The Redskins will be rolling out the red carpet in Ashburn for free agent cornerback Josh Norman today. But can they put enough green at the end of the carpet to entice Norman to stay around and sign a contract?
There is no doubt that team cap guru Eric Schaffer has been putting in some long hours since Wednesday evening, when the Panthers rescinded the franchise tag on the All-Pro cornerback. As of now, the Redskins have about $11.6 million in cap space. That is a decent amount of space for this time of year. However, Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that Norman’s contract will be for somewhere between $14 and $15 million per year over five years.
How can the Redskins fit a $14 million per year contract into $11.6 million of cap space? Let’s look at some of the options Schaffer and Scot McCloughan will have at their disposal.
Before we get started, the first thing we have to do is subtract about $3 million from the cap. That is about the net cost of signing their 2016 draft class. So we need to look at more like $8.5 million in cap space that is actually available.
So how do the Redskins fit a Norman deal into that amount of cap space? There are a lot of ways that Schaffer can structure the deal to minimize the first-year cap hit. One way they could do it would be to give him a relatively low first-year salary of $1 million plus a $15 million signing bonus. Over the course of a five-year deal the signing bonus would count $3 million in cap charges per year. So you have a first-year cap charge of $4 million.
Norman would want more than that in guaranteed money but that could be accomplished with something like a fully guaranteed $7 million 2017 roster bonus and by making $3 million of his 2017 salary fully guaranteed.
There are other ways to get Norman the money that a free agent All-Pro player in a premium position like cornerback should get. The key is that as of right now the Redskins have a lot of 2017 cap space, about $50 million worth. They will do what they can to move cap charges from Norman’s contract to next year.
Even if the Redskins squeeze a Norman contract into a relatively tight spot this year they likely will get to work on creating some additional space for this year. They need some to pay players who land on injured reserve, to pay their practice squad and possibly to sign tight end Jordan Reed to a contract extension so they don’t have to face the possibility of him becoming a free agent in 2017.
As far as players who could be cut to create cap space, it seems to be only a matter of time until they release WR Andre Roberts, a move that would save $3 million or $4 million if they make him a post-June 1 cut. Prior to Norman becoming available the Redskins seemed to be inclined to hang on to ILB Perry Riley, who likely will be a backup with a cap hit of over $5 million. Should they decide that Riley is a luxury they can’t afford, releasing him would save $4 million.
Some have speculated that CB Chris Culliver could be on the way out, a move that would save $5.5 million against the cap. However, Culliver is rehabbing a torn ACL that he suffered last November, a situation that complicates releasing him. And the idea of bringing Norman in would be to strengthen the secondary, not just swap out players. If Culliver is healthy by the time to season starts the Redskins could have a formidable trio of cornerbacks with him, Norman, and Bashaud Breeland.
Again, there are a lot of different ways to get it done. The important thing to remember now is that their substantial amount of 2017 cap space gives them the flexibility they need to make it happen if they want to.