Redskins fans can blame departed defensive coordinator Joe Barry all they want for the team's disappointing 2016 finish, but looking where the team spent money in 2016, it becomes obvious that Washington did not invest enough in their defense.
How little did the 'Skins spend on defense in 2016?
At a little more than $36 million, Scot McCloughan's team ranked 31st out of 32 NFL teams in defensive spending, only ahead of the New Orleans Saints. Considering how little money was spent, one could argue Barry's unit actually outperformed expectations, as the team finished 19th in points allowed per game.
Conversely, the team spent more than $78 million on the offensive side of the ball.
Look again, the Redskins spent more than double on offense than they did on defense, and that's with the free agent addition of Josh Norman.
Remember, Norman did not become available until very late in free agency, so if the squad had not signed him, their defensive spending would be far and away the lowest in the league.
Drawing a conclusion from the data is not as simple as assigning blame.
McCloughan made clear he would not spend recklessly in free agency, instead wanting to build the core of the team through the draft. By and large, he's stuck to that, enough so that the 'Skins actually finished the 2016 season $15.6 million under the cap.
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McCloughan also has nine draft picks at his disposal this year. Expect many of those selections to go towards rebuilding the Burgundy and Gold defense. Improving the defense, however, cannot stop at the draft.
Washington must spend some money on that side of the ball this offseason.
That does not mean the team needs to go after the biggest names on the market, whether that's Eric Berry or Dontari Poe, but they also cannot only shop from the bargain rack either. Mid-tier free agents and perhaps one or two larger contracts must be in play for the Washington defense this season, or it won't matter what coordinator comes in to run the unit.
Dropping dead cap money will be a big help for Washington this offseason. Last year, the Redskins had more than $16 million in dead money on their books. In 2017, that figure drops just below $7 million, with a $4.5 million chunk removed after finishing Jason Hatcher's 2016 contract.
It's also worth pointing out that defensive spending is not an automatic entry in the playoffs. The Falcons took the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs and hardly outspent the Redskins. That said, of the seven clubs that spent the most on defense, four made the playoffs.
The Redskins should have well north of $60 million under the salary cap available to spend this offseason. A good portion of that will be used up if the team agrees to a new deal with Kirk Cousins. A long-term deal would spread the cash out over the years of the contract, though if Cousins signs another franchise tag, that's an instant $24 million gone from the possible cap spending.
Even with a Cousins deal, Washington will have money to spend.
The team cannot only look to shore up its defense, but it must be the offseason priority.
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Ed. Note: Salary Cap data provided by Spotrac.com.
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