. There is no guaranteed money due this year, and to release Davis would bring a $1 million dead money hit while saving Washington $5 million against the salary cap.

A 14-year NFL veteran, Davis has been really good for the Redskins. He's a model citizen and teammate, a relentless worker and one of the nicest guys in the locker room. For two seasons in 2016 and 2017, Davis was also quite productive on the field. He totaled more than 1,000 receiving yards in those two seasons and had more than 40 catches both years. In 2018, the numbers dropped. He grabbed just 25 passes and logged 367 receiving yards.

Davis has been great, but the dollars might not add up for him to stay in Washington. 

5. QB Alex Smith
2019 cap number: $20.4 million

This is highly improbable but worth mentioning. If the Redskins don't believe Smith will ever return to play football after the violent broken leg injury he sustained in Week 10, maybe the team elects to release Smith. It would come with a massive salary cap penalty, north of $40 million, but then the team would be out from the Smith contract and he would not hinder the organization's salary cap in the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

A move like this would be quite unconventional, but at least it would be over.

Again, this is highly unlikely. 

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Redskins’ young trio shows potential, but long after Jets game was out of hand

Redskins’ young trio shows potential, but long after Jets game was out of hand

The game was long since over when the young Redskins made their presence felt. 
 
Quarterback Dwayne Haskins and running back Derrius Guice combined for their first career touchdowns. Wide receiver Terry McLaurin had a 67-yard catch wiped out by a holding penalty, but later in the game made a spectacular play on a ball thrown 41 yards down field. 
 
That trio, for now, comprises what little hope Washington has for its immediate future. But if you chose to see their performance in the second half of a 34-17 loss to the woeful New York Jets as a small sign of progress, don’t bother. They don’t.
 
“It was okay. It wasn’t good enough,” Haskins said when asked to evaluate his play. “We didn’t win.” 
 
If Guice seemed hard on himself afterward, too, there was good reason. At halftime the Jets led 20-3. New York punched in two quick touchdowns early in the fourth quarter and it was 34-3. Nothing that came after by any player really mattered.
 
“It was embarrassing,” veteran linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said.
 
Kerrigan is 31 now. He’s seen far too many days like this in his nine years with the Redskins. Haskins was making his second career NFL start. He’s not used to losing like this. He and McLaurin went to Ohio State, not Rutgers. Guice was a star at LSU. Kerrigan knows a hard lesson that they do not: You don’t control much in the NFL.
 
It’s hard for any rookie to see a bright future when you walk off the field drubbed by a 3-7 team. Garbage time numbers don’t do much for anyone – even for top draft picks who should be the foundation going forward.   
 
“No, because it’s not just about us,” Guice said. “We’ve got to have linemen up there that’s going to block for all us. We’ve got to have all of that. It’s more than just three people.” 
 
Haskins completed nine passes in the first half for just 52 yards. He was sacked four times. There are plenty of things he needs to learn about playing quarterback at this level and pocket awareness is one of them. 
 
Guice played behind veteran Adrian Peterson in his return from a torn meniscus in his right knee during the first game of the season on Sept. 8. He carried the ball just four times for 16 yards in the first half. 
 
McLaurin barely had time to celebrate his 67-yard catch with 13:22 to go in the second quarter. Instead of setting up the Redskins with 1st-and-10 at the 12, a holding call and unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on right guard Brandon Scherff made it 1st-and-24 at the 6. It was the story of the day.
 
By the end of the afternoon the numbers didn’t look so bad. McLaurin, a 2019 third-round draft pick, had three catches for 69 yards. Guice, last year’s second-round draft pick, showed how dynamic he can be taking a screen pass 45 yards for a touchdown. For a player who missed his rookie season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee and missed eight games this season with the meniscus tear, it had to feel great. 
 
“A lot of emotions going through my head at the time,” Guice said. “But I knew I had to put it aside because we were losing. It’s not about me. It’s about the team losing that really stinks. It took the excitement out of it.” 
 
Haskins completed 19 of 35 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns. There were more big plays than in his first start, a 24-9 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 3 before the bye week. 
 
But his numbers were ugly after a drive stalled with 3:38 left in the third quarter following another sack. While the Redskins punted, Haskins gathered his offense together on the sideline and gave an impassioned speech caught by NBC television cameras. It was a fire we haven’t seen from him before.  
 
