Estimated 2015 Cap Space: $13.8 million ($140M cap limit)
Players Under Contract: 47
Pro Bowlers: 1
Unrestricted Free Agents: 13(4 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 5
Salary Cap Breakdown
Free Agents to Re-sign
Washington is coming off a terrible season and while they have a number of free agents, none were particularly good. Roy Helu has a defined role on the team and is a good third down option. Running backs are not expensive so there is no reason for them not to pursue Helu, though it is possible that Helu will prefer a new home…Nobody can predict what Washington’s plan is with Robert Griffin III but having Colt McCoy as a $1 million or less backup can’t hurt.
Free Agents to Let Walk
Almost all of them…Washington continues to be one of the worst constructed teams in the NFL and they can help fix that by turning the roster over and rebuilding. Brian Orakpo can be a very good pass rusher but he is inconsistent and at this stage injured too often for this team. They can’t afford to keep him unless he takes a low priced one year contract…Brandon Meriweather isn’t terrible but he is a headache to deal with and one of the few players who seems to give no effort to observing the player safety rules changes… Santana Moss and Ryan Clark have had terrific NFL careers, but they are now at an end. Essentially Washington should let everyone walk unless they come back on a non-guaranteed contract for the minimum.
Contracts to Modify
Ryan Kerrigan is set to count for just over $7 million on the salary cap, which is a great value but Washington can use the cap space and there is no need to wait on extending him. He is a terrific pass rusher…Trent Williams may not be Orlando Pace, but he is certainly a good tackle. He is entering the final year of his contract with a cap figure over $13.5 million. He can be extended in the $9-10 million range with that cap number coming down…Pierre Garcon’s efficiency dropped tremendously in 2014 and is set to earn over $7 million next season. He has no guaranteed money left in his contract and would get lost in the free agent shuffle. He should be willing to take a pay cut.
Players to Consider Releasing
Stephen Bowen took a $2 million paycut last season, but after another unproductive and injury filled year it is time to cut ties. The team will create $5.5 million in cap room by releasing him…Though productive, DeSean Jackson should be put on the trade block as they need to shake the team up and he still has value that may not be there next season. Considering there was a team willing to pick up Percy Harvin’s contract someone should be willing to take on Jackson’s $7.5 million salary. If they can trade him they can save $5.5 million in cap space.
Unlike the other teams at the top of the draft, Washington is the first to not have tons of cap room to spare in 2015. Though some of the above moves can save the team anywhere from $12-19 million, Washington also has to prepare for an eventual franchise type tag on RGIII and a ballooning salary for Kerrigan. In the event the QB situation doesn’t improve they also don’t want to be bogged down with bad contracts for aging players, whose remaining prime years will go to waste while developing a quarterback. Creating cap space to find a short term band aid is going to hurt the team long term.
It is hard to make a case for the team to keep adding veteran players to a bad mix. That doesn’t mean they will not do it as ownership has shown time and time again the belief that the bad team can be fixed from outside, even though the end result is usually a more expensive bad team. There is no need for Washington to be signing 30+ year old defensive linemen and linebackers to multi year contracts but you can never rule it out. The two areas where they should consider free agency are right tackle and safety where you can usually find affordable players that can be very good right off the bat, though safety is a weak group this year.
But if they are ever to get back to being the dominant franchise they were in the past they need to start the process of focusing on the draft and clearing out some of the dead weight from the roster. Expect draft targets to be cornerback, interior O-line, linebacker, and safety. The Redskins are the only team in the NFL to have no contracts beyond the 2017 year so this draft class is really their future. If they have a strong draft and the QB play returns to where it was a few years ago that might signal turning the corner.