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Need to Know: How can the Redskins create more cap room?

Feb 26, 2016, 5:20 AM EDT

Andre-Roberts-vs-Patriots

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, February 26, 12 days before the start of NFL free agency.

How much cap space can the Redskins realistically create?

If the NFL salary cap is set at its current estimate of $155 million, the Redskins will have about $13.6 million in cap room. If we calculate in two transactions we know are going to happen—Robert Griffin III getting released, saving $16.1 million, and Kirk Cousins getting hit with the franchise tag, costing $19.6 million—Washington will go forward with $10.1 million.

With some free agents of their own to sign and some needs that can only be met in free agency, the Redskins will need to create some additional cap room. Here are some ways they could go about doing that (cap numbers via Over the Cap).

Cut Andre Roberts, savings $3 million—This signing was doomed almost from the start. About a month after Roberts signed, DeSean Jackson became available and Roberts was pushed back from No. 2 receiver to No. 3. But even when given opportunities he didn’t get the job done. He was a healthy scratch at times in 2015 and ended the year on injured reserve.

Renegotiate or release S Dashon Goldson, savings $4-$8 million—He has a $7.5 million salary and a $500,000 workout bonus. That makes him the fifth highest paid safety in 2016, a status his play clearly does not warrant. Negotiating a pay reduction to $4 million would reduce his pay to around 20th in the NFL, more suitable for a player who will be 32 in Week 2 of next season and whose play has declined from the All-Pro level that earned him the contract. If the Redskins choose to release him, there would be no dead salary cap.

Renegotiate or release DE Jason Hatcher, savings $3-$4.2 million—He has hinted at retirement, although Jay Gruden said yesterday that he might want to play another season. If he retires or is released it would save $4.2 million against the cap. They could work to reduce his $6.5 million salary and workout bonus, too. Hatcher was a good leader and he played better than his numbers indicated but he is still not worth the salary.

Release Kory Lichtensteiger, savings $2.9 million—The Redskins could look for an upgrade at center either in free agency or in the draft. Lichtensteiger was injured for most of last year and struggled at times when healthy. They could look for someone who is more suited to their power-blocking scheme than Lichtensteiger, who turns 31 next month. An alternative would be to release Shawn Lauvao, a move that would save $3 million. But he is currently injured so that may have to wait.

Release ILB Perry Riley, savings $4 million—If the team can retain Mason Foster they might let Riley go. He has been up and down since taking over the starting job midway through the 2011 season. If the Redskins don’t think that he can start it’s hard to see them paying a $4 million salary for a backup.

Those moves would create between $16.9 and $22.1 million in cap space, giving Washington anywhere from $27 million to $32.2 million in cap space after the anticipated quarterback moves.

Some other minor moves could be made but there aren’t any more potential big money-saving moves that haven’t been ruled out either directly by Jay Gruden and/or Scot McCloughan or via reliable reports. Players who have been subjects of media and/or fan speculation such as Pierre Garçon, DeSean Jackson, Chris Culliver, and DeAngelo Hall all appear to be very much in the team’s plans for 2016.

There could be a surprise down the line but as of right now it looks like the Redskins have enough cap room to take care of some basic needs but not much more.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 47 days ago. It will be about 198 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL free agency starts 12; Redskins offseason workouts start 52; 2016 NFL draft 63

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  1. colorofmyskinz - Feb 26, 2016 at 6:46 AM

    Nice math Rich!! And many of the moves and contract restructures seem realistic. So let’s say $30 in cap space for ease of numbers.

    How do you see that spent? How much in free agency? How much on drafted players? And how many key positions can we fill in FA with that budget?

    Will we go with center in FA or draft? What positions do you think we go with in FA vs. draft?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Rich Tandler - Feb 26, 2016 at 7:31 AM

      Lots of questions there, will be addressed over the coming weeks here on on CSN.