“He’s a guy that’s taking on a role and we’re all following,” Guice said. “Like I always tell him ‘It’s your offense, you’ve got to tell me where to go with protections, tell the line where to go, tell us what routes to run. That’s on you.’”
 
Added Guice: “He has to lead us and we’ve got to all follow. It’s team, it’s a team, it’s a team. We’ve got to play as a team, we’ve got to win as a team and we’ve got to lose as a team. It’s on all of us. We all made mistakes, we all made errors. We’ve got to fix it fast.” 
 
Haskins’ numbers before his outburst were 12-for-20, 95 yards. In the fourth quarter they were 7-for-15, 119 yards, two touchdowns. Encouraging? Sure. But there’s so much more work to be done for the small group that comprises this 1-9 team’s future. 
 
The veterans who have been around, who have lost more than they’ve won, know promise and potential isn’t worth much in a league with such a short shelf life. The young players aren’t going to turn this around on their own. They need to play better and they need help.   
 
“You have guys who have been in the league a long time. As a young dude with a new voice, you have to earn their trust,” Haskins said. “You have to earn that ability to ask for what you see out there. As the game went on telling them what I want and what I think would help us make plays. They started listening to me, but I have to keep earning that.”  
 

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The Redskins' secondary promised a lot yet has delivered little so far in 2019

The Redskins' secondary promised a lot yet has delivered little so far in 2019

The Redskins' secondary entered 2019 with a new position coach, a new high-priced safety, one of the most expensive cornerbacks in football, a third-year pro who was apparently poised to break out and a seventh-round draft darling who was a major offseason hero.

All of that was supposed to lead to a stingy unit that contributed on an improved defense.

All of that is looking like a mirage.

Through 10 games, the Redskins are 15th in passing yards allowed. That sounds decent, right?

Don't fall for it. Nothing about what they're doing is decent, and a huge share of the blame should go toward the secondary.

Quarterbacks are completing 71.4-percent of their passes on Washington. That's an atrocious number for the defense, and as of Sunday night, that meant they were the second-friendliest defense in the league.

The team has given up 19 passing touchdowns, meanwhile. That's good for seventh-most in the NFL. Speaking of seventh, they also are letting QBs post the seventh-best average passer rating against them.

After their disgusting Week 11 loss to the Jets, where the Burgundy and Gold let the very mediocre Sam Darnold throw for a career-high four scores, Quinton Dunbar sounded exasperated.

"It's just getting old," Dunbar said. "At some point, as a grown man in a professional football league, you've got to get it together."

The disaster began in Week 1, when DeSean Jackson exploded for eight catches, 154 yards and two touchdowns in Philly. Other established pass catchers, like Julian Edelman (eight catches, 110 yards and a TD) and Stefon Diggs (seven catches for 143 yards), have torched the Redskins as well.

Ray Horton's group hasn't just been getting lit up by the stars, though.

On Sunday, Ryan Griffin — a tight end who's had five showings with one or fewer grabs this year — hauled in five balls for 109 yards while also finding the end zone at FedEx Field. 

Looking further back, when the Bears came to Landover for Monday Night Football in Week 3, Taylor Gabriel notched three six-pointers in one half. Taylor Gabriel!

Then there was Devin Smith, a Cowboys wideout who got behind the team's defensive backs for a massive scoring strike and finished Week 2 with three receptions for 74 yards. In his 17 other NFL contests, Smith has 12 receptions to his name.

Aside from Dunbar, try to make a case that someone in the back end is having a passable season. Here's a hint: you can't.

Josh Norman has become so irrelevant, it's almost startling. Landon Collins hasn't been a difference maker at all. Fabian Moreau is looking more and more like a third-round whiff by the week. Jimmy Moreland's best moments came in OTAs and training camp. Montae Nicholson and Troy Apke have totally underwhelmed. 

Yes, not all of the struggles can be pinned on the safeties and corners. The pass rushers are failing to get home and the linebackers are losing their coverage battles as well.

Everyone lining up for Greg Manusky, plus Greg Manusky himself, has disappointed. Assignments are being blown everywhere and no one's really doing anything to stop it.

But the DBs are the ones primarily paid to communicate and cover, and when guys are constantly running so unbelievably free every single game, that means the DBs are failing.

Those failures have made 2019 a nightmare year for the Redskins' secondary. It's a nightmare that'll thankfully end after six more contests. Opposing pass catchers, of course, will hate when it's over. 

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