The first surprising Redskins cuts of the summer hit this morning when word got out that linebacker Perry Riley and defensive lineman Stephen Paea had been released. For coach Jay Gruden it was a decision that had to be made.
“It's what goes into every decision when we release anybody,” said Gruden. “It takes a lot of thought. A lot of times now when you have the depth we feel like we have it's not so much about the players we release as about the players we kept and we'll leave it at that. We've got some guys at linebacker we feel have played extremely well and we've got some guys on the defensive line we feel like are competing and playing well.”
The play of others certainly was part of the decisions to let Paea and Riley go. Although Gruden did not say it, it’s likely that money was involved as well. Releasing the two players saves a total of $7.3 million in salary. Although there is nearly $5 million in dead money that will have to be accounted for, that cash has already been spent. The bottom line is that Riley ($4 million) and Paea ($3.3 million) were making too much to be backups and that’s what thy were.
But to their teammates it’s much more than about dollars and positions on the depth chart. Riley and offensive tackle Trent Williams both came to the Redskins in the 2010 draft.
“It's tough, man, it's tough,” said Williams. “Especially with Perry. He was one of my best friends on the team, we came in together, we got drafted together, roommates together. I think the whole team was kind of blindsided by that one.”
Paea and Riley both are 28 and both are likely to get another shot at the NFL.
“Those two guys are excellent football players, I imagine they'll catch on somewhere else and do well,” said Gruden. “They have a lot of football left in their career. They're both great guys who worked hard and it was just a part of the decision process.”
Mason Foster should know. He came in after the season started last year when some linebackers started to get banged up. One of them was Riley. Foster took over the starting job when Riley went out with a broken foot. Now Foster is the starter and Riley is out of a job.
“He’s a great player, everybody knows he's a great player,” Foster said of Riley. “He'll get a chance to play someplace else.”
The Redskins have let go of two high-priced veterans as they move towards reducing their roster to 75 by today’s 4 p.m. deadline, according to multiple reports.
Released were linebacker Perry Riley, who was drafted in the fourth round in 2010 and had been a starter since midway through the 2011 season, and defensive lineman Stephen Paea, signed as a free agent in 2015. CSNmidatlantic.com was able to confirm Paea and Riley took to Twitter to announce his own release.
Paea signed a four-year, $21 million contract last year. He was expected to step in and become a starter and a force on the defensive line right away. But he struggled and spent the last part of the season on injured reserve.
This year Paea was relatively healthy but he found himself down near the bottom of the depth chart and he never was able to climb back up. He was schedule to make a $3.3 million salary. His release saves the Redskins a net of $3.4 million this year but they will face a $2.5 million dead cap hit in 2017.
Riley wasn’t able to beat out Mason Foster for the starting job this year and apparently the team figured that his $4 million salary was too much for a backup.
Riley’s release saves the team $4 million against the cap with about $1.6 million in dead cap.
MORE REDSKINS: A compressed learning schedule for Redskins' Sudfeld
The Redskins hit the practice field today, suddenly finding themselves on a compressed schedule. Their preseason finale against the Bucs has been moved up from Thursday to Wednesday and now the backups who are looking to put on a good showing to stay employed in the NFL, either with the Redskins or on another team, have 24 hours less to prepare.
Here’s what we’re looking for at Redskins Park today:
—The shortened schedule will affect Nate Sudfeld the most. Jay Gruden said that the rookie quarterback will start against the Bucs and play the whole game. Yesterday Sudfeld talked about all of the play changes and other calls he will have to make it at the line of scrimmage. He now has considerably less time to become comfortable with the calls.
—Will Josh Doctson practice? He sent out a tweet last night that made it sound like he was going to be removed from the PUP list. Today might be the day; it’s the last practice for nearly a week and they might want to get him out there, perhaps push his Achilles just a bit, and then give him a few days to recover.
—How about Spencer Long? He picked a bad time to get injured, just when it looked like he might hang on to the starting left guard job. Now Shawn Lauvao steps in and, if he stays healthy, he might not step out. As with Doctson, the timing makes it difficult. With just one practice and the possibility that Sudfeld and the backups will get a lot of the snaps, does Long press to get back today? Or rest today and get ready for preparations for the Steelers next week, even if that creates the risk that he will be preparing with the second team.