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Need to Know: Washington Redskins' cap space dwindling but they have some options

Need to Know: Washington Redskins' cap space dwindling but they have some options

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, March 12, 37 days before Washington Redskins start offseason workouts on April 17.  

Timeline

Days until:

—NFL Draft (4/27) 46
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 73
—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 125
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 182

Redskins’ cap space dwindling but more can be created

The Redskins have not gone after any big names in the opening few days of free agency but they are getting a little low on cap space.

The biggest chunk of cap space was consumed by Kirk Cousins’ $23.9 million franchise tag. That counted against the cap from the moment it was applied. When Cousins signed it on Friday it became fully guaranteed.

The Redskins have signed five unrestricted free agents including one of their own in Vernon Davis. They also tendered two restricted free agents. Will Compton got the low tender while Chris Thompson got a tender that would trigger a second-round pick as compensation if the Redskins chose not to match an offer sheet.

Here are the 2017 cap charges of those free agents:

Terrelle Pryor $6 million
Terrell McClain $3.7 million
Vernon Davis $3.3 million
D.J. Swearinger $3.3 million
Stacy McGee $3.2 million
Chris Thompson $2.7 million
Will Compton $1.8 million

This leaves the Redskins with $14.3 million in cap space. They probably need to set aside $5 million to sign a defensive lineman such as Bennie Logan, who visited yesterday. A team wants to plan on have around $5 million in cap space going into the season to cover players on injured reserve and practice squad salaries. The also will need about $2 million to sign their draft picks (for guidance on how they will be able to sign about 10 players with $2 million in net cap space see this from last year) That leaves them with about $2.3 million to work with.

If they want some additional flexibility they do have options. If they sign another defensive lineman they would have to look hard at the $3 million they could save by moving on from Ricky Jean Francois. It seems that regardless of any other moves they will either release safety DeAngelo Hall, saving $4.25 million or negotiate a reduction in his $4.25 million salary.

There has been talk of moving on from guard Shawn Lauvao, a move that would save $4 million. But the organization may be hesitant to do that until they have a solid replacement for him. He may or may not be around in Week 1 but if they move on from it it likely will be during OTAs at the earliest and perhaps during training camp. 

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 5.0

The biggest chunk of savings could come from changing Cousins’ franchise tag into a long-term deal. The prospects for being able to strike a deal are very uncertain but if they do manage to get one done a contract possibility outlined here would reduce Cousins’ cap hit to $15 million, creating $9 million in cap space.

The Redskins don’t like to restructure contracts, deals that give players with large salaries some or all their money up front, converting their salaries to signing bonuses, and pushing some of the cap charges into future seasons.

For example, they could restructure Trent Williams’ deal and cut him a check for most of his $11.25 million salary and convert it to signing bonus. That would save them about $8 million but it would increase his cap number by about $2.5 million in each of the three remaining years of his contract. Again, they don’t like to do it but it is a tool that is available to them should an emergency or opportunity arise.

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Watching Dwayne Haskins and Case Keenum, one quarterback definitely stands out

Watching Dwayne Haskins and Case Keenum, one quarterback definitely stands out

The Redskins might be just in the beginning of a quarterback battle, but at Monday's OTA session, it seemed pretty clear which player would eventually win. 

Dwayne Haskins made a number of impressive throws while he was on the field, and while Case Keenum had his share of good passes too, the rookie shined. Even on the surface: Haskins looks the part of a franchise quarterback, standing 6-foot-3 and 230 lbs. Keenum is listed at 6-foot-1 and 215 lbs, but that seems fairly generous. 

When Haskins throws the ball, it zips through the air. He can go deep and has touch on his underneath routes. Keenum gets the ball where it needs to be, but there's a difference in velocity. 

Let's be crystal clear, however, that one OTA session in May will not determine the starting quarterback job. While Keenum and Haskins are both learning the Redskins offense, Keenum has proved he can stand in the pocket of an NFL game and make plays. Haskins has never seen the size or speed of NFL defensive linemen. 

"It’s a long process and I think they both handled it well today," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "Hopefully we’ll do better tomorrow and the next day and so on and so forth and I’m sure it will be a good, lengthy competition with some great players going at it."

