Washington Redskins: Free agents, RGIII trade and the salary cap

Mar 14, 2012

The Washington Redskins' offseason has been quite eventful in the past five days, as the team:

- Traded up in the 2012 draft, ostensibly to select Baylor QB Robert Griffin III.

- Was told by the NFL that it would suffer a $36 million salary cap reduction for its actions in the uncapped 2010 season.

- Moved quickly to sign wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan as free agency opened.

Discuss these developments and more with Post Redskins reporter Mike Jones at 1 pm ET on Wednesday.

Good afternoon, and thanks for joining me. The Redskins so far have upgraded their WR unit, re-signed Carriker, and more moves are expected.

I the last 20 hours, or so, the Redskins have apprently signed 2 new WRs and resigned Adam Carricker. Why haven't they made any official announcements?

Some of it might have to do with the fact that these are agreements, and that the team is waiting for guys to fly in, take physicals and put pen to paper.

When are we going to get help on the O-line and who will we likely land now that Carl Nicks is off the market? - Jim

They're looking to do that. It looks like now that Nicks and Jared Gaither are off the market, Eric Winston, Ben Grubbs, Evan Mathis, Levi Brown remain as some of the best options. The Skins were hoping to talk to Winston, but he has some other visits first.

Why did the NFL wait until after the Redskins made the RGIII trade to assess them the salary cap hit? It seems to me that it is unfair and that the NFL punished the Redskins for making the spectacular trade. Had the Redskins been docked prior to the trade there is no way that they make the trade. Am I correct with this assumption?

That's a question that a lot of people -- the Redskins included -- would like to know. It doesn't appear that the Redskins had received notified ahead of time. They still would have done the RGIII trade though, I'm told.

How likely is it that the reduction in salary cap will be overturned? Have the Redskins spent under the impression that they will receive cap room back?

I don't think it's very likely. I mean, the Redskins could pursue legal action, but so far, there aren't any indications that they've made up their minds on what to do. It's hard to say exactly if they're spending as if they will get the cap room back, because we don't yet know how all of these deals are structured. Lots of times, with big deals, the first year is structured so there's not much of a salary cap hit. That's why the Redskins probably will find ways to meet their needs despite this.

Hey Mike, what's up with the Eddie Royal deal, and other than Merriweather visiting, is there anything else on the Redskins' agenda?

Eddie Royal remains unsigned. I'm told this was a situation where the Redskins thought they had an agreement in place, and then other teams got wind and started expressing interest. The Redskins remain optimistic they can sign Royal. He went to dinner with Snyder, Allen and Shanahan last night. The rest of the agenda includes finding a right tackle, maybe a guard, definitely help at safety and probably corner as well.

Do the Redskins have any money left to go after a corner, a right tackle, or a guard or will they have to cut someone first? Does anyone have any idea whom the 'skins plan to target now, whether in free agency or are they planning to fill their remaining roster needs through the draft?

It depends on the market, and how they're structuring the deals. If they have a good enough feeling that they could get a talented right tackle with that third pick, the Redskins could opt not to spend high on a right tackle in free agency.

Should we view Morgan and possibly Royal as some combo of three and four as well as insurance should Hankerson not become a strong #2 or even the #1 WR in Washington? Do you think some in the organization see Hankerson as the eventual dominant #1 WR that they didn't get with VJax?

From what I gather, the Redskins hope their starting WRs can be Garcon and Hankerson. If they can get Royal, who had his best year under Shanahan, he could take over that slot. That would give you Gaffney and Armstrong and Morgan to remain in the mix, but this will be interesting to see how Santana Moss (who had a down year last season and has a $4.6 million hit this year) is impacted by these moves.

Mike, why did you state in your column that Reed Doughty could be an answer at the free safety position? Do you not watch the Skins play? Doughty is slow as molasses and gets burned in coverage each and every time. Name me one FS worse than Doughty in the NFL.

The Redskins really value Doughty for his versatility. Given their cap situation, I wouldn't be surprised if they pick up a strong safety, and then make do at free safety. You'd have to think they would go with Gomes if he's far enough along in his development, and paired with Doughty, the two might be able to get the job done. Would it be the ideal plan? Maybe not. Or, there's a chance they already have something else in the works.

Can we afford to pay London Fletcher after the latest signings?

That remains to be seen. You'd have to think with Fletcher set to turn 37 this spring, the Redskins would want to front-load this deal. So far, the two sides can't agree. The Redskins need to sign Fletcher, however, or a divisional rival like the Giants or Eagles could scoop him up.

Will the Redskins fight the $36M cap hit penalty? I think they should and I think they will win. PFT has been discussing this quite a bit and they make a convincing argument that the Redskins were basically asked to violate labor law and collude. They refused to do so. That's the correct legal behavior so the NFL has no grounds to enforce this.

Bruce Allen's statement the other night definitely indicated that the Redskins aren't happy, and let on that the team would look for a way to fight it. It's confusing that the league would penalize them when it was the league that approved the contracts and took no issue at the time.

Was the Atogwe moved directly related to the cap penalty? If they have that space, would they bring him back and see if he can return to form? Do you think they'll bring in two starters at safety? or will Gomes/Doughty fill one of those?

Real quick, Looks like the Cowboys just signed Kyle Orton. Not good news for the Redskins, who saw him as a reliable veteran to bring into the mix as they prepped RGIII. Now, for your question: No, I don't believe the release of Atogwe was directly related. The poor guy just couldn't stay healthy, and talking to people around the league, the belief was that his body had given up on him last year, and that's why the Redskins faced little competition in signing him. Can't pay $4 million to keep someone like that. It might be hard to bring in two starters at safety, though.

Why wasn't the deal done with Fletcher prior to free agency and what is the status. If they don't re-sign Fletcher I will see free agency as a real failure. Maybe a couple steps forward on offense with a huge step back on D.

The Redskins would've liked to have worked out a deal to re-sign Fletcher before free agency, but the two sides weren't able to agree on a figure, I gather. It would be a very big loss if Fletch goes elsewhere, because that sets back your defensive progress that you gained last year. The Redskins would then have to bring in another ILB, because other than Perry Riley, there wasn't a reliable veteran backup there last year.

Now that the Redskins have signed 2 new WRs what are they going to be looking at next, in the FA??

Right tackle, strong safety, veteran QB to compete with Beck and Griffin, maybe a left guard, although the team feels like Lichtensteiger will be ready by training camp. They need a reliable veteran guard/center evenso.

When will Dan sell the team? Until he is gone, I will not spend another penny on ANY Redskins paraphernalia. As someone who grew up a 'Skins fan, his presence has tainted an otherwise storied franchise, WHEN can we have our 'Skins back?!

Dan Snyder's Redskins are one of the richest franchises in all of sports. I don't see him selling this team for a very, very long time. Plus, he grew up a huge fan and truly loves the franchise. He won't part with it. He'll keep trying to get this thing right.

Mike, I am a little surprised the Skins haven't gone after Eric Winston more strongly. What is their plan at RT? Also, I know Landry's injuries have frustrated the team, but it's also a little surprising that he seems to be getting no consideration from the Redskins. What is their plan at safety? Thanks!

The Redskins really have interest in Winston, I'm told, