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The Redskins have major needs in the middle of their defense

The Redskins have major needs in the middle of their defense

A Washington Post report cleared up some confusion and confirmed that Brandon Meriweather’s contract does void five days after the Super Bowl, making the Redskins’ starting safety an unrestricted free agent starting March 11. Let’s take a look at what this means for the Redskins’ salary cap and their depth chart.

The cap implications are straightforward. Meriweather was slated to make a salary of $3 million and he had a $400,000 bonus proration to make his cap number $3.4 million. When his contract voids, the $3 million will come off of the books but dead cap totaling $1.2 million will accelerate to this season. That leaves a net savings of $2.2 million.

Add that to the previous estimate of cap space and it gives the Redskins around $30 million in cap space for 2014. That number could increase further if the NFLPA decides to exercise an option that would add another $2 million to the cap. The Redskins also could create more room by releasing some veteran players.

A look at the depth chart shows very little depth left at safety. Meriweather, Reed Doughty, and E. J. Biggers, who combed to start most of the games at safety in 2013, are all free agents. Bacarri Rambo is the most experienced returning safety and the rookie had all of three starts and 340 defensive snaps in 2013. He struggles and was benched. Jose Gumbs started one game and played 84 snaps. Trenton Robinson, picked up during the season mostly to try to bolster special teams, played 34 snaps.

The best of the lot could be Phillip Thomas, last year’s fourth-round draft pick. But he spent the entire season on injured reserve after suffering a Lisfranc injury in the preseason. Even before he got injured he didn’t look like someone the team could count on to be a starter this year.

They almost have to jump into the free agent market to get immediate help while Thomas, Gumbs, Rambo and perhaps another draft pick get a chance to develop. The top names like Jairus Byrd of the Bills and Buffalo’s T. J. Ward are likely to cost too much. Last week we looked at a few names of some more moderately-priced options including Michael Mitchell of the Panthers and Chris Clemons of the Dolphins.

They could bring back Meriweather and Doughty but both of them are now on the wrong side of 30 and the team could use an upgrade.

But they have to do something. Looking at the big picture, the Redskins now have a huge hole in the middle of their defense. In addition to the situation at safety, neither of last year’s starting inside linebackers is under contract. London Fletcher is retiring and Perry Riley is a free agent. Although it seem likely that Riley will be back in the fold, how Bruce Allen handles this area will go a long way towards determining how successful the team will be in Jay Gruden’s first year on the job.

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Need to Know: Murphy and Kerrigan a potent sack combo

Need to Know: Murphy and Kerrigan a potent sack combo

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, December 5, six days before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Jay Gruden conference call 3 p.m.

Days until: Redskins @ Eagles 6; Panthers @ Redskins 14; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 19

Injuries of note vs. Cardinals:
C Spencer Long (concussion), S Will Blackmon (possible concussion/stinger)
Postgame injury report

Redskins vs. Cardinals by the numbers

—Kirk Cousins passed for 271 yards. While compiling those yards he moved up six spots in the team’s record book for single season passing yardage. He passed four different quarterbacks in the process and passed Mark Rypien and Joe Theismann twice.

—Cousins also moved past Jason Campbell for sixth on the team’s career passing yards list.

—DeSean Jackson caught a 59-yard pass from Cousins in the third quarter. It was his 35th career reception of 50 yards or longer. Since he entered the league in 2008 no NFL player has more.

—Ryan Kerrigan sacked Carson Palmer in the second quarter, giving him 10 for the season. He now has his second career season with double-digit sacks; he had 13.5 in 2014.

—Trent Murphy recorded a third-quarter sack of Palmer; he now has eight sacks this season. He had a total of six in his first two NFL seasons.

—Dustin Hopkins kicked a 53-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. It was the second-longest of his career. He hit a 54-yarder in Atlanta last season.

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Updating Redskins' injury list after loss to Cardinals

Updating Redskins' injury list after loss to Cardinals

GLENDALE, AZ—The Redskins went into today’s game against the Cardinals somewhat banged up and they exit with a couple of additional injury concerns in the form of concussions.

Center Spencer Long left the game in the second quarter. Initially it was announced that he had been evaluated for a concussion but that he had been cleared. But after halftime the word came down that he had been retested and it was determined that he does have a concussion. Long has entered the concussion protocol.

Veteran John Sullivan, picked up earlier this season when Kory Lichtensteiger went on injured reserve, filled in a center the rest of the way. He is a capable fill-in but if Long is out he would be the only available center. The Redskins might have to sign a center if it looks like Long will be out of action against the Eagles.

In the fourth quarter safety Will Blackmon left the game. According to Redskins coach Jay Gruden he was being evaluated for a concussion and a stinger. His exact status is unknown. Gruden will give more information during a conference call with reporters on Monday.

[MORE: JOSH NORMAN ON HIS CRUCIAL FOURTH-QUARTER PENALTY]