Redskins

Redskins

Some corners of Redskins Park felt vindicated when domestic violence charges from a November incident in Florida got dropped against Reuben Foster.

Following that incident, his second of 2018, the 49ers quickly released Foster, a 2017 first-round pick. The Redskins immediately claimed Foster off waivers, the only NFL team to put a claim in on the talented but troubled linebacker. He also served a drug-related suspension last year to open the season. 

Looking ahead to 2019, things might look different for Foster. The NFL seems likely to suspend him, but at some point, barring more trouble, Foster should take the field for Washington. 

When, or if, that happens, the Redskins should have quite an asset on their hands. 

Foster was a playmaker in college at the University of Alabama, and looked like a potential star as a rookie. He logged more than 70 tackles in 10 games and has tremendous lateral speed and hitting power. It's important to note that in two seasons in San Francisco, he also dealt with injuries. 

How does he fit in with the Redskins?

Much will depend on what happens with Zach Brown.

After consecutive seasons with more than 125 tackles in 2016 and 2017, Brown's numbers dipped in 2018. He also got benched late in the year for rookie Shaun Dion Hamilton.

Brown, scheduled to make nearly $9 million next season, said late in the Redskins 2018 campaign that he sees "the writing on the wall" about his future with the organization. If he was released, the 'Skins would save nearly $6 million against the salary cap.  

 

Even considering all that, the Redskins would be wise to consider the full scenario in play. 

Foster seems likely to get at least a four-game suspension in 2019, and six games might be the punishment. That also assumes he is able to avoid other trouble. 

Since he left college, Foster got thrown out of the NFL Scouting Combine for an incident with a hospital worker, failed a drug test, and has twice been arrested for domestic violence. Neither charge stuck and there are lots of questions surrounding both arrests, but still, that's a lot of off-field incidents in less than two years. 

Brown has missed practice time with undisclosed "illnesses" but nothing that compares to Foster's resume. 

And whatever happened to Brown in 2018 did seem an outlier season.

In 2017, he was the Redskins best defensive player. In 2018, he seemed out of sync and lost in coverage. First, he came off the field on third downs. Later, he got benched for Hamilton. 

Brown explained that he played through a torn oblique for much of the 2018 season, an injury that happened in training camp, and probably should have taken the time to rehab that injury instead of pushing ahead. That might explain much of the tackling dropoff. Keep in mind too that Pro Football Focus rated Brown among the top linebackers in the NFL, and the best defender on the Redskins roster. 

Still, his salary might be too high for a Redskins team that needs cap relief. Every financial decision this offseason will be framed by the $20 million committed to QB Alex Smith, who seems highly unlikely to play next season after suffering a horrific leg injury in November. 

Of course, there are other linebackers in the equation.

Mason Foster carries a $2.25 million salary for next season, a much more manageable figure for a veteran LB and locker room leader, but Foster doesn't have the speed or athleticism of Brown. Josh Harvey-Clemons rounds out the current group, and Washington could certainly add more in the draft. 

Looking ahead to the fall, seeing Hamilton and Reuben Foster on the field seems like a very real possibility.

Hamilton can make the defensive play calls, and Foster can make the athletic plays. The two did that well in college at Alabama.

But that probably won't happen the first month of the season, at least.

Washington's margin for wins in 2018 was narrow. The team needed to play great defense. In 2019, that margin looks even slimmer, particularly with the questions at quarterback. 

For a team with thin margins to wins, does cutting Brown really make sense? Especially if Foster gets suspended?

There will be competing interests.

When the Redskins decided to claim Reuben Foster, the team knew there would be a massive public relations backlash. It happened. From a football and salary cap perspective, however, signing Foster was a bold and smart strategic move.

 

The point is there are often multiple angles to look at one decision.

Cutting Brown would be a smart move for the cap. It might even be welcomed by some around the organization.

But from a straight football perspective, it's rarely wise to get rid of good players, regardless of the circumstances. The Redskins already did that when they released DJ Swearinger before the final game of the 2018 season. 

Can they afford to do it again?

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