Exploring the Redskins cap options

$60m – that was the ammunition the Redskins were reported to be entering into Free Agency armed with. Quite the war-chest.

Sadly, it was pretty misleading. The bulk of that ~$60m was basically just the result of having Cousins, Jackson and Garcon off the books. As soon as Cousins was franchised, the number took a $24m hit. Enter the fresh faces signed last week, and suddenly that number has now been reduced to $14m.

$14m isn’t a whole lot when you’re still yet to add a single notable addition to one of the leagues worst defenses.

Luckily, it’s not likely to stay that way. Here I’ll take a look at the most obvious options for creating a little more breathing room.

Option 1 – Sign Kirk Cousins

Cousins is currently carrying a $23.9m cap hit. That’s on track to be the 3rd highest cap hit in the NFL this season behind only Joe Flacco ($24.5m) and Carson Palmer ($24.1m).

A long-term deal is almost certainly going to see that number reduced, maybe substantially. Here’s a list of Quarterbacks who have signed new deals in recent years, and what their year 1 cap hit ended up being:

Player Year Signed APY Year 1 Cap Hit
Joe Flacco 2013 $20.1m $6.8m
Aaron Rodgers 2013 £22m £$12m
Carson Palmer 2014 $21m $13m
Russell Wilson 2015 $21.9m $18.5m
Ben Roethlisberger 2015 $21.8m $17.2m
Eli Manning 2015 $21m $14.4m
Andrew Luck 2016 $24.6m $18.4m

I’d expect a long-term deal for Kirk to reduce his year 1 hit to something in the neighborhood of $16m, which would give the team $8m back to spend this season. That money, in theory, buys a quality defensive starter. Whether there would be any of those left however is another matter.

Option 2 – Cap Casualties

This is inevitable for every team, every year. Some players are going to be told they’re not in the teams plans for the upcoming season. More often than not, it’s a business decision rather than a football one, and I think that mostly rings true for the Redskins this year.

Here are my top three candidates to become cap casualties:

DeAngelo Hall
Cap hit: $5m
Dead money: $812k
Cap savings: $4.2m

On the face of it, it’s easy to suggest Hall’s days are numbered with the arrival of DJ Swearinger. But Hall’s role in the team has evolved into something of an elder statesman in recent years. He’s well-respected, and has an extremely high understanding of how to play the game. However, working against him is the fact he’s started just 15 games over the past three seasons due to injury. That could ultimately be the deciding factor.

Shaun Lauvao
Cap hit: $5m
Dead money: $1m
Cap savings: $4m

This one is looking fairly likely at the moment. Although the only other Guard with playing time currently on the roster is Arie Kouandjio, $5m in cap is difficult to justify for Lauvao. The team also has some level of flexibility in that it could utilize Spencer Long here and look for a replacement Center instead.

Ricky Jean-Francois
Cap hit: $4m
Dead money: $1m
Cap savings: $3m

With two new interior defensive linemen in, and the team apparently still looking for more, Ricky’s job may be on the hot-seat. His utilization will no doubt be a big talking point – he played just 442 snaps last season, and has always been a career rotation player rather than a starter. That said, though his playing time is limited, his impact is often noticeable. For that reason I’d be very much against this one, and instead would rather see the team use this final year to see if he’s capable of a larger role.

Unfortunately all three options do incur dead money to some extent. While none are of particular significance, I wrote an addendum here yesterday about how it might be nice to see the Redskins attempt to employ some different contract negotiation tactics to avoid having to incur these hits so frequently.

Option 3 – Restructure Josh Norman’s Contract

There are other candidates for restructure, but Norman is the most obvious despite the fact he’s only entering year two of his deal. His $20m cap hit is massive – it’s by far the largest cap hit for a Cornerback this season with Janoris Jenkins second at $15m (excluding Trumaine Johnson who is currently under the Franchise Tag).

That means currently, the Redskins are the only team in the NFL with two players set to count $20m or more against the cap in 2017.

That hit can be lowered, however. By converting a portion of Norman’s 2017 base salary into a signing bonus, Norman would get the money up front and the Redskins could have it pro-rated against the rest of his contract.

Here is what Norman’s contract would look like should the Redskins decide to convert $6m, $8m or $10m of his 2017 base salary into a signing bonus:

$6m

Year Old Cap Hit New Cap Hit
2017 $20m $14m
2018 $17m $19m
2019 $14.5m $16.5m
2020 $15.5m $17.5m

$8m

Year Old Cap Hit New Cap Hit
2017 $20m $12m
2018 $17m $19.6m
2019 $14.5m $17.1m
2020 $15.5m $18.1m

$10m

Year Old Cap Hit New Cap Hit
2017 $20m $10m
2018 $17m $20.3m
2019 $14.5m $17.8m
2020 $15.5m $18.8m

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