Time To Put On The Thinking Cap
The Washington Redskins have roughly 45 players under contract for the 2009 season, and off-season activities (Free Agency and the Draft) are fast approaching. The Redskins are currently more than $3 million over the projected 2009 cap.
Contract restructurings and player cuts are right around the corner, so where will the Redskins start?
First, they will need to tender contract offers to the restricted free agents that they will be bringing back. Chances are Defensive Tackles Kedric Golston, and Anthony Montgomery, Safety Reed Doughty, Kicker Shaun Suisham, and Center Justin Geisinger should all be tendered. The will also have to look at the unrestricted free agents they may want to retain, the list includes Cornerback DeAngelo Hall, Defensive End Demetric Evans, Linebackers Khary Campbell, and Alfred Fincher, Safety Mike Green, and Long Snapper Ethan Albright. Guard Pete Kendall, Tackle Jason Fabini, and Defensive Tackle Ryan Boschetti appears to be headed elsewhere.
Whomever they decide to bring back, they need to free up cap space. With no June 1 rule in 2009, teams cannot spread the cap hit that comes with releasing a player over multiple seasons and any remaining signing bonus proration comes due immediately. Offensive linemen Randy Thomas for example has a base salary of $1.6 million in 2009 and a cap number of just under $5 million but releasing him would add more than $8.5 million to his cap number, so it’s keep at $4,919,000 or release him and carry $13,451,250 in dead cap space. The only other players that would have the same type of impact on the cap are Tight End Chris Cooley $3,053,000/$11,166,667, Running Back Clinton Portis $5,672,000/$13,365,083 and Safety Laron Landry $5,428,000/ $7,573,333 but all of these guys had pretty good seasons in 2008. Players like Linebacker London Fletcher, Cornerback Carlos Rogers, and Tackle Jon Jansen add $2 million or less to their cap number if released.
The list of possible cuts for cap space is a rather short list but offers lots of cap relief. Rarely used Tight End Todd Yoder has a cap hit of $887,000 in 2009 but his release fee would only be $116,667 or a savings of $770,333 Quarterback Todd Collins would save the team $1,900,000 with a cap hit of $2,500,000 versus a $600,000 release fee. Receiver James Thrash and Rock Cartwright would save $845,000 each, but the big savings would come from the remaining members of Joe Gibbs first free agent class upon his return to the Redskins, releasing Corner Shawn Springs would save $6,000,667 with a release fee of $2,483,333 versus a cap hit of $8,484,000, Linebacker Marcus Washington’s cap hit is $6,521,000 while releasing him would lower is cap hit to $2,020,417 or a savings of $4,500,583, Defensive Tackle Cornelius Griffin would save the team $3,616,667 if he’s not on it because his cap hit is scheduled to be $6,166,000 but it only cost $2,549,333 in dead cap if he’s released. End Phillip Daniels will be returning from injured reserve carrying $2,607,000 cap hit for 2009 and a release fee of $113,647, his release would save the team $2,493,353. Center Casey Rabach’s released would produce a $2,350,000 savings due to his $3,650,000 cap hit versus a release fee of $1,300,000 and
The last group to look at includes players like D'Anthony Batiste, Ryan Plackemeier, Will Montgomery, Alex Buzbee, Chris Wilson, Lorenzo Alexander, Matt Sinclair, Devin Clark, and Tyson Smith they have cap hits that consist entirely base salary, most of these players have less than 3 years in the league and have salaries ranging from $385,000 to $535,000. Washington’s biggest savings would come from releasing a player whose cap hit is all base salary. A base salary of $8,500,000 is what DE Jason Taylor will earn if he returns in 2009, or it is what the team will save if he is not with the Redskins.
Now that we know what most of the players will cost to be cut or kept we can look at some of the questions that might come up when the front office takes on the task of building a better than .500 team.
