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Redskins salary cap outlook: Would a Cousins contract be a cap killer for the Redskins?

Redskins salary cap outlook: Would a Cousins contract be a cap killer for the Redskins?

The Redskins have found their offensive and defensive coordinators and they are ready to get on with the business portion of the offseason. The big question between now and the middle of March is how they will divvy up their $62 million in cap space. Here we’ll take a position-by-position look at the cap situation and explore some of the Redskins’ options. 

Cap info via www.OverTheCap.com

The Redskins currently have these quarterbacks under contract.

—Colt McCoy, 2017 cap hit $3.6 million, under contract through 2018
—Nate Sudfeld, $574,334, through 2019

Free agent: Kirk Cousins

RELATED: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Couins contract and more

Notes:

—We’ll look at the Cousins situation below.  

—McCoy is in the second year of a three-year, $9 million contract he signed last year. His salary is $2.8 million this year and in 2018. The last year of the contract will void f he plays more than 65 percent of the snaps this year. What that means is that if Cousins either isn’t here or is unavailable and McCoy starts enough games he will be a free agent in 2018

—Sudfeld is in the second year of his four-year rookie contract.  

Positional spending

2016: $22.8 million, 8th in NFL
2017: $2.8 million, 29th in NFL

Adding and subtracting:

Do the Redskins keep Cousins and if they do how do they do it?

The franchise tag option is simple. If Cousins gets tagged his salary would be 120 percent of his 2016 cap number of $19.94 million. That comes to $23.93 million.

The percentage multiplier comes into play because a player getting tagged gets either the tag salary, which is around $21 million for quarterbacks this year, or 120 percent of his previous season cap number, whichever is higher. Cousins makes out better with the multiplier so that would be his salary.

The salary is fully guaranteed when Cousins signs the tender and the entire amount counts against the current salary cap.

RELATED: #RedskinsTalk Podcast - It's tag day

It should be noted that the exclusive tag, which would not allow Cousins to negotiate with other teams, likely would cost the same as the non-exclusive tag due to the 120 percent rule.

What if the Redskins sign Cousins to a contract? While the details are important, for the sake of seeing how much salary cap a Cousins contract might consume, we can look at some possible annual cap numbers. Using the contract extension that Andrew Luck signed a year ago as a guideline and adjust the numbers downward about $2 million per year, here are some possible cap hits for a $22 million per year Cousins contract and how much of the cap the contract will consume with an estimated annual cap increase of eight percent.

2017 cap hit $17.4 million, 12.1% of cap
2018 $22.4 million, 12.3%
2019 $25.5 million, 13.0%
2020 $26.4 million, 12.5%
2021 $19 million, 8.4%

The cap numbers are the estimated $168 million this year and projected increases of eight percent per year after that would have the cap numbers at $181 million, $195 million, $210 million, and $226 million in 2021. It should be noted that the CBA expires after the 2020 season so the cap structure could change.

Since the Redskins have a lot of cap room this year they could choose to structure the deal to have more of the money hit the cap in 2017 and reduce the impact later on to give them more flexibility.

Certainly, paying 12 to 13 percent of your available salary cap space to a player to represents 1.9 percent of the players on the roster (1 of 53) make things a little more difficult. It would mean that the Redskins would have to draft well and get productive snaps out of players who are on their rookie contracts. They also need to pick and choose some of their draft picks to extend when the time is right. A few other players can have big contracts but obviously, the number must be limited.

More Redskins: Will the Redskins keep Garçon?

If they put the tag on Cousins and then trade him and go with McCoy and Sudfeld at quarterback, they will have about $64 million in cap space to work with. They would be smart to put some of that aside for the future since at some point the organization is going to have to pay a quarterback big money and figure out how to assemble the rest of the team.  

If the Redskins sign Cousins to a deal similar to the example above, they would still have $47 million in cap space and the ability to create about $10 million more with releases and renegotiations plus nine draft picks to try to improve last year’s team. That is not a bare cupboard for the organization to work with.

Salary cap outlook series

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

 

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Washington Redskins, Alex Smith work to balance patience and aggression in pass game

Washington Redskins, Alex Smith work to balance patience and aggression in pass game

Alex Smith finished the Week 2 loss to the Indianapolis Colts by averaging 6.3 yards-per-pass attempt on 33 completions. Those numbers aren't particularly good, and while they're not bad either, it clearly did not produce enough opportunities for points in the home opener. 

The Colts defense had a lot to do with that too. Indianapolis deployed a soft zone coverage system, forcing the Washington Redskins to look underneath for short gains and eschewing many chances at deep shots down the field. 

That's fine when the team is able to run the ball well, like the dominant Week 1 win in Arizona. But when Washington can't run the ball, like the embarassing Week 2, the short passing game looks too conservative. 

"I mean I think every guy on the team, certainly every guy on offense went through the game and what plays could I have done differently to help us," Smith said Wedneday. "Could I have taken a shot here? You know, all week we talked about being patient. The way they play defense, be patient. Let the shots present themselves."

The shots rarely presented themselves. 

Smith did put two passes in positions for chunk gains, but Josh Doctson was unable to bring in a deep ball on the sideline, and later in the game, Paul Richardson could not corral a big gain over the middle. Neither drop was devestating, but a catch in either situation could have turned momentum in the game. 

Prior to 2017, Smith had a reputation as a quarterback that rarely went down the field. Last season, he disproved that with his best ever statistical campaign and a number of highlight reel plays down the field in the Kansas City offense. 

Redskins fans are starting to wonder if they got the 2017 version of Smith, or the earlier version. 

Truth is the sample size is much too small to determine that answer. In Week 1, Smith didn't need to air the ball out. In fact, he still tried, barely missing a deep completion to Richardson on a play flagged because the receiver was held. 

There are other factors too. The offensive line had a poor performance in Week 2, and Richardson played the game dealing with a shoulder injury. 

Still, there were times it seemed Smith had chances down the field he didn't take, instead opting for the safer check-down pass.

Running back Chris Thompson finished the game with 13 catches but for just 92 yards. Much of that production came late in the second half when the Colts had taken a substantial lead.

"In the second half, very apparent, I mean they were not going to let anything get over their head or get behind them. It was so soft. Hence, a lot of the underneath stuff was open," Smith said.

What version of Smith will show up Sunday against Green Bay?

Much of that will have to do with the offensive line and Jay Gruden's game plan. But plenty will be determined by Smith too. 

The veteran QB does not turn the ball over, which is a big bonus. The Redskins need points though if they're going to keep up with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. 

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Redskins vs. Packers then and now

Redskins vs. Packers then and now

Here is a look ahead and a look back at the Redskins vs. Packers series.

Week 3, Sunday, FedEx Field

2017 Packers: 7-9, third in NFC North; 1-0-1 in 2018

2018 statistical leaders:

Passing yards: Aaron Rodgers, 567 yards
Rushing yards: Jamaal Williams, 106 yards
Receiving yards: Randall Cobb 172

Deciding factors

  • The Packers haven’t had much of a running game so far this year and the Redskins can’t let it get healthy on them. It’s hard enough to deal with Rodgers when all he can do is pass. If a viable rushing attack is in the mix, Rodgers is nearly impossible to stop. 
  • Offensively, the Redskins will have to stay aggressive. We saw what happened on Week 1 on Sunday night when the Bears couldn’t take advantage of some chances to put the Packers away. There are plenty of reasons to doubt that the Redskins would be able to kill the clock by running the ball—they couldn’t against the Cardinals—and Alex Smith will have to keep throwing. 

Key matchup: Redskins C Tony Bergstrom vs. Packers NT Frank Clark—It looks like Chase Roullier will have to move to left guard and Bergstrom will have to take on Clark, a tough, athletic nose tackle. 

Redskins-Packers series history

The Packers lead the all-time series 14-12; the teams have split their last four games including the playoffs.

Series notables

The first time: November 28, 1937, Griffith Stadium—In their first season in Washington, the Redskins needed a win to have a shot to play for the Eastern Conference title the following week. The home team trailed 6-0 at halftime, but the Redskins weren’t done. Cliff Battles ran for a touchdown, Sammy Baugh threw for another and the Washington defense held for a 14-6 win. 

The last time: November 20, 2016, FedEx Field—In one of his career highlight games, Kirk Cousins passed for 375 yards and three touchdowns. The game was close at halftime with Washington leading 13-10. Then they exploded for 29 second-half points with the highlight coming on a 70-yard TD bomb from Cousins to Pierre Garçon early in the fourth quarter of the home team’s 49-24 win. 

The best time: December 24, 1972, RFK Stadium—The Redskins were hosting their first playoff game since 1942. The highlight play was a 32-yard touchdown pass from Billy Kilmer to Roy Jefferson. But the game was won with a five-man defensive line that George Allen designed to stop the Packers’ powerful rushing attack. Green Bay mustered just 78 yards rushing as the Redskins won 16-3 putting them a win away from their first Super Bowl.

The worst time: October 17, 1983, Lambeau Field—It was a highly entertaining game, still the highest-scoring game in the history of Monday Night Football. Joe Theismann passed for 398 yards, but Lynn Dickey nearly matched him with 387 yards. The game was back and forth the entire way with five lead changes. The fourth one came with 2:50 left to play with a five-yard TD pass from Theismann to Joe Washington. But the Redskins still couldn’t play defense and the Packers drove to a field goal to take a 48-47 lead. Mark Mosely had a shot at stealing the win, but he missed a 39-yard field goal try as time ran out.  

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