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Balanced salary structure helps Redskins stay under the cap

Jun 22, 2016, 9:25 AM EDT


Since the offseason started the Redskins have been quite busy spending money. They put the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins, signed free agent cornerback Josh Norman, gave Jordan Reed a contract extension, and decided to retain wide receivers Pierre Garçon (cap number $10.2 million) and DeSean Jackson ($9.25 million).

And they did it without busting their salary cap. They have a shade over $11 million in cap space left this year. The Redskins also are in good shape next year with about $40 million on hand next year.

Cap management primarily falls on the shoulders of Eric Schaffer, the Redskins’ vice president of football administration. The Washington Times summarized what Schaffer told them about how to sign and retain talent and still stay under the cap:

A successful team has approximately half of its roster signed to rookie contracts to supplement premium-priced established players, and the goal should be to have enough cap space to extend home-grown players when their rookie deals expire.

It should be noted that the Redskins aren’t just paying home-grown players; three of their six highest-paid players (Garçon, Jackson, and Norman) are premium free agents from other teams.

So where to the Redskins sit now in terms of contracts? Are they paying half of their roster on rookie deals? Well, technically they are not quite there but they are very close and they have enough contracts that are similar to rookie deals to make their cap work.

Of the 53 players projected here to make the final roster (offense, defense) there are 25 who are either on the contracts they signed as rookies or first-year players (either drafted or undrafted) or on exclusive rights free agent contracts, which are one-year deals at around the minimum salary.

The rookie deals are not all cheap. Four players on their rookie deals have cap hits of over $1 million this year led by Brandon Scherff, who has a $4.8 million cap number. The other 21 rookie contracts all have cap hits under $1 million.

The Redskins also have some veteran contracts that carry a cap hit of less than $1 million and combined with the 21 rookie deals in that range they have 27 players who have cap hits of less than $1 million. So that gets the Redskins where Schaffer wants them to be in terms of lower-end contracts with just over half of the projected roster (50.9 percent, to be exact) playing for something near the league’s minimum wage.

That structure allows the Redskins to handle six contracts with cap hits of $8 million or more, led by Kirk Cousins with his franchise tag number of $19.953 million and still have some cap space to spare.

The key to keeping the plan on track is the draft. It’s possible that Bashaud Breeland and Morgan Moses will sign contract extensions next year, moves that may push their cap numbers into the $5 million range, perhaps higher. But as long as the Scto McCloughan keeps a steady supply of inexpensive, quality players in the pipeline through the draft they will be able to absorb those contracts without any problem.

Here are the 2016 cap numbers of the projected 53-man roster (Rookie/exclusive-rights free agent contracts are in red; all cap information via




  1. redskins12thman - Jun 22, 2016 at 9:36 AM

    Scot and Eric have done an excellent job and must be retained.

    Riley, Lauvao and Paea need to produce.

    Baker, Galette, Breeland among others will be in line for salary increases.

    • bangkokben - Jun 22, 2016 at 10:58 AM

      Galette has a whole bunch of incentives that he might reach to get more money but is also looking for that huge payday next year.

    • Trey Gregory - Jun 23, 2016 at 2:56 AM

      You basically read my mind. I was going to say that two players stick out as being of out place: Riley and Lauvau. Particularly Riley. Because I think Lauvao has gotten a bad rep. He’s played well in the past. But he had a terrible first year with us. Then reports were he was improving, and we saw him play well for an abismal two games, then injury. So I want to believe in him, but he has to show it eventually.

      I put Paea on a longer leash. He played excellent in Chicago two years ago. That’s what got him that contract. I can forgive a guy for bad stats his first year with a new team: especially when t was full of injuries. But, unless I’m mistaken, Baker took his job. So Paea is going to have to find a way to contribute or else you’re probably correct. He’s good depth, but expensive depth.

      Agree about the 3 guys who are in line for expensive contracts though.

  2. troylok - Jun 22, 2016 at 11:05 AM

    I think this approach is proving to be a good one. It wasn’t all that long ago when the Vinny Cerrato circus was renegotiating contracts each year to get under the cap.