A few, unexpected things stood out with Haskins.

Though he has a long windup on his throws, the ball gets out plenty fast. He also seemed quicker in the pocket than some of his NFL Scouting Combine numbers would suggest. Haskins certainly isn't fast, but he's not a plodder either. That said, Keenum does seem to have the advantage in squirting through the line of scrimmage and keeping plays alive. That's something Gruden really likes in his passers.

Both of the QBs seemed comfortable with their role in the competition. 

"It’s normal. I compete every day whether I’m playing football, playing ping pong, playing golf, I’m competing. I’m competing against myself. I’m competing against the defense. In the quarterback room, we’re always competing," Keenum said. "Competition makes you better and that’s what the spring is about."

Haskins sounded very tactful in his responses; respectful of the veterans already on the team in Keenum and Colt McCoy, yet also eager to get more work.

"I want to be with the best, be around the best, and compete with the best. All season I’ll be around working out with the best quarterbacks on my team," the rookie said. 

Planned or not, Haskins also seemed modest in his goals for the OTA session. 

"I didn’t have any expectations for today, I just wanted to execute. The biggest thing for me was going to play right in the huddle."

That stands out in stark contrast to the Redskins last first-round rookie passer, Robert Griffin III. Expectations for RG3 were out of control, almost immediately, and while parts of his rookie season actually lived up to the hype, that situation was not healthy or sustainable. It's smart for Haskins to set reasonable goals at this stage of his career. Calling plays correctly in the huddle will get him on the field more, and that will give him more chances to make big plays.

It's a learning process, and at OTAs, Haskins showed a willingness to start on the ground floor. In a world of egos and branding, that's a sage move. 

While McCoy was not present on the field at OTAs, he is in Ashburn. He will be a part of this competition, but he needs to get healthy soon. Gruden didn't provide much of an update when asked about McCoy, though the coach did say the quarterback should be back on the field for training camp.

McCoy knows the Redskins offense backward and forward, but without him on the field, Keenum and Haskins are learning the Redskins plays at the same time. And that means while Gruden is looking at a rookie and a veteran, neither player has much of a leg up on his playbook. 

"I think we have to grade them based on production out here every day. Every day is a new grade, every day you see how they’re developing, see how they’re getting better, see if they’re making the same mistakes over and over. But it’s a process, this is the first time Dwyane has had a chance to call plays in a live huddle and go after a live defense and this is the first time Case has had a chance to do that with the Redskins terminology. So, we don’t expect perfection on the day one, but we do expect the guys to know what they’re doing when we go out to the practice field, execute and then continue to get better each and every day."

Get better each day. Compete. That's the cornerstone of success in the NFL, and for the Redskins, how QB1 will find his spot.

"Somebody is going to rise I would think," the coach said. "The cream always rises to the top and we’re hoping that’s the case.”

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Reuben Foster believed to be lost for 2019 with major knee, leg injury, per source

Reuben Foster believed to be lost for 2019 with major knee, leg injury, per source

Redskins officials fear that linebacker Reuben Foster has torn the ACL in his left knee, sources tell NBC Sports Washington.

Additionally, there is concern about a more significant injury that could include the artery in his left leg, sources said. 

Foster went down on his first snap in a non-contact drill during OTAs on Monday after stepping on the leg of guard Tyler Catalina. Immediately, Foster fell to the ground, and it was obvious he was in intense pain. He was audibly screaming and crying while writhing in pain on the field. 

Moments later, the Redskins medical staff rushed out to Foster, and within a matter of minutes, his leg was placed into a stabilizing device. He was then helped onto a cart and wheeled off the practice field. 

After practice, Jay Gruden said the team was unsure of Foster's prognosis but did say, "I’m just very disappointed in what happened in his first rep as a Redskin. He runs through the gap and gets injured."

The Redskins took a major public relations hit by signing Foster last fall, and the team's belief was that his play on the field would be worth the controversy that enveloped his signing. Foster won't be playing in 2019, but remains under contract for 2020, and Washington will have the option to keep him in 2021. 

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