It is important for wide receivers to get separation.But for most of the past month none of the five players chasing after the remaining wide receiver jobs with Redskins has been able to gain any separation from the pack.That is, until last Saturday.Since the spring, the identities of the top four wide receivers have been known. They gave Pierre Garon and Josh Morgan big contracts. They have been waiting to see Leonard Hankerson reach his potential since his season ended prematurely with a hip injury last year. And if there were any doubts about the 33-year-old Santana Moss, long the teams leading receiver, he put them to bed by showing up 15 pounds lighter and catching everything in sight.Most figure that the Redskins will carry six wide receivers this season. The number is not set in stone; last year they had seven wideouts on the roster for most of the year plus return specialist Brandon Banks. But they could do that in part because they only carried two quarterbacks and it seems nearly certain that both Kirk Cousins and Rex Grossman will back up starter Robert Griffin III.If we go with six wide receiver roster spots there are two up for grabs. And through training camp and the first preseason game, none of the five realistic candidates for those two spotsBanks, Anthony Armstrong, Aldrick Robinson, Terrence Austin, and Dezmon Briscoeperformed well enough to put in a legitimate claim on one of the two jobs. They all had enough good moments to stay in the conversation but enough negative plays on film to keep the competition wide open.That changed on Saturday night in Chicago. Robinson caught six passes for 104 yards and touchdown. Briscoe had 51 yards on three receptions including a nice grab at the goal line for a touchdown. And Banks didnt see any action at receiver but he helped himself with a 91-yard punt return.Meanwhile, Austin caught just one pass for 11 yards and Armstrong, still ailing from a shoulder in jury that kept him out of the first preseason game, played very little.Robinson seems to have helped himself the most of all, at least in the eyes of Mike Shanahan. On Monday and again on Tuesday the coach raved about his touchdown catch and run, which came on a deflected pass.It looks like Robinson took a giant step towards earning a roster spot and Briscoe and Banks helped their cases a great deal. And it looks like Armstrong and Austin are on the outside looking in. Nothing, however, is set in stone. Armstrong should get more playing time against the Colts and over the past two years Austin has had a knack for coming through with a good performance just when he needed it most.The competition will continue through practice next week and the preseason finale against the Bucs. Making the final decision here will have the coaches up late into the night.
Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 26, 17 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.
Note: I am vacationing in the Outer Banks this week. In this space, I’ll be presenting some of the most popular posts of the last few months. I hope you enjoy these “best of” presentations and I’ll see you folks when I get back.
Contract makes Alex Smith a Redskins for at least three seasons
This post was originally published on March 19.
When the Redskins traded for Alex Smith on January 30, news also broke that he had agreed to a four-year extension with Washington in addition to the one year left on his contract with the Chiefs. While we got some top-line numbers on the deal, we have gone since then without any details.
The details show a deal that has a slightly higher cap hit in 2018 than was on his original Chiefs contract and the numbers rise gradually over the life of the deal, which runs through 2022.
Smith got a $27 million signing bonus and his salaries for 2018 ($13 million) and 2019 ($15 million) also are fully guaranteed at signing making the total $55 million (information via Over the Cap, which got data from a report by Albert Breer).
But there I another $16 million that is guaranteed for all practical purposes. On the fifth day of the 2019 league year, his 2020 salary of $16 million becomes fully guaranteed. He almost assuredly will get to the point where that money will become guaranteed since the Redskins are not going to cut him after one year having invested $55 million in him. So the total guarantees come to $71 million.
His 2021 salary is $19 million and it goes up to $21 million in 2022. There have been reports of some incentives available to Smith but since we have no details we’ll set those aside for now.
The cap hits on the contract are as follows:
2018: $18.4 million
2019: $20.0 million
2020: $21.4 million
2021: $24.4 million
2022: $26.4 million
The Redskins can realistically move on from Smith after 2020. There would be net cap savings of $13 million in 2021 and $21 million in 2022.
The first impression of the deal is that the Redskins did not move on from Kirk Cousins because they didn’t want to guarantee a lot of money to a quarterback. The total practical guarantee of $71 million is second only to Cousins’ $82.5 million. It should be noted that Cousins’ deal runs for three years and Smith’s contract is for five.
