By Paul Wanecski
The Redskins are WAY over the cap and have a lot of cleaning up of the roster to complete. With general manager Scot McCloughan able to piece together a serviceable team last season, he certainly exceeded expectations with the Redskins securing a winning record and the 21st pick in this years’ upcoming 2016 NFL draft. Now, some of the roster moves will be obvious, some will take place after the draft, but all are needed to get Washington to continue on the right track.
Head Coach: Jay Gruden
Offensive Coordinator (Rank): Sean McVay
17th YPG, 11th Pass, 20th Run
Defensive Coordinator (Rank): Joe Barry
28th YPG, 25th Pass, 26th Run
Washington has been a lost team for quite some time now. They have had front office issues for decades now. With some security at the general manager position, you can actually see the organization turning it around. It will be wild to see a playoff caliber team built but the truth is, as well as last year went, they are not currently in a position to shock the world in 2016. Here we will detail the dismantling and risks they will need to take for success tomorrow and continued success the next few years. Honestly, clearing salary cap space for Washington is probably the easiest to do in the NFL. As it stands right now, they are at $163m against the cap right now, which is $8m over the estimated salary cap for 2016. With aging players contributing, others having down seasons, it will be a tough year to replicate for Washington.
The franchise-tagged Kirk Cousins, which if you had told me this time last year was going to happen, I would have pat you on the head and asked if you had ever seen an NFL game before. Actually, I joked in an article last year speaking if Matt Barkley still had trade value with “Barkley will not have the type of attention that Kirk Cousins with Washington had two seasons ago. Washington at this point would be happy in a trade for a bag of fully inflated footballs from the Patriots, but then again, who wouldn’t be excited to see the Pats with footballs at regulation size and weight.”
Let’s be realistic, Washington did everything they could NOT to start RGIII, which benefited Cousins and Colt McCoy. Both were playing hot-potato with the job as neither could stay healthy (is it something in the water with Washington QBs and staying healthy?). For this reason, coupled with the fact that I am a non-believer in Cousins as an NFL QB, Washington was right to give him the franchise tag and not negotiate an extension. They have no reason to give him an extension in all honesty. If they were, they absorb all the risk for a quarterback who had, up until this season, a 59.8% completion percentage. Even after this season, he still has only won 44% of his games as per pro-football-reference. Yes, is his 69.8% completion percentage this year look sexy? Anytime you lead the league in a stat (actually, he is now ranked 8th all-time for single season completion percentage) it can give hope that the player has turned the corner. He will cost $19.95m against the cap this season. Again, it would be a mistake for the team to give him an extension without more proof that this production can be sustained.
Let’s have a moment of silence for RGIII’s career in Washington.
No one will trade for Robert Griffin III. His option was picked up last season for $16.15m just to make sure they were able to secure his rights, but at this point, everyone in the league is just waiting for him to be cut, which saves the entire $16.15m against the cap (see, I told you this would be easy).
Rumor are that DE Jason Hatcher may retire, which would save a little over $4m
Just cut Dashon Goldson already. He was and has been awful since signing a mega-deal with Tampa Bay in 2013 which, and kudos to Tampa, they convinced Washington to take on. His release saves $8m
DeAngelo Hall moved to safety last season. It is tough to say how that transition went as the backend of that defense wasn’t great. While Washington will probably bank on Hall turning into Charles Woodson, they could save over $4m with his release. They could easily replace both with a draft pick and in free agency, however, Hall becomes more valuable if they draft someone in the top three rounds as they would expect him to mentor a younger player.
ILB Perry Riley will be gone if they can resign Mason Foster (more on him in a minute). Riley had a disappointing year by anyone’s standards, having some games where he looked great, others where he looked totally lost. He was drafted in 2010, so he should have been able to nail down his role by now at an NFL level. At the age of 27, Washington might think to hold on to him as he enters his prime physical years, however, the save $4m with his release.