    • bangkokben - Feb 26, 2016 at 7:38 AM

      The ‘skins will need between $5-$7 million for their own draft picks but because of the rule of 51 they’ll likely use less than that until the season starts.

  2. cpst123 - Feb 26, 2016 at 6:55 AM

    Lichtensteiger was the go to guy the second he came off injured reserve. They need to fill the center position but the replacement doesn’t appear to be on the team.

    • bk70 - Feb 26, 2016 at 7:29 AM

      I think they have to hold on to Kory until another full time center is on the team. I believe they draft Nick Martin/Notre Dame or Evan Boehm/Missouri. Last years 7th rounder Austin Reiter will have to prove himself during training camp. If they select a center in the first five rounds then Reiter must not be worthy of a shot at starting. They GM may go after FA Wisniewski/Jaquars or FA Ben Jones/Houston and not draft another rookie.

    • bangkokben - Feb 26, 2016 at 7:40 AM

      According to John Keim, the Redskins would like to move Long to center and have Kouandjio at LG. There would then need to be back-ups at these positions.

      • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Feb 26, 2016 at 9:16 AM

        That would be ideal, but the draft will come before you know if it will work out.

        Michigan’s Graham Glasgow could be an option if we don’t want to use one of our first 4 picks on a center.
        ~

        • bangkokben - Feb 26, 2016 at 9:49 AM

          True. The process may be underway by the draft though. I think McC will still take the best player available. How those plans affect BPA, we’ll never know but I doubt much.

      • renhoekk2 - Feb 26, 2016 at 10:18 AM

        Gruden commented on that and said they tried Long at C during practices throughout the season but there were too many issues with his snapping to risk playing him there in actual games.

      • berniebernard666 - Feb 26, 2016 at 12:54 PM

        John Keim is either always WRONG or doesn’t know. Every time he is on ESPN 980 with Kevin and Thom, they ask Keim questions and about 7 or 8 times per interview he will say “Uh..I don’t know”…….

        So the Redskins are just going to move Long to Center? No experience with that position but he is just going to take over at center? LOL Why do people fall for so many crazy reports………by reporters who “don’t know” or just make things up because it’s required that they say something/anything to keep a job.

        I’ll tell you who does know…..Scott M. He has a plan and he shut down the rumors so all this is pure guessing and speculation. It means nothing until Scott M puts out the final product.

      • Trey Gregory - Feb 27, 2016 at 3:57 AM

        @Bang: I like Keim too and I absolutely respect someone who admits when they don’t know something over making up some BS.

        That being said, where did Lauvao end up in this conversation? There’s no world where I can’t see him being the starting LG unless he’s hurt. I don’t buy that we’re releasing him. The guys that tried to replace him last year didn’t do well enough. He’s the best LG on the team and, with him, Williams, Scherff and Moses we could have one of the better Olines around next year.

        But there’s that pesky center position. It’s much more likely, to me, that they release Cory that Lauvao but it won’t shock me if they actually keep him at center. Still, let’s say they do. We have Long and Kouandjo to look at for centers and backup guards. Plus Compton and Nsekhe as backup tackles. Then Leribus and Reiter to throw into the mix at center… right? Or did I make a mistake there? My point is that we have good options on the roster to fill that role at center and still have good depth along the line. I’m significantly less worried about center than a lot of other fans and I’m not sold that we need to find one in FA or the draft. I trust Callahan to get these guys into shape. I also don’t see why Long couldn’t work on those snaps (if that’s even true) with a whole offseason if he’s named the starting center.

