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Redskins go into 2017 with ample salary cap space

Redskins go into 2017 with ample salary cap space

The Redskins have several key free agents to deal with and a lot of holes to fill on both sides of the ball, particularly on defense. The good news is that they will have a substantial amount of salary cap space available to manage the situation.

How much will they have? Let’s walk through the numbers.

The Redskins currently have $113 million in 2017 cap expenditures for players under contract (cap data via www.OvertheCap.com). Add in $6.9 million in dead cap money for unaccounted for bonuses paid to Stephen Paea ($2.5 million), Chris Culliver ($2.5 million), and David Bruton ($1.7 million) and the Redskins are spending just about $120 million in 2017.

That’s the expense side of the ledger. On the available money side, the NFL salary cap for 2017 currently is estimated to be $168 million. That number could be lower, although that is unlikely. In fact, history tells us that the cap number usually ends up higher than the early estimates. But we’ll use the $168 million number for now.

RELATED: How will the Garçon-Jackson saga play out?

Before we arrive at their cap space, there is one more calculation to make. The Redskins had $15 million in cap space that they did not use in 2016. Since the 2011 CBA, teams have been allowed to roll unspent cap dollars into the next year. Add that to the $168 million cap and you get a team cap of just under $182 million (numbers may not add exactly due to rounding). Take that and subtract the $120 million in expenditures from above and you have the Redskins with $62 million in cap space.

Only six teams have more cap space than that. The Redskins, like most other teams, can create more cap space by releasing some veteran players whose contract values outstrip their values on the field. Some possibilities for the Redskins:

OL Kory Lichtensteiger has spent large chunks of the last two seasons on injured reserve. After he was activated off of IR this year he didn’t play a snap. It appears that Spencer Long is now entrenched at the center position. Lichtensteiger’s cap number is $4.05 million and there would be cap savings of $3.5 million if they release him.

DB DeAngelo Hall has been injured the last three years. His salary in the last year of his four-year contract is $4.25 million and Hall is savvy enough to know that the team isn’t going to pay that to a 33-year-old player with his injury history. Hall is willing to rework his deal to be able to stay but the team could decide to move on and save the $4.25 million in cap space.

TE Derek Carrier played in eight games and caught just two passes. It’s possible that he wasn’t fully healthy after suffering multiple ligament tears in his knee, including his ACL. His cap number is just over $1 million and the team could save all of that by letting him go.

TE Niles Paul also had just two receptions in eight games before he suffered a torn labrum that landed him on IR for the second straight year. He missed all of the 2015 season with a broken ankle. Paul is a special teams captain and one of the coaches’ favorites, but the organization will have to take a long, hard look at the $2 million in cap space they could save by moving on.

MORE REDSKINS: Fixing the offense in the red zone critical for 2017 Redskins

The Redskins could make all the above moves and save nearly $11 million, bringing their available cap space to $73 million. They could release some of those players and make other moves that will save smaller amounts of money that could add up. This is all variable and unknown at the moment. We’ll stick with a cap number of $62 million and then see what happens from there.

Out of that, the Redskins will need to find a way to pay Kirk Cousins (or another quarterback), DeSean Jackson and/or Pierre Garçon (or another wide receiver) and get help on defense, particularly on the line and at safety. If they move on from the players who could be cap casualties, they will have to be replaced.

We’ll look at the what the Redskins need to do and what they could do with their money over the next week or so. One thing is clear—with their big pile of cap space they will have plenty of options.

Related: Uncertainty surrounding Kirk Cousins impacts Redskins pursuit of free agent receivers

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10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

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10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

The Redskins report to training camp on July 24th, and for the next 10 days, JP Finlay will count down the 10 biggest questions the Redskins face going into the 2019 season.

10) Will the Redskins develop depth on the D-line?

9) Can the Redskins count on Montae Nicholson?

8) Want better offense? Get more out of the tight ends 

7) Will Jimmy Moreland actually win the slot CB job from Fabian Moreau?

6) After losing Reuben Foster, how's the Redskins LB situation?

5) Will potential match production for Redskins WRs?

When a team picks in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft, folks around the NFL expect that player to become a Pro Bowler. For Washington, that exact scenario unfolded with right guard Brandon Scherff. 

Mostly. 

Selected fifth overall in 2015, the Redskins took Scherff to play right tackle and anchor the offensive line opposite Trent Williams. That idea quickly faded, helped by the emergence of Morgan Moses, and Scherff moved inside to play guard. For four years, it's worked out great, with Pro Bowl selections in 2016 and 2017. 

