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Will the Redskins try to squeeze out more cap room?

Will the Redskins try to squeeze out more cap room?

The Redskins have about $25 million in salary cap space, assuming that the NFL cap comes in at the $143 million that the NFLPA estimated last week. They created over $9 million in space last week when they released defensive linemen Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen. With free agency starting a week from tomorrow, are there any other cap casualties to be announced? If they want more cap space, are there other ways to create it?

There may be a few options but the Redskins are running out of players whom they can afford to cut and will create substantial savings against the cap. In fact, if you define “substantial” as $2 million or more, there are only two.

Guard Chris Chester, who has played virtually every snap on the Redskins line since signing as a free agent in 2011, has a $4.8 million cap number. He is 32 and while the coaching staff has a higher opinion of his level of play than do Redskins fans, he will need to be replaced sooner rather than later. Releasing him would save $4 million against the cap.

If the Redskins plan to use Chester in a reserve role this year or have him compete for the starting job with a younger player, perhaps Spencer Long, a third-round pick last year, they could offer to keep him at a reduced salary. Chester would have to agree to that and figure out if he could get more money in the open market, if he really wants to start over with another team at his age, and various other factors.

The other possible cap casualty is cornerback Tracy Porter. Unlike the durable Chester, Porter didn’t play much after signing with the Redskins. He was brought in to be the nickel back a year ago but between hamstring and shoulder injuries he played just 89 snaps.

The issue here is that they are thin at cornerback especially given the uncertainty surrounding the health of DeAngelo Hall, who twice tore his Achilles last fall. They could perhaps keep Porter around and then release him if it turns out that Hall is good to go and additional depth can be found in free agency or the draft. But the risk there is if Porter should suffer a season-ending injury the Redskins will be on the hook for his $2.25 million 2015 salary and $250,000 roster bonus. Releasing Porter would save $2.3 million against the cap.

There is plenty of talk of the possibility of the Redskins creating more cap room by extending the contracts of Ryan Kerrigan and/or Trent Williams or by doing something with Pierre Garçon’s deal. I wrote last week why there are no options to adjust Garçon’s contract that really make sense.

There does seem to be some movement towards giving Kerrigan an extension sometime soon, although nothing appears to be imminent. But it may not make sense to do a deal that would substantially lower his cap number, which is a shade over $7 million. A Kerrigan extension will average at least $10 million per year. Sure, they could create a contract that would have a 2015 cap hit of, say, $4 or $5 million. But Kerrigan isn’t going to sign an extension that gives him a pay cut this year; in fact, he will be looking for a substantial increase. Any money saved this year would have to be paid down the road. The smart thing to do would be to take the hit this year and deal with it now instead of later.

As far as Williams goes, neither side seems to be very anxious to get a deal done. Williams is due over $12 million in salary and roster bonus this year so his bank account will do fine with or without a new deal. And the Redskins apparently want to see if he can remain healthy for a full season in order to gauge his value more accurately.

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Don't count out a third straight franchise tag for Kirk Cousins, and here's why

Don't count out a third straight franchise tag for Kirk Cousins, and here's why

For the second straight season the Redskins placed the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins. While the two sides are speaking amicably about a long-term deal, the July 15 deadline for those negotiations continues to inch closer without much expectation that contract will get signed. 

A second year on the tag is unprecedented for a quarterback. In 2016, Cousins made nearly $20 million playing on the tag. In 2017, that figure goes up to $24.

If the Redskins don't get a deal done with Cousins, many think the organization would not again go with the franchise tag because the price tag jumps to an exorbitant $34 million. 

Think again. 

Asked on Monday if another franchise tag would be an option for Cousins in 2018, Redskins team president Bruce Allen was clear.

"Yes," he said. "In the collective bargaining agreement, we really have one year and an option that we can do at the end of next season if we don’t get a contract."

Those options include the exclusive franchise tag, the non-exclusive franchise tag and the transition tag. Both franchise tags carry the same cost, but the non-exclusive allows Cousins' representatives to shop his services around the NFL. If a deal gets struck, and the Redskins don't match the contract, Washington is due two first-round draft picks as compensation for losing their franchise player. 

The transition tag carries a $28 million price tag, and the Redskins can match another contract but risk only receiving a possible 2019 third-round compensatory pick if Cousins walks.

Considering those options, another year on the non-exclusive tag might make sense. The NFL salary cap will be at least $168 million, which means Cousins at $34 million would account for about 20 percent of the Redskins' salary cap.

That's a crazy allotment for one player. Crazy. The Redskins do have about $54 million in cap space for 2018, so technically, another franchise tag could work. 

But the entire manner of the contract dealings with Cousins and the Redskins has been quite unconventional. The Redskins have already made history by franchising Cousins a second-straight year. 

"I think even Kirk said it, there’s a lot of players round the league who are on a one-year deal. It’s the nature of it, we’d like to get him a long-term deal and I think he should want to get one," Allen said. "Kirk’s played well on a one-year contract the last two seasons."

At this point, it doesn't require a degree in advanced mathematics to understand that the Redskins and Cousins have a different picture of the quarterback's long-term value. That could change by July 15th, it could, but it doesn't seem likely. The Cousins camp has little incentive to bend, as $24 million fully guaranteed for 2017 represents a great payday.

And maybe the Redskins don't plan on bending because the option of a third-straight franchise tag doesn't worry them. Or at least the option of letting Cousins shop his services on a non-exclusive tag, and then making a decision to match a deal or receive compensation seems a worthwhile endevaor. 

For Cousins, he's not counting out any possibility. 

"People, I’ve heard say, ‘There’s no chance they franchise tag him or even transition tag him the following season,’ and I chuckle because if the team has franchise tagged me for two years in a row," Cousins said to an ESPN podcast in March. 

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Redskins' offseason program ramps up with start of OTAs today

Redskins' offseason program ramps up with start of OTAs today

The Redskins’ offseason starts to move into high gear today as organized team activities, better known as OTAs, get underway at Redskins Park.

Players have been participating in workouts at Redskins Park since April 17. The first phase of those session consisted of strength and conditioning. In the second phase, they were permitted to run plays but not with the offense lined up against the defense. Finally, in OTAs, they will go offense vs. defense.

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The practices, however, will not resemble an August scrimmage in Richmond. The players wear helmets but no pads and contact is not permitted. While players do block other players and there are collisions between players going after passes, the action is more like pushing and shoving that it is hitting.  

The part about no contact should be taken seriously. Seattle ran afoul of the no-contact rule last year and it cost them. The Seahawks were fined $400,000, lost their fifth-round pick in this year’s draft and they will not be permitted to hold their first week of OTAs this year. The Redskins will be very careful to keep within the rules.

MORE REDSKINS: Allen says new stadium ahead of schedule 

OTAs will be held on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in each of the next three weeks. The sessions will be open to the media on Wednesday of each week. While player attendance is strongly encouraged the practices are voluntary.

The week after OTAs end the team will hold its minicamp on June 13-14. Minicamp is essentially a continuation of OTAs but player attendance is mandatory.

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.