        • bangkokben - Feb 27, 2016 at 10:45 AM

          This is what Keim wrote a couple of weeks ago in this piece:
          http://espn.go.com/blog/washington-redskins/post/_/id/23657/redskins-dont-need-to-add-a-starter-along-the-ol-but-will-seek-depth

          “…The Redskins also already have two young starters on the right side in guard Brandon Scherff and tackle Morgan Moses and a third youngster who could start elsewhere in Spencer Long. I say elsewhere because he subbed for Lauvao at guard this past season, but could end up as the starting center this fall. The plan now is to have him work at center this offseason and if he can’t handle the job, they’ll stick with Lichtensteiger. If Long can handle it, then Lichtensteiger likely would be released (potential savings: $3.5 million) later in the spring. And the plan at guard is to let Lauvao and Kouandjio battle it out; that’ll be interesting as the latter barely played as a rookie and the former is coming off an injury.”

          Gruden may have splashed some cold water on that idea this week or maybe it’s typical stuff said this time a year to steer folks away from the truth. IDK. Bottom line, there are options on the team that with Morgan-Moses-like improvement could make expensive veterans expendable.

          I’ll agree that Lavauo was the best LG last year but that was two surgeries ago. If they release him it will be in June or later – after what needs to be seen.

          LeRibeus and Compton are free agents so decisions will need to be made on those two.

          So for center, there is Lichtensteiger and possibly Long and Reiter on the 90-man roster. I suspect a center prospect could be drafted. There doesn’t appear to be any 1st round talent there or that pressing of need to make the pick there but later on it wouldn’t surprise me.

  3. bk70 - Feb 26, 2016 at 7:21 AM

    Rich, how much will they hold in reserve to sign players from the 2016 draft?

  4. babyteal1 - Feb 26, 2016 at 7:26 AM

    Rich, What about the carry over money from last year? Is this added into your numbers?

    • Rich Tandler - Feb 26, 2016 at 7:29 AM

      Yes, the link in the first paragraph goes to my post with the details.

  5. troylok - Feb 26, 2016 at 7:31 AM

    I look at this list and figure what they can do for replacements.

    -Roberts will be replaced by a rookie, no doubt, although the Redskins might take a shot at a free agent that could make Garcon’s future questionable. Mohamed Sannu intrigues me here.

    -Goldson doesn’t impress me. He’s lost a step and can’t tackle. Ihenacho steps up into his role with Kyshoen Jarrett chomping for playing time.

    -Hatcher – He always seemed to be just a step too slow on plays. IMO they need a bigger end, but if they chose for smaller and faster, beef up Trent Murphy and plug him in.

    -Lichtensteiger – I’d like to see Scherff moved in there but ain’t going to happen. The best option is to sign Licthensteiger to a one year cap friendly contract and look for a developmental prospect in the draft.

    -Riley – Keep him. Negotiate a cap friendly deal. He is not as good a tackler as Foster and Compton but he is more athletic. Something seemed to click for him last year late in the season before his injury and Washington should see if that was the start of something special.

    • ET - Feb 26, 2016 at 12:30 PM

      Goldson offers a lot more than just his abilities as a safety. He’s a leader, mentor, and on-field defensive commandant. I think the front office will try hard to restructure his contract while continuing to groom a couple younger guys and/or finding some longer term solutions at safety. He’s a valuable presence in the same way London Fletcher was even toward the end of his career.

      As far as Riley goes, it’d have to be a very team friendly deal to keep him. He’s just too inconsistent and replaceable at a fraction of his current cost. 2015 was already Riley’s “see if he can make it work” year. He failed in that regard. Though I do agree that Riley had some flashes of good play last season, it was too little to warrant keeping him, IMO.

    • Trey Gregory - Feb 27, 2016 at 4:10 AM

      Ok. To everyone who says Goldson can’t tackle. I’ve seen this complaint a lot. You guys do realize that he was our team’s leading tackler last year, right? We had some pretty serious tackling issues last year, there’s lots of bad tacklers on this team. If we release them all then we won’t have a defense. My point, if we release our leading tackler, then we’re probably only compounding those issues.

