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Redskins should enter 2016 with plenty of salary cap room

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Redskins should enter 2016 with plenty of salary cap room

The Redskins have some work to do in terms of signing free agents, both their own and possibly some from other teams. The good news is that they will have plenty of cap room to work with.

Washington will gain some cap space simply by the fact that every team will get more money to spend. The teams have been informed that the 2016 cap will increase from $143.28 million in 2015 to between $150 million and $153.4 million. Recent history indicates that the league’s preliminary estimates tend to be on the conservative side. So we will work with the $153.4 million estimate here knowing that it may be a little less or perhaps even a bit more.

The Redskins’ base cap number is higher than that because they didn’t spend all of their cap money last year. They ended the season with about $6.1 million in unspent money (cap figures via OverTheCap.com). That makes their cap number for 2016 $159.5 million.

They already have used a significant portion of that as they have 50 players under contract with salary cap charges total $145.5 million. They also have about half a million dollars in dead cap money (most of it is the $295,000 charge for cutting David Amerson last year). Subtracting those two numbers from their adjusted cap number of $159.5 million that leaves $13.5 million in cap space.

There are moves that Scot McCloughan can make that will create more cap room. We’ll look at some possible moves below. But one that he is certain to make is releasing quarterback Robert Griffin III. He currently counts for $16.1 million against the cap. When he is released, that entire amount will be added to available cap space with no offsetting dead cap money. That will bring the Redskins’ available cap space up to $29.6 million.

In any case, locking up Cousins will bring the Redskins’ cap space down to somewhere in the $10 million range. The team will almost certainly create more cap space via releasing some veterans with big cap numbers and negotiating pay cuts with other veterans. Here are some possible candidates for either being released or having their contracts renegotiated.

The organization is not going to cut all of these players. In fact, they might not cut any of them. But if all of them were cut the savings would total $37.4 million. Just for the sake of coming up with an estimate, let’s say they release some players and renegotiate deals to save about half of the potential total. That would give McCloughan about $48 million in cap space to re-sign Kirk Cousins (a move that by itself could eat up between $15 and $20 million in cap space, depending on how a deal is structured) and some other of the team’s key free agents and fill a few needs when the free agent market opens on March 9.

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Trent Williams promises that the best has yet to come from him

Trent Williams promises that the best has yet to come from him

If you took 100 random NFL fans and asked them to name the best player in the league, there's a very strong chance none of the 100 would say Trent Williams, the Redskins left tackle who clears paths like a snowplow. But according to an in-depth ranking system published a few weeks ago from Bleacher Report, Williams is in fact the correct answer.

The system, called NFL1000, is supposed to "bring exposure" to players who aren't as appreciated as they should be, and in the eyes of the analysts who built the rankings, no one should be appreciated more than Williams, who beat out Tyron Smith and Aaron Rodgers for the top spot. But that's still not the peak of his performance, the lineman says.

No. 71 apparently just got a hold of the NFL1000 list, and in a Wednesday Instagram post that featured it, he said his "best is yet to be seen." Sorry, opposing pass rushers.

In addition to that accolade from Bleacher Report, Pro Football Focus chose Williams as their highest-rated offensive lineman, and the Professional Football Writers of America assigned him to their All-NFC team. It wasn't a perfect year for the Pro Bowler, however, as he was suspended for four games during a critical stretch in the season's second half (the Redskins were 2-2 without him).

Nevertheless, because an offensive lineman is often doing his job best when you aren't hearing his name called, it can be easy to take someone like Williams for granted. These types of awards, though, show the 28-year-old's value — value that he says will continue to climb in 2017. 

MORE REDSKINS: SETTING THE ODDS ON WHAT THE 'SKINS WILL DO WITH COUSINS

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Need to Know: The early odds on what happens with Redskins and Cousins

Need to Know: The early odds on what happens with Redskins and Cousins

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, January 19, 98 days before the NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:
NFL franchise tag deadline 42
NFL free agency starts 50
First Sunday of 2017 season 235

The coordinator search and more

As noted above, we have 42 days until the deadline for the Redskins to put the franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins. The immediate future of the franchise is contingent this situation being handled correctly by the organization. It’s time to turn the attention and the $100 in imaginary casino chips towards what might happen with Cousins as the process unfold. We will revisit this from time to time as the various deadlines approach so consider this the early odds.

Sign before the tag deadline, $5—This seems unlikely after his rather cold response to my question immediately following the season-ending loss to the Giants when he said, “The ball’s not in my court.” He indicated that it’s up to the Redskins to tag him. It doesn’t look like he and his agent will have much of an inclination to sit down to any serious negotiations before that happens.

Let him go into free agency, $5—Yes, I know that this is out there but it makes no sense to take the chance of the possibility that he could walk with zero compensation. While there might be some logic in finding out what Cousins would be worth in a true free market in order to establish the basis for a fair contract the risk of behind left empty-handed is just too great.

Tag and trade, $20—This also has been discussed by various media types as a possibility. It would involve giving Cousins the non-exclusive franchise tag, which would let him go out and negotiate a deal with another team. The Redskins could then match that offer or choose to get compensation. The CBA calls for compensation of two first-round picks although the two teams may negotiate something less. The most frequently suggested trade partner is the 49ers and their soon-to-be head coach Kyle Shanahan but there are probably around half a dozen teams, maybe more, who could be interested. If the Redskins don’t think they will ever sign Cousins long term this could be the way to go.

Tag and sign by July 15 deadline, $30—This may be a little low for this possibility. Perhaps if the other options are off the table he will consider that he is a perfect match for Jay Gruden’s offense and that he might not be such a good fit elsewhere. There also is the possibility of injury or, for whatever reason, Cousins having a subpar season. Those thoughts could spur him to instruct his agent to get the best deal he can get in Washington.

Tag and play the season on the tag, $40—Right now, this appears to be the mostly likely scenario. They can afford the $24 million cap hit and it would get them one more year of his services. However, the prospects for him remaining in a Redskins uniform for 2018 and beyond would be very cloudy.

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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.