The good news for the 2016 Redskins was that they didn’t collapse after winning the division the previous season as has been their pattern in the past. The bad news was that they didn’t take the next step and improve from a franchise that can compete to make the playoffs into one that is playing multiple postseason games year in and year out. That work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players.
In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will examine the biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.
More offseason questions: What are resonable expectations for Josh Doctson?
Will the Redskins have a surprise salary cap cut?
Finlay: The answer to this question is almost always yes. 2017 could be a bit different since the Redskins are so far under the salary cap, but after the draft and free agency, it's safe to expect one at least mild surprise by the time the team gets to Richmond.
Last season, Perry Riley and Stephen Paea took the salary cap cut. One obvious example of a potential salary cap casualty would be DeAngelo Hall, who is set to make $5 million in 2017. The team could save $4 million if Hall is gone, but the veteran already acknowledged he is willing to rework his deal considering his lengthy recent run of injuries. If Washington can change the terms of Hall's contract, an outright cap cut could be avoided.
Elsewhere on the roster some will wonder about left guard Shawn Lauvao's future with the 'Skins. Lauvao dealt with injuries in 2016, and even healthy, didn't always play up to expectations. Lauvao's deal looks similar to Hall's in 2017; he's slated to make $5 million, though if released the team would save the team $4 million under the cap.
The problem with trying to identify a surprise cap cut is that the Redskins don’t have many players with high cap numbers. When you look at the list of the biggest cap hits and through the top players, guys who aren’t going anywhere like Josh Norman, Trent Williams, and Brandon Scherff, you get to the names that JP mentioned like Hall and Lauvao. On a team with over $60 million in cap space and a cap in the neighborhood of $170 million any other cuts would save relatively little money.
But a few million bucks is a few million bucks and if you can replace a higher-priced veteran with a minimum wage rookie you have to think about it. If I’m Ricky Jean Francois I’m keeping an eye on free agency and the draft. If they sign one or two free agent linemen and draft one or two more the team could look to save $3 million by moving on from him. Francois is a great locker room presence but at age 30 he could be replaced by someone younger and cheaper.
I also think we may have seen the last of Niles Paul in a Redskins uniform. He ended each of the last two seasons on injured reserve and they may choose to move on from him rather than paying his $2 million combined salary and roster bonus.
Don’t look for the Redskins to be in any hurry to make cuts. With players like Lauvao and Francois they could wait until OTAs or even training camp to make sure they have solid alternatives before moving on.
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