Scherff is a mauler in the best sense of the word. He has great footwork and Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has called the former Iowa Hawkeye the best pulling guard in the NFL. Scherff is strong and nasty, words that won't win beauty pageants but absolutely win in the trenches of the NFL. 

Considering all of that, a contract extension for Scherff should be easy. Right?

Wrong. 

Currently in the final year of his rookie deal, multiple reports stretching over the last six weeks indicate that the organization is way off in their extension offers to Scherff. He might not command the biggest contract in the league, but he will get paid like a top three guard. In 2019, that means a lot of money.

Cowboys guard Zach Martin makes $14 million a year. Jaguars guard Andrew Norwell makes $13.3 million a year. Scherff might not get to Martin's salary, but he will probably get to Norwell, whether Washington pays it or not.

That means the Redskins need to pony up the cash now because as each day passes, the team is approaching an ugly set of options. Scherff and his representatives might continue to negotiate during the season, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. Once free agency becomes in view, players tend to wait for it. Just ask Kirk Cousins. 

In fact, the situation between Scherff and the Redskins has some resemblance to the Cousins saga from a few years ago. 

In that case, Washington low-balled their homegrown quarterback in their first set of negotiations. From there, things went sideways, and the team used consecutive franchise tags on Cousins before he finally left via free agency. 

If the Redskins can't get a deal done with Scherff, the team could use a franchise tag in 2020. But that's a dangerous game of roulette. 

The time to get a deal done with Scherff is now, if not last month. Redskins team president has said in the past that deadlines drive deals, but with Scherff, there is no exact deadline. He can decide to stop working on a contract extension at any moment, particularly once the pads come on at training camp. 

The Trent Williams holdout might be complicating things a bit, if Williams only wants more cash and the issue isn't about much more than that. The truth is a Scherff extension would actually free up cap space in the short term, as his signing bonus would be spread out over the life of the contract, and some of that salary cap relief could go to Williams right away. 

Williams' status isn't the hold up between Scherff and the Redskins. Whatever is the actual holdup best be resolved soon. or the Redskins are beginning down an all too familiar franchise path.

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Jay Gruden deserves praise for keeping Redskins 'out of the ditches'

Jay Gruden deserves praise for keeping Redskins 'out of the ditches'

On paper, Jay Gruden's tenor with the Redskins is nothing to write home about. Through five seasons he holds a 35-44-1 record, good enough for a .444 winning percentage. Looking at that, some may draw the conclusion that Gruden hasn't been what the Redskins need at the helm.

But according to Pro Football Talk's Darin Gantt, that's not exactly the case. Taking into account the variables Gruden has dealt with throughout the five years, Gantt actually sees him as a "really good" coach.

"I have always come down of the side, maybe, of guys who are doing more with less," Gantt said recently on a Redskins Talk Podcast. "I think Jay has done a pretty good job keeping things in the middle."

Doing more with less and working in the middle essentially defines Jay Gruden's career with the Redskins. Besides his opening year in 2014 in which Washington went 4-12, Gruden's teams have consistently finished right around the middle of the pack.

In the last four seasons, the Redskins have not won more than nine games, but they also haven't lost more than nine. Hovering right around .500, they've always been around league average.

Part of the reason Gantt is willing to give Gruden praise for records that some coaches would get scolded for revolves around what he's had to work with. Gruden's time as head coach has been filled with injuries and other dilemmas both on and off the field. 

In those circumstances, it wouldn't be surprising to see a team completely flounder and spiral out of control. But, that hasn't really been the case with Gruden. Dealing with what he has, the head coach has kept the team competitive for the most part. The team hasn't been a perennial playoff contender, but it also hasn't been at the bottom of the league.

For that ability to keep the Redskins out of the basement despite all the problems he's encountered, Gruden is someone Gantt respects.

"They're able to keep it out of the ditches," Gantt said about Gruden and former NFL head coach John Fox, who Gantt followed during his time in Carolina.

"I think again in the NFL there's something to be said for that," Gantt added. "When things get sideways a Jim Zorn can lose control in a hurry. I feel like Jay just got sort of a steady hand on the wheel."

Until Gruden takes Washington back to the postseason, the critiques will continue to come, as they would for almost all head coaches in similar situations. But when looking at Gruden's time in Washington with a wide view of everything that has happened, Gantt believes the head coach deserves at least a little praise for keeping things afloat.

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