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Are the Redskins saving their cap dollars for 2017?

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Are the Redskins saving their cap dollars for 2017?

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:

  1. Kirk Cousins
  2. Pierre Garçon
  3. Chris Baker
  4. Jordan Reed
  5. Junior Galette
  6. 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.

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Projecting the Redskins 2017 roster—Offense

Projecting the Redskins 2017 roster—Offense

The Redskins are looking at potential free agents and continuing with the draft process as they try to move team from residing in the middle of the pack in the NFL to becoming annual playoff contenders.

The process is all about trying to build a solid 53-man depth chart.

Let’s get out the crystal ball and see what that depth chart might look like.

Today we’ll look at the offense and project the defense in the next couple of days.

*Pending unrestricted free agent

— Quarterback: Kirk Cousins*
Backups: Colt McCoy, Nate Sudfeld

It’s not a sure thing that Kirk Cousins will be back under center but it’s very much more likely than not, either with a new long-term contract or via the franchise tag. McCoy is under contract and will continue to be the backup. I think they are happy with Sudfeld as their developmental guy although I wouldn’t be shocked if Scot McCloughan decided that a quarterback is the best available player sometime in the fifth round in April.

RELATED: REDSKINS RESUME - MATT CAVANAUGH

— Running backs: Rob Kelley
Backups: Matt Jones, Chris Thompson, draft pick

Gruden gave Kelley a vote of confidence in his final press conference but that could be fluid. If Jones can get things straight between his ears he has the physical tools to be a very good running back but they can’t count on that. There is some talk that the Redskins will look to take a back in the middle rounds if they can find one with some impact.

— Wide receivers: Pierre Garçon*, Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder (slot receiver),
Backups: Ryan Grant, Maurice Harris

Right now, it looks like it’s slightly better than 50-50 that Garçon will be back. If he’s not they will have to sign a starter in free agency; as we found out last year, you can’t count on a rookie receiver to produce, even if you take one high in the draft. If McCloughan does take a receiver in the later stages of the draft he likely will replace Grant, not Harris.

More Redskins: THE REDSKINS' WEEK THAT WAS

— Tight end: Jordan Reed
Backups: Vernon Davis*, Niles Paul

It seems likely that Davis will re-sign, although since it could be his last NFL contract I don’t think he will give the Redskins much of a hometown discount. The organization will pay, however, as it is apparent that the need a quality backup for Reed. I’m on the fence about Paul. On the one hand, I could see the organization looking for an alternative since he has finished each of the last two seasons on injured reserve. But he’s the kind of guy that McCloughan likes to have on the team.

— Offensive line: LT Trent Williams, LG Shawn Lauvao, C Spencer Long, RG Brandon Scherff, RT Morgan Moses
Backups: G Arie Kouandjio, T Ty Nsekhe, C John Sullivan*, 1-2 free agents/draft picks

Could it be that the Redskins are nearly set on the O-line with the exception of some parts further down the depth chart? Nsekhe is a restricted free agent and he will be back either on the tag or with a new contract. Maybe Kouandjio can challenge Lauvao for the starting job but both are likely to be on the 53. If they move on from Kory Lichtensteiger to save $3.5 million in cap room and if Sullivan opts to try to find a starting job elsewhere they could find a veteran center to back up Long.

RELATED: REDSKINS MOST IMPORTANT FREE AGENTS

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

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Need to Know: Redskins' cap room could be a dilemma for McCloughan

Need to Know: Redskins' cap room could be a dilemma for McCloughan

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, January 16, 52 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline

Days until:
NFL franchise tag deadline 44
NFL draft 101
First Sunday of 2017 season 237

A six pack of thoughts to start out the week

1. I think that by the end of the week the Redskins will have two new coordinators. It looks like Matt Cavanaugh will be the offensive coordinator. Haven’t heard why Bill Callahan isn’t getting the nod; it’s possible that he likes what he’s doing now and he’s getting paid as well as many coordinators.

2.  For a quick game with the $100 in imaginary casino chips on the defensive coordinator candidates, I’ll make Greg Manusky the favorite at $40 with Mike Pettine right behind him at $35. I’ll put $10 of the rest on Gus Bradley—we’ve heard of an interview with the Chargers but not anything like a hiring—and $15 on the field. The situation is fluid but that's the way it looks right now. 

Related: Redskins offensive coordinator resume: Matt Cavanaugh

3. On November 21, after the results of Week 11, the Redskins were 2.5 games ahead of the Packers. They were also a half-game better than of the Falcons. Those two teams are now playing for the NFC title. It’s not how you start, or even how you do in the middle of the season. It’s how you finish.

4. I’m not much of a hockey guy but I think I’ve got to get down to the Verizon Center to see the Caps. They are blazing hot and you can tell it’s a great atmosphere at the VC.

5. I have a feeling that an announcement about a new stadium for the Redskins is going to happen sometime in the next few months. Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe can’t run again; he is out of office about a year from today. He’s going to want a legacy item and a state of the art stadium in the commonwealth would fill the bill. The process of approval, financing, and construction will take up most or all of the 10 years that remains on the FedEx Field lease.

More Redskins: The Redskins week that was

6. Normally having a lot of cap space to work with is a good thing but it may not be for Scot McCloughan this year. If the Redskins trim some veterans from the payroll they could go into free agency with around $70 million to spend. McCloughan would prefer to build through the draft. But the current situation almost forces the Redskins to spend. McCloughan took some heat for going into the 2016 season with $15 million in cap space and some unfilled needs on the defensive line and at safety. If they have issues again in 2017 and there is, say, $30 million just sitting there the noise will get louder. And it won’t just be coming from fans and the media; plenty of it will come from the offices of Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder.

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