More than 100 days remain before the Redskins take the field in meaningful NFL action.
Any and all excitement needs to be tempered, significantly, because what happens on a practice field in May without pads does not represent what will happen in September, October and beyond.
Still, the Redskins group that took the field this week for OTAs showed promise.
New quarterback Alex Smith looked crisp, connecting with a variety of wideouts and commanding the huddle. New wideout Paul Richardson made the best play of the session when he streaked down the field past rookie cornerback Greg Stroman and hauled in a deep pass from Smith. The play showed Smith's ability to identify open receivers downfield, as well as Richardson's ability to go up and grab a contested catch. Even Stroman, the seventh-round rookie, positioned himself well, he just fell victim to a perfect pass and tremendous athleticism.
That was only one play in a two-hour session. Again, don't take too much from May, when players don't wear pads or engage in any of the violence that the NFL is predicated upon. But the OTAs do serve a purpose, both for players and coaches, and there were nuggets to absorb and try to project for the fall. Here they are:
- Jay Gruden made clear he's not concerned about the health of his offensive line. Trent Williams and Morgan Moses are recuperating from offseason surgery, but Gruden believes both are on track for when things start to matter. It's a good thing the coach isn't concerned because this was the 'Skins line in OTAs (left to right): Geron Christian, Shawn Lauvao, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, John Kling. Should that lineup take the field this fall, there will be trouble.
- The Redskins lost Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland this offseason, and the secondary depth will be something to watch throughout training camp. At OTAs, newly signed veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick lined up opposite Josh Norman in the team's base 3-4 defense. In nickel and dime coverage, Quinton Dunbar lined up opposite Norman and Scandrick moved to the slot. As things progress, it will be interesting to see if Dunbar surpasses Scandrick in base coverage, and what becomes of 2017 third-round pick Fabian Moreau. Stay tuned.
- Rookie running back Derrius Guice looked every part of the first-round talent many judged him to be before draft season rumors caused him to slide to the late second round. Guice cuts with authority and is able to see holes before they form and patiently wait to hit the open space. Guice also looked fine in pass-catching drills, one area that was a question coming out of LSU (but that says more about LSU's prehistoric offense). Watching the Redskins offense work, it seems clear Guice will be the heaviest used runner this fall.
- That said, don't count out Robert Kelley. He looks leaner and plenty quick, showing a few impressive runs during the session. Byron Marshall also looked good, and Gruden pointed out his success in his post-OTA press conference. The running back group will have plenty of competition all the way through Richmond.
- Jonathan Allen has switched jersey numbers from 95 to 93. Rookie Daron Payne is now wearing 95. Payne and Allen both went to Alabama, both are huge, and both play defensive line. The number switch will take some getting used to.
- Zach Brown missed the OTA session as he was moving, and interestingly in his spot with the starting defense was Josh Harvey-Clemons. The second-year pro out of Louisville showed impressive speed in coverage, and remember he played safety in college and performed quite well. He has ball skills and great size to be a coverage linebacker. Some were surprised when the Redskins kept JHC last season at the cut to 53, but his development appears to be paying off for the organization.
- Another linebacker that made a play was Zach Vigil. He impressed for the Redskins late last season and was running the Washington second-team defensive huddle. At one point, Vigil broke through the line of scrimmage and blew up a run play. That prompted D.J. Swearinger to yell from the sideline, "OK Zach. OK ZACH!"
- Speaking of Swearinger, the Redskins defensive captain seemed in midseason form when it comes to yelling encouragement on the field. Nobody hypes up the defense like Swearinger, particularly when the secondary makes a big play. On one pass Dunbar made a nice diving play to break up a pass, and Swearinger and Josh Norman got very fired up, shouting and jumping around. The entire defense responded. Little stuff like that helps disrupt the monotony of offseason work.
- Jamison Crowder looks jacked and quick. The end.
MORE REDSKINS NEWS:
- 53-man roster: Player one-liners, offense, defense
- Tandler’s Take: Best- and worst-case scenarios for 2018
- OTA Report: Alex Smith looks sharp
- Dead Money: Trades and misses hurt future plans
- Free Agents: Five important questions
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