Defensive line would be a good place to start. Washington’s DE accounted for about half of the Redskins 24 sacks in 2008. Demetric Evans, Jason Taylor and Andre Carter had four each, and rookie Rob Jackson added another, but 13 sacks over a sixteen game season from a position that is currently eating up $19,021,000 (15.69%) of cap space is something that needs to be addressed. Jason Taylor will not be coming back with a base salary of $8.5 million dollars and Andre Carter has a cap hit of $6,599,000. Demetric Evans is a RFA that only made $700,000 last year, his cap hit was $866,000 yet produced the same number of sacks as the other two. Should the team bring Jason Taylor back or use the $8,500,000 to hold on to a person that put up better numbers (Evans had 33 total tackles compared to Taylor’s 29… Taylor did force one fumble), and is five years younger? Should they also look at releasing Carter and adding $226,000 in dead cap, which would allow Rob Jackson to get more playing time. The Redskins will also have to look at the future of thirty-five year old Phillip Daniels who will carry a cap hit of $2,607,000, and whose injury resulted in the acquiring of Taylor. The Redskins have six defensive ends on the roster but only two over 30 years of age. A youth movement at this position would result in a cap savings of $6,938,647 minus what it would cost retain Evans. This would leave the team with four DE and put them about $4,677,647 under the cap.
The cornerback position is the next highest consumer of Redskins cap space, taking up 12.82% of the 2009 projected cap (or just over $15.5 million). Again, money will have to be spent on this position because DeAngelo Hall will be looking for a long-term deal. Smoot or Rogers being released would add to the cap and both have something to contribute on the field, Shawn Springs is a very different situation, as mentioned earlier he would save the team 6 million in cap space yet that may not be the best think for the team. Not only can Springs play both sides of the field at cornerback but he can also move back to free safety, this would allow LaRon Landry to play strong safety while young guys like Kareem Moore, Justin Tryon, and Chris Horton to work their way into the lineup. The best move here would be to somehow rework the final year of an aging and often injured cornerback’s contract while moving him to a new position although he is your best corner when healthy. If they can shave $4 million off his cap number without adding more than three years to his deal would be worth it.
The now shifts to the offensive side of the ball with the receiving corps, and the tackle position, 12.7% ($15,447,000) for WRs, and 12.9% ($14,779,000) for OTs James Thrash is the oldest guy in this group at 33 years old and is the only receiver that would save cap space if he were not here. On the other hand some will argue that he provided as much as Antwaan Randle-El. ARE averaged 11.2 YPC while Thrash averaged 9 YPC, Randle El’s cap hit is almost $6 million more than Thrash mainly because he was brought in to handle punt returns (prior to his signing that was one of Thrash’s duties). For the record Randle-El averages 6.5 yards per return but he calls for a fair catch 53.8% of the time. More bang for the buck is needed here, not a lot of options to lower the cost at this spot though. Offensive Tackle is another story, something has to be done. Chris Samuels is a mainstay but the other side is a revolving door with Jon Jansen and Stephon Heyer (who happens to be a guard). It may be time to send Jansen to the broadcast booth on a more permanent bases and bring a player that will be on the field, spending a draft pick a this spot is long overdue.
The Linebacker position is the only other spot that is taking up eight figures of cap space as a unit. Marcus Washington has missed twelve games over the last three years with six in 2008. H.B. Blades started five of the six games that Washington missed and had 60 tackles compared to 44 for Washington. As stated before Washington’s release would produce a $4,500,583 cap savings.
The Redskins have said they want to build through the draft but that appears to be something that will come after 2009 considering Washington only has 4 draft picks this year and need a lot more than 4 players to get this team “over the 8-8 hump”. Washington had 24 sacks and 13 interceptions last season, both in the bottom half of league stats, yet a pass rushing end that won’t cost millions of dollars if he is acquired through the NFL Draft and it could/should improve both statistics. If the Redskins spend 13th pick on an offensive lineman this year, they would need that player to contribute day one but will the opt for a interior linemen or for a much needed tackle. The team plans to bring in competition at both kicker and punter this offseason and depth is needed across the roster.
What route the Washington Redskins will take is anyone’s guess at this time but as the rules state, they have to be under the cap by February 27th and they have a lot of holes to fill.
This article was released on 2009-02-02.
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