    One thing as a fan I would like to see is the Redskins trying a little harder to hold on to the homegrown talent. It killed me a few years back when Lorenzo Alexander left town. I think they pulled the plug a little too soon on David Amerson. I also believe it is sad that they couldn’t keep Darrell Young – a guy who did everything ever asked of him.

    • John - Jun 22, 2016 at 3:23 PM

      I hated to see Zo go to but how much do you pay special teams standout? There is a point at which you have to let them walk. Zo has moved 2 more times since leaving (Skins to Cards to Raiders to Bills).

      DY a similar situation. Not so regarding the money. He was affordable. They just don’t really us a fullback that much and favor multiple tight end sets. He also was not called on much to run the ball, while here. He has not latched on elsewhere.

      Amerson may be doing better because of different coaches, system, language. You never know. Not every player drafted ends up a good fit.

    • Trey Gregory - Jun 23, 2016 at 3:04 AM

      It was time to let Amerson go. He wasn’t playing well or getting better. And, allegedly, he wasn’t taking his job very serious. So they didn’t see him improving in the future. It’s very likely that him being cut what the kick in the ass he needed to start taking his job serious. It’s possible that he would have continued to play bad until he thought his job livelihood was threatened. We’ll never know. But it doesn’t make sense to look back at a player like that, who had every chance, and say they made a mistake because you saw him play better on a new team. You don’t know how he would have worked out. And we needed the roster spots. There’s a logjam of young, talented, hungry guys at corner now. Amerson didn’t deserve it.

  3. bangkokben - Jun 22, 2016 at 11:06 AM

    Good stuff, Rich!

    Golston’s and Hood’s cap hits also fall in the final tier but were not on Rich’s projected roster.

    Hood $625,625
    Golston $620,000

    Both could provide veteran leadership yet cost the cap less than a rookie 3rd round draft pick. They actually would take home more money but the CBA has ways to keep low cost vets instead of having to replace them with UDFAs. Keeping one over Riley and his salary/injury therefore is a possibility.

    • renhoekk2 - Jun 23, 2016 at 9:52 AM

      I’ll be shocked if Hood doesn’t make the team. Living in PA I get a lot of the Steelers games from CBS on Sundays. Unless he’s completely lost his game, he should make the roster and at least be a rotational guy. He’s better than what most Redskins fans think. He may even push Paea and Reyes for a starting job.

      • Trey Gregory - Jun 23, 2016 at 7:39 PM

        I expect he’ll probably make the team and provide either good depth or be a solid rotational player. But it’s hard to get too excited about him just based off recent history. We have to see it. I mean no disrespect to him but Im not going to get too excited until I see it on the field.

  4. baugh33 - Jun 22, 2016 at 12:43 PM

    How do incentives work? I mean, for example, if a player signs for $1,000,000 but can reach $3,000,000 with incentives – how does that make the cap different? If at all.

    • bangkokben - Jun 22, 2016 at 2:08 PM

      Good question. Personally, I don’t know. But it does have something to do with whether the player is expected to reach those incentives or not.

    • Rich Tandler - Jun 22, 2016 at 2:42 PM

      If the player achieved the number needed to collect the bonus the previous year it is likely to be earned (LTBE for short) and counts against the cap that year. If the player did not achieve it, it is unlikely to be earned (UTBE) and therefore it doesn’t count against the cap immediately.

      If the player achieves the level needed to trigger an UTBE bonus the cap charge can go the that year if the team has cap room or can roll over to the next season if the team doesn’t have enough cap space.

      So, since Junior Galette had zero sacks last year any sack bonuses in his deal are UTBE. If he had played and gotten six sacks, any bonuses paid out for six or fewer sacks would be LTBE, any payout for more than that UTBE.

      If a player does not collect a LTBE bonus the money is credited to the following year’s cap.

    • bangkokben - Jun 22, 2016 at 2:43 PM


      How do incentives affect the Salary Cap?