      Also @ Troy: why on earth would you want to take a budding star (Scherff), in his second year, at a position he’s still learning but has the potential to be a pro bowler at, and move him to a new position to learn? Basically starting his learning curve all over again? Because he’s not experienced enough yet where that wouldn’t stunt his growth. Then who’s going to play RG at the same level or better than him? And are you sure that he will be a better center than Cory L., Leribus, Long, Reiter, or Kouandjo? There’s no guarantee that he’s Scherff is an upgrade at center or that we find a replacement at RG as good as him. So why not just leave him there and draft or train a new center? You’re obviously entitled to your opinion, and it could work. I just don’t think it would be prudent. Maybe Jordan Reed can solve our ILB problems or Trent Williams can play DE for us too.

  6. babyteal1 - Feb 26, 2016 at 7:39 AM

    Let them all go.

  7. chad - Feb 26, 2016 at 10:09 AM

    Thank you Rich for a job well done, as always!.

  8. Mr.moneylover - Feb 26, 2016 at 10:20 AM

    Scot m. Wanna sign a few free agents not only unrestricted free agents so that’s why its big to get a long term deal done…also when scot m. Was ask do they have a back up plan in place he said “ always especially in this business ” …we got to many needs to franchise tag kirk cousins if we franchise tag kirk cousins they mines well throw away the season because needs not gonna get fixed until 2017…they need to just let Jason hatcher go and Andre Roberts and perry Riley because they all haven’t really gave the redskins a big boost that it needs a hungry rookie can do more of what they did and probably do it better

    • Mr.moneylover - Feb 26, 2016 at 10:26 AM

      I think the rookie C that they drafted in the 7th round will be the center this year but of course they gonna add competition…its a reason why he got resign to the practice squad and practice and learn for a whole year just like arie kouandjiou… Arie kouandjiou might be the guy starting next to Trent Williams next season… Spencer long struggle in the running game witch didn’t help him take that starting job he’s gonna have to battle for it

    • bangkokben - Feb 26, 2016 at 10:37 AM

      What need will go unmet if they franchise Cousins? It simply means they’ll have $3-$4 million less to work with until they get a deal done. So that might be one guy until the deal is done. The draft picks won’t get done until June anyway. Depending on the way things shake, the Redskins could then rescind the franchise tag before the deadline if all of the other potential suitors have their situation settled, Cousins hasn’t signed off on the tag, AND the ‘skins need the cap space.

  9. Tim - Feb 26, 2016 at 2:22 PM

    Already making excuses when they draft wrong player again. YOU DONT DRAFT A GUARD #5 OVERALL…. you draft the top rated DT all American Leonard Williams. Better off taking a GUARD at 21 this year….
    SMMMOOOOOVVVV MOVE SKINS

    • unknownskinfan - Feb 26, 2016 at 7:23 PM

      They needed an Offensive lineman. They took the consensus best Offensive Line prospect at #5. The idea was to have him at Right Tackle, Morgan Moses was further along than they thought and he was kicked inside. Led to a pretty good pick being used at a guard. They had a need on Defensive line but the young-ish free agents they had picked up looked to solidify that part so no real need to get Leonard Williams.

      Best move? Probably not. Smartest move to immediately help a rather porous O-line? You betcha.

  10. chad - Feb 26, 2016 at 4:40 PM

    Rich, i tweeted you a many question and long tweet few nights ago and you told me to look for this. I mAde a mistake and ask you about tender offer, what i meant was instead of franchise why not transition tag kirk.

    • Rich Tandler - Feb 26, 2016 at 5:16 PM

      Transition tag too risky. Redskins could be left without a quarterback and without the means to acquire a replacement.

      There is a reason the transition tag is rarely used. It makes little sense for the team as they get no compensation if they can’t match the offer.

  11. James McFullan - Feb 26, 2016 at 6:21 PM

    Rich Tandler, there was a report today saying that Jaylon Smith will miss the entire 2016 season, how will that affect his draft stock?

    • Rich Tandler - Feb 27, 2016 at 6:27 AM

      Depends on if he can play in 2017 or not. At least back to second round, maybe third or later.

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