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Need to Know: Will Culliver remain on the Redskins' roster this year?

Need to Know: Will Culliver remain on the Redskins' roster this year?

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, February 18, 6 days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Should Culliver return?

Let’s take a quick look back at the Culliver story before answering it. Last year the Redskins signed Culliver, who will be 28 in August, to a four-year contract worth $32 million. When it was signed it had $16 million fully guaranteed; part of that was his $8 million salary for 2016.

When he was healthy he played pretty well but health was a major issue. He missed three games due to an inflamed knee. Culliver was rounding back into form but at practice on Thanksgiving Day he suffered a torn ACL and MCL and his season was over.

For their investment the Redskins got six games, no interceptions and one pass defensed.

Culliver's 2016 cap hit will be $9.25 million. That $8 million base salary will be the highest on the team after Robert Griffin III is released.

Culliver did miss one other game and as it turns out it plays a big role in deciding about his future. He was suspended in Week 2 for a violation of the NFL’s personal conduct policy that occurred when he was with the 49ers. According to the terms of his contract the suspension voided any future guarantees in his contract. So his 2016 salary is no longer guaranteed, putting the option of moving on from him from the realm of being financially irresponsible to being possible.

If Culliver’s salary was still guaranteed, cutting him would have created a net cap hit of $9.25 million. As it is now, cutting him saves a net of $5.5 million.

But the fact that the money will work if he gets cut doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to let him go. Right now the cornerback depth chart consists of Culliver, Bashaud Breeland and some second-year players. Some of them, like Quinton Dunbar, could be pretty good. But it would be scary to go into the season with just Breeland, who is just in his third year, Dunbar, and the other inexperienced players.

And that is said realizing that Culliver may not be able to go at the start of the season. The season opener will be about nine and a half months after his injury so we’ll just have to see how things progress. But even if they have to rely on Dunbar for a few weeks that’s better than relying on him for 16 games.

I think that Culliver stays this year and McCloughan will find a cornerback in the draft. If the drafted CB shows promise they may well decide they can do without Culliver and the $8 million per year he has remaining on the last two years of his deal.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 39 days ago. It will be about 206 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 6; NFL free agency starts 20; 2016 NFL draft 70

In case you missed it

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Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Redskins outside linebacker Trent Murphy underwent surgery this offseason to repair a broken bone in his foot, per a source with knowledge of the situation. Murphy has completely healed and is a full participant at training camp. 

The injury came late in the 2016 season and he played the Redskins final game of the season with the broken foot. He was listed on the injury report for that game as limited with a foot injury. He was not listed on the Week 16 injury report against the Bears.

Hit with a four-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs this offseason, Murphy won't suit up for the Redskins until Week 6. He will be forced to miss the first four games, and then the Redskins have a bye in Week 5. 

Murphy had a breakout season in 2016, finishing the year with nine sacks and 47 tackles. A second round pick in 2014, Murphy had a combined six sacks in the two seasons prior. Last offseason, Murphy was tasked with gaining weight for a position switch to defensive end. After he gained the weight, outside linebacker Junior Galette was lost for the season, and Murphy was moved back to outside linebacker. 

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Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

RICHMOND—The Redskins offense is dealing with some challenges on the field. Their top two wide receivers from last year left as free agents and replacements Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson have little game experience with quarterback Kirk Cousins. Tight end Jordan Reed (toe) was a surprise entry on the PUP list. Running back Rob Kelley needs to prepare to get ready to carry the load for 16 games.

There is one other change the team must deal with. Sean McVay, the team’s offensive coordinator, left in January to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. He had been calling the plays for the past two years. That duty will now fall on head coach Jay Gruden.

RELATED: Reed one of four to start camp on PUP

Play calling is not new to Gruden. He did it from 2011-2013 for the Bengals when he was the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati. Gruden also made the play calls in 2014, his first season as the Redskins head coach.

Still, he wants to make sure that he’s ready to retake the play caller’s headset. The method he will use is to throw away the script.

“I think early on we’re going to have scripted practices, and once we get going, get our main core of plays in there, I think we’ll have a lot of unscripted practices where I can call plays,” he said. “So I think that’s the most important thing, the unscripted practice. Whether it’s two -minute, whether it’s drives down the field, whether it’s third downs, all that good stuff, do a lot of unscripted work, red zone and go from there, but I feel pretty comfortable already.”

That certainly makes sense. Games are not scripted and the successful play callers who can adjust to the ebb and flow of the game. You can’t duplicate the dynamic but you can come close in 11 on 11 work on the practice field.

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Another key to making this work will be trusting his defensive and special teams coaches. If Gruden can’t delegate to them he will be getting pulled in too many directions on game days.

“How well I handle that will be how successful I will probably be as a coordinator calling plays and as a coach,” he said. “I feel good about the staff that I have around me. Coach [Greg] Manusky and Jim Tomsula and Torrian Gray on the defensive side of the ball, I don’t think I have to worry so much about that, Ben Kotwica, Bret Munsey on the special teams. The big thing is I have got to be involved in the football game, make sure I’m ready for the red flag tosses and all that good stuff, but for the most part I have confidence in the defense and special team coaches and players.”

We will see how well it works out. As a rookie coach he occasionally seemed to be overwhelmed by all that he had piled on his plate (the situation was complicated by his curious decision not to hire a quarterbacks coach). But now, with three years under his belt and an exponentially better understanding of what is involved in coaching an NFL game, there should be more confidence that he can handle it.

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