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Cap review: Redskins likely can't afford a top WR

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Cap review: Redskins likely can't afford a top WR

Salary cap review: Wide receiver

As Jay Gruden continues to assemble his coaching staff, people in another part of the building at Redskins Park are looking forward to free agency and how best to utilize the approximately $28 million in cap space the Redskins have. Here we’ll take a position-by-position look at the cap situation and explore some of the Redskins’ options. First up, wide receivers.

The Redskins currently have five wide receivers under contract.

Salary Cap number
Pierre Garcon $7,100,000 $9,700,000
Leonard Hankerson $645,000 $821,594
Nick Williams $495,000 $495,000
Josh Bellamy $495,000 $495,000
David Gettis $730,000 $730,000
Total $9,465,000 $12,241,594

Some notes:

—The Redskins will carry a dead cap charge of $3.77 million for Josh Morgan’s voiding contract.

—Aldrick Robinson’s contract also expires this year but since he has only two seasons of NFL experience (he spent his rookie year on the practice squad) he will be an exclusive-rights free agent. It’s likely that the Redskins will sign him to a one-year deal worth $645,000, the third-year player minimum.

—Garçon has the second-highest cap number on the team behind offensive tackle Trent Williams.

—This is a very reasonable amount to spend on wide receivers. The Eagles, for example, are carrying a $12.5 million cap charge for DeSean Jackson alone.

Adding and subtracting

Many analysts believe that the Redskins need to add another quality wide receiver to the mix to compliment Garçon and to draw some coverage away from him. They could do that but they are likely to stay away from the highest priced players who are likely to be on the market such as the Broncos’ Eric Decker.

Top-notch receivers are among the most expensive items in free agency. This year Mike Wallace, the top prize in last year’s free agency period, will cost the Dolphins $17.5 million against the cap this year. That’s just the going rate.

If the Redskins do decide to add another wide receiver they could look in the draft. A player picked with the 34th pick, the team’s top selection this year, would carry very reasonable cap number. Justin Hunter, the player picked 34th last year, carried a cap charge of just over $986,000 in his rookie season. The player picked in the comparable spot this year will make slightly more.

Should they want a known quantity at wide receiver they probably will have to look at someone who is not at the premium level, maybe someone like James Jones of the Packers or Jerome Simpson of the Vikings (Jay Gruden coached him with the Bengals in 2011). Their maximum would be an annual cap hit of something around $6 million. That’s right around what they were paying Morgan the past two years.

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Robert Kelley, Su'a Cravens, Colt McCoy among Redskins who'll have new numbers in 2017

Robert Kelley, Su'a Cravens, Colt McCoy among Redskins who'll have new numbers in 2017

The next time Robert Kelley plows over a helpless linebacker, he'll do so with a new number on his uniform.

The second-year running back is switching from No. 32 to No. 20, according to Redskins.com. And he's not the only returning player who'll take the field in 2017 with a new pair of digits.

Su'a Cravens will no longer be No. 36 for Washington. Instead, he'll change to No. 30. DJ Swearinger will be taking over No. 36 after coming over from the Cardinals, a number that he reportedly purchased from Cravens for $75,000

Then there's Colt McCoy. McCoy has donned No. 16 for the past three seasons, but he's throwing it back to his college days and will now rock No. 12.

MORE REDSKINS: THE ULTIMATE REDSKINS DRAFT PREVIEW

As for the free agents, Terrelle Pryor will be replacing DeSean Jackson in more ways than one when kickoff rolls around. Not only will the ex-Brown have to shine as a top receiver for Kirk Cousins like Jackson did, but he'll also be sporting Jackson's No. 11.

New linebacker Zach Brown, meanwhile, is now No. 56, linemen Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain are Nos. 92 and 97 respectively and Brian Quick will keep No. 83 from his Rams days.

RELATED: IS REUBEN FOSTER WORTH THE RISK?

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How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

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How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

Do the Redskins have a draft need at running back? It depends on who you ask.

Jay Gruden seems to be very happy with incumbent running back Rob Kelley. Here is what he had to say last month about the second-year back, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Tulane, last month:

“Oh, man, I love Rob Kelley,” Gruden said. “I thought he played great. You throw a rookie free agent into the fire like that and see him play and compete. Not one time did I feel like it was too big for him. Not once. That’s a hell of a thing to say for a kid out of Tulane who only had a couple of carries his senior year. He came right in, he competes on every play.”

[Related: Full Redskins Seven-Round Mock Draft]

Kelley played in 15 games last year and rushed for 704 yards and scored six touchdowns. He started the last nine games and if you project his numbers in this games out over a 16-game season you get about 1,050 yards and 11 touchdowns. That’s not Ezekiel Elliott or Le’Veon Bell production but it’s good for a team that is going to rely mostly on the pass.

Gruden also praised third-down back Chris Thompson and backup Mack Brown. In a telling sign, he acknowledged that 2015 third-round pick Matt Jones is still on the roster but he didn’t have much good to say about him.

Why, then, do you see so many draft analysts listing running back as one of the team’s most urgent needs? Mark Maske, who is the Post’s national NFL writer but also a former Redskins beat reporter, has them taking Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey in his mock draft. “There certainly are issues on defense for the Redskins,” writes Maske. But there also is a need at running back.”

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com said that the Redskins “obviously” need a running back as his rationale for mocking Florida State’s Dalvin Cook to Washington at No. 17.

So, what is it? Is Kelley adequate for the Redskins’ needs considering they call pass plays on over 60 percent of their offensive snaps? Would they run more often if they had a back like McCaffrey or Cook? And if they did run more would the offense improve?

I think that running back is like several positions with the Redskins. If they have to get through the 2016 season with what they have they will be OK. But if there is an upgrade on the board when they are on the clock they won’t hesitate to make the pick if he’s the best player available.

We will see what happens if, say, McCaffrey is still on the board when the Redskins pick at No. 17 and top defensive targets like Rueben Foster and Haason Reddick are off the board. That will be the true test to see how committed Gruden and the rest of the organization are to Kelley, Thompson, and company. 

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