      Incentives are written into some contracts to pay a player for reaching certain performance criteria. Incentives come in two varieties – Likely To Be Earned (LTBE) and Not Likely To Be Earned (NLTBE) – each of which has different Salary Cap implications.

      Likely To Be Earned Incentives (LTBE) are incentives based on performance levels that were reached in the prior season. LTBEs count against the Salary Cap in the year they are scheduled.

      For example, if a RB ran for 1,200 yards last year and he has an incentive that will pay him $100,000 if he runs for 1,000 yards this year, the incentive would be a LTBE Incentive and would count against the Salary Cap this year.

      On the other hand, if the RB ran for 1,000 yards last year and he has an incentive that will pay him $100,000 if he runs for 1,200 yards this year, then incentive would be Not Likely To Be Earned (NLTBE) and would not count against this year’s Salary Cap.

      If the player does not earn a LTBE Incentive, then the amount of the incentive ($100K in our example) will be credited against the following year’s Salary Cap and the team would have $100K in additional Cap space in the following year.

      The opposite happens with NLTBE Incentives. If those are earned, they are charged to the following year’s Salary Cap. In our example, that would mean that the team would have $100K less in Cap space the following year.


      For practical purposes, Junior Galette has $2.5 million in NLTBE incentives. NLTBE because he didn’t play last season. I don’t know what exactly those incentives are but Galette did say he had the “Dexter Manley package” when referring to his contract on the radio back in March. So, if Galette does meet all his incentives, the Redskins’ cap next year will be $2.5 million less. Not to worry, the Redskns have at least $40 million in cap space next year and that will increase with whatever they excess they carry over from this year.

      • baugh33 - Jun 22, 2016 at 2:47 PM

        Thank you all! You’ve made it easy to understand! I appreciate that! Hail!

  5. skinsdiehard - Jun 22, 2016 at 3:00 PM

    Garcon, Hall, Riley and Lauvao are grossly overpaid.

    With Jordan Reed as the only player left from the 2013 draft class which was due to be unrestricted after 2016 season, the Skins made a good move to extend him.

    The 2014 draft class (Murphy, Moses, Long, Breeland, Grant) comes up for free agency after the 2017 season. Breeland, Moses and Long are worth retaining from that class. Their salaries replace the vets dropping off the roster in Garcon, Hall, Riley and Lauvao. Trent Murphy is only worth the veteran minimum in my opinion. Ryan Grant is expendable. It’s good planning.

    • goback2rfk - Jun 23, 2016 at 12:48 AM

      Garcon does make a lot but he also made some pretty big plays. That one catch in the end zone between the 2 defenders to win the game comes to mind, the Eagles game I believe it was?
      Garcon is pretty dependable and I like that about the guy. He is also not afraid to work the middle of the field which is good.

  6. garg8050 - Jun 22, 2016 at 6:38 PM

    Riley, Lauvao, and Kory are clearly in jeopardy…the ‘Skins will go into the season with Kory if they have to, but make no mistake about it, they wanted the kid from Alabama in round one. Other two need to prove they can stay healthy; cap numbers are way too high for backups.

    • Trey Gregory - Jun 23, 2016 at 3:00 AM

      How is he in jealousy? Who is going to beat him out? And even if someone does (like Long) who will beat him out as the backup? It’s completely irrelevant at this point if they wanted to draft Ryan Kelly. They didn’t, so Kory’s replacement isn’t in town.

      Not to mention drafting a position doesn’t necessarily mean they’re unhappy with the current talent. If you believe what McCloughan says then he’s drafting the BPA regardless. You don’t expect Doctson to start over Garcon, Jackson, and Crowder? Do you? They’re going to let him develop. And it’s a much tougher transition from college to the NFL for offensive linemen than WRs.

  7. Gil - Jun 22, 2016 at 8:39 PM

    Where is the underpaid Kedric Golston? He should be making $350,000/year more at least.
    Lauvo, Inhanchio, and Paea have been nonproducers for a long time. Scott, work your magic and replace them with healthy young talent
    All told, the organization has done an excellent job righting the ship. HTTR! Archives

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