Hold on, this could get bumpy. May 3rd, 2015 will be an exciting time for Washington. Not only will they need to determine if quarterback (and former number 2 overall draft selection) Robert Griffin III will have his 5th year option picked up to extend his current deal into 2016, they will do so at the risk of paying him near $13 million. RGIII has seen both tremendous highs and lows in his short career. Washington may risk him hitting the open market next offseason, as near no team would be willing to pay him a guaranteed contract anywhere near what his option would be worth. We call this the Jake Locker treatment, referencing what Tennessee did with the Locker who had a series of injury troubles and allowed him to play the last year of his rookie deal without selecting his option, figuring that he would have to play far beyond previous performance to earn a deal of equal value.
RGIII isn’t the only contract that has Washington cap-strapped. With only $13.73 million in current salary cap space, they have some house cleaning to take care of. 65 players are currently under contract, with 17 making over $2 million per season. Those players combine to cost Washington $89.1 million against the salary cap, which translates to over 63% of the base salary cap, a serious problem.
Currently, they have the 12th and 14th highest paid Wide Receivers in the NFL in Pierre Garcon and Desean Jackson. While Jackson’s current deal really doesn’t allow a lot of room to free up cap space, Garcon is a totally different story. His contract is set to cost $9.7 million against the cap, however, his release would ultimately free up about $5.3 million. Given the circumstance, it would be a best case scenario for Garcon to restructure his deal. While speaking of the Washington offense, they currently have 4 players set to make a combined $39.4 million, approximately 28% of the team’s total base salary cap (with an average cap number of $9.85 million per player). This means that with the roster as it stands, the remaining members of the offense combine to $30.85 million with this unit nowhere near complete.
RG Chris Chester has the 8th highest contract at his position and his release would save $4 million. At 32 years of age, an extension may not be an option with the recent GM change.
DeAngelo Hall falls into a similar category. While the team has needs at both cornerback and guard already, Hall’s production has not been that of a #1 cornerback. His contract is not huge but his release does save $2.375, however, adding two years to his deal would be the most logical given his history and spreading 1.5 million of that bonus money across a few more seasons.
Trent Williams is your prototypical left tackle and his cap figure this season is listed $13.7 million, structured around a base salary of $10.25 million. Converting some of that base salary into a signing bonus to eliminate the last year of his deal and extend him for the next 6 seasons would give Washington some much needed space. He is only 26 but has proven his worth.
The loss of Brian Orakpo is debatable. While healthy, he was a premier Outside Linebacker, however injuries ravaged several seasons in Washington. It would be hard to imagine a situation where he returns to Washington.
RB Alfred Morris will not need to restructure his deal, as the dynamic back is making under $700,000 this season. Extending him will be easier than allowing him to hit the open market, however, not increasing his current seasons cap figure will be a major hurdle in negotiations.
Draft needs are-a-plenty. Holding the 5th overall selection, Washington’s true need of cornerback, strong and free safety along with guard cannot be addressed with this selection. Nfldraftscout.com has no guards ranked as 1st round picks.
T Brandon Scherff (Iowa) could slide inside but that isn’t always the sure thing you want from the 5th selection.
It is possible they could take the best pass rusher available in DE Randy Gregory (Nebraska) or possibly OLB Dante Fowler (Florida). Those selections would improve a defense that is in need of revision but do not address the true areas of need.
SS Landon Collins (Alabama) would be in the starting lineup immediately if selected, which is unlikely as Washington could to slide down the draft board to acquire him as no team in the NFL will see him as a top 5 selection. FS Chris Hackett (TCU) may be available at the turn of the 3rd round. Washington may be forced to be aggressive with later selections due to the lack of deep secondary talent in this year’s draft. Washington should focus on drafting a cornerback in the second round.
CB Trae Waynes is on top of the list with plenty of options, including Quinten Rollins (Miami of Ohio), PJ Williams (FSU), possibly Marcus Peters (Washington).
We can assume that, given the Redskin’s history, they will make some noise in free agency eventually. McCloughan will be forced to build an initial roster of affordable, yet effective talent. Watch for him to use his contacts with Green Bay, San Francisco and Seattle to pilfer the practice squad which would give him the affordable talent he will need. If salary cap space can be made, free agent safeties have been very reasonable recently (with the obvious exception of the mistakes made by Tampa Bay and New Orleans the last two off-seasons).
Quick Guide to the Rookie Wage Scale