The Redskins have several key free agents to deal with and a lot of holes to fill on both sides of the ball, particularly on defense. The good news is that they will have a substantial amount of salary cap space available to manage the situation.
How much will they have? Let’s walk through the numbers.
The Redskins currently have $113 million in 2017 cap expenditures for players under contract (cap data via www.OvertheCap.com). Add in $6.9 million in dead cap money for unaccounted for bonuses paid to Stephen Paea ($2.5 million), Chris Culliver ($2.5 million), and David Bruton ($1.7 million) and the Redskins are spending just about $120 million in 2017.
That’s the expense side of the ledger. On the available money side, the NFL salary cap for 2017 currently is estimated to be $168 million. That number could be lower, although that is unlikely. In fact, history tells us that the cap number usually ends up higher than the early estimates. But we’ll use the $168 million number for now.
Before we arrive at their cap space, there is one more calculation to make. The Redskins had $15 million in cap space that they did not use in 2016. Since the 2011 CBA, teams have been allowed to roll unspent cap dollars into the next year. Add that to the $168 million cap and you get a team cap of just under $182 million (numbers may not add exactly due to rounding). Take that and subtract the $120 million in expenditures from above and you have the Redskins with $62 million in cap space.
Only six teams have more cap space than that. The Redskins, like most other teams, can create more cap space by releasing some veteran players whose contract values outstrip their values on the field. Some possibilities for the Redskins:
OL Kory Lichtensteiger has spent large chunks of the last two seasons on injured reserve. After he was activated off of IR this year he didn’t play a snap. It appears that Spencer Long is now entrenched at the center position. Lichtensteiger’s cap number is $4.05 million and there would be cap savings of $3.5 million if they release him.
DB DeAngelo Hall has been injured the last three years. His salary in the last year of his four-year contract is $4.25 million and Hall is savvy enough to know that the team isn’t going to pay that to a 33-year-old player with his injury history. Hall is willing to rework his deal to be able to stay but the team could decide to move on and save the $4.25 million in cap space.
TE Derek Carrier played in eight games and caught just two passes. It’s possible that he wasn’t fully healthy after suffering multiple ligament tears in his knee, including his ACL. His cap number is just over $1 million and the team could save all of that by letting him go.
TE Niles Paul also had just two receptions in eight games before he suffered a torn labrum that landed him on IR for the second straight year. He missed all of the 2015 season with a broken ankle. Paul is a special teams captain and one of the coaches’ favorites, but the organization will have to take a long, hard look at the $2 million in cap space they could save by moving on.
The Redskins could make all the above moves and save nearly $11 million, bringing their available cap space to $73 million. They could release some of those players and make other moves that will save smaller amounts of money that could add up. This is all variable and unknown at the moment. We’ll stick with a cap number of $62 million and then see what happens from there.
Out of that, the Redskins will need to find a way to pay Kirk Cousins (or another quarterback), DeSean Jackson and/or Pierre Garçon (or another wide receiver) and get help on defense, particularly on the line and at safety. If they move on from the players who could be cap casualties, they will have to be replaced.
We’ll look at the what the Redskins need to do and what they could do with their money over the next week or so. One thing is clear—with their big pile of cap space they will have plenty of options.