Most expected the Redskins to remain relatively inactive during free agency this year. During the Senior Bowl practices Scot McCloughan said that the Redskins wouldn’t be “big players” in free agency.
If he reversed course and had a big signing or two he would not have been the first GM to render earlier statements inoperative. But things have been quiet with the Redskins bringing in three defensive role players in S David Bruton, DE Kendall Reyes, and LB Terence Garvin.
They still have about $15 million in cap space left. They could have fit a player like nose tackle Damon Harrison, who plays a position of great need, into the budget. His contract with the Giants has a 2016 cap hit of $6.6 million and the Redskins could have probably squeezed that another million or so lower if they had wanted to.
But there were good reasons for McCloughan to show restraint. In fact, I can list six of them right here:
- Kirk Cousins
- Pierre Garçon
- Chris Baker
- Jordan Reed
- Junior Galette
- DeSean Jackson
These players will be free agents in 2017. It’s safe to say that they are among the team’s most important players. Cousins’ passing accounted for 74 percent of the team’s offensive output. Garçon, Reed, and Jackson accounted for 55 percent of Cousins’ passing yardage. Baker was among the most valuable players on defense and if Galette regains his 2013-2014 form, when he posted double digit sacks with the Saints, he will provide needed pass pressure.
In addition, one key player on offense, Morgan Moses, will be eligible to get a contract extension as will cornerback Bashaud Breeland. But those six players will be key players that the team will either want to get extended or, perhaps in the cases of Jackson and Garçon, replaced in the free agent market. The two wide receivers will both be 30 years old in 2017 and the Redskins may prefer to move on. Although one could be replaced in the draft they still might have to invest in a free agent receiver in 2017.
The last thing that McCloughan wants to do is to commit a lot of money to free agents this year and find the team cap strapped when it comes to taking care of some of their own players in 2017.
The good thing is that the Redskins should have plenty of cap space to enable them to keep the players they want to keep. It’s too early to talk about 2017 cap space with any precision but after they sign their 2016 draft picks they will have about $110 million committed assuming they don’t sign any more free agents to multi-year deals. There already have been reports that the NFL salary cap will increase by as much as $10 million next year, from about $155 million in 2016 to around $165 million next year.
That would mean that the Redskins could have about $55 million in cap space to work with. That would be plenty to take care of Cousins, Baker, Reed, and Galette and to have the flexibility to deal with the situation at wide receiver. They could also consider extending Bashaud Breeland and Morgan Moses. Both would be eligible for new deals after the 2016 season.
In any case, the Redskins can roll over whatever is left over from this year into 2017, adding some $10 million towards building an even stronger war chest to be able to keep their own.