TE Jordan Reed was a man on fire last year, grabbing 87 receptions for nearly 1000 years. Eleven touchdowns is a great number to see from any player and at only $1.8m this year, the 25 year-old is ready for an extension. Get it done Washington, if you think Cousins is your guy that is.
Kiss WR Andre Roberts goodbye. 11 catches in 8 games is terrible and he will save $4m to cut. They need to get bigger at the position anyway and already have big deals in Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson.
Pierre Garcon is making a lot of money, so revisiting Garcon’s contract would be great for the team.
Chris Culliver has to show he is ready to return to the form that got him the 4 year, $32m deal at cornerback. 6 games last year is simply not good enough.
ILB Mason Foster does not get the kind of attention he deserves. Check out this article from Cover1.net who gives a great breakdown (and film) of his work last season. He will be affordable, but listen, teams know who he is.
OLB Junior Galette is about to serve a suspension and the team will not look to deal with the headache for more than league minimum. Other teams will be willing to take the risk, just like Washington did when Galette was shown the door in New Orleans but the only thing they got so far was a player who missed 2015 to injury and will miss the first 4 games to league disipline.
TE Logan Paulsen was fine. No major investment here but little reason to let him walk either.
Terrance Knighton played well at defensive tackle last year. This draft is absolutely loaded with defensive tackles so Washington could take the risk and grab one to let Knighton walk. They will have the cap space to bring him back, but not for more than the $4m he made last season.
QB Colt McCoy won’t cost much and proved to be a serviceable back up.
RB Alfred Morris has had declining production for the last three years. Matt Jones burst on to the scene from but the reality is the ball security is an issue. Morris would only be a one-year offer and he can likely beat that on the open market.
LB Keenan Robinson was benched halfway through the year. So, you can see how this story will end.
CB Cary Williams played in 10 games with Seattle and grabbed 46 tackles. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Well, then how is he a free agent with Washington? Oh, is that because Seattle cut him because a cornerback shouldn’t average 5 tackles a game since that means that opposing QBs are throwing at him? To get cut and signed but never see the field for your new team is not a good look. Williams will not be brought back. How does this guy keep getting a job?
Washington could go anywhere. They have needs at practically every position. Height at wide receiver, better production at linebacker, youth at safety, youth at defensive tackle, depth at cornerback; these are all needs that cannot be ignored.
My guess would be Andrew Billings from Baylor if he slips. The team needs to generate more pass rush and Billings may be the best 3-technique player in the draft. If Billings is gone, look for Austin Johnson from Penn State or Kenny Clark from UCLA to be targets.
Laquon Treadwell is the first receiver most teams talk about in this draft class. While he has the size, some team will snag him before Washington gets on the clock, which is fine by my standards as I think he is overrated. Michael Thomas from Ohio State would be the next player at the position Washington would target. He has size and speed, which is what they need. While 21 is probably a bit of a stretch, the positional need might take over here.
The team probably won’t draft a safety early, as the third round should leave plenty of depth, so let us look at cornerback. Eli Apple could play on the outside or even slide back to safety. He has all the tools you could ask for, but, teams might get jumpy on him and snag him early. That’s when Kendall Fuller comes in. A strong guy who can move inside or out, he would give Washington the type of versatility they need. Of course, none of this matters if Mackensie Alexander from Clemson is still on the board, but I seriously doubt it.
Safety, safety, safety. This position couldn’t be of more need in Washington, as it is hard to imagine the deep backfield looking like Hall and Goldson again. As an organization, Washington has never been shy about signing veteran players, so we need to mention that Michael Griffin and Eric Weddle are immediately in the conversation simply because of history. Louis Delmas, Dwight Lowery, and Reggie Nelson (insert Marvin Lewis coaching connection comment here) are all second tier, inexpensive options.
Lamar Miller immediately enters as an option. Same logic at safety as at running back, so Matt Forte, Doug Martin, and (because why the hell not) Reggie Bush will likely be discussed. This draft has lots of mid-tier running back talent in the later rounds, which is where I expect Washington to dip into the talent pool. Again, Miller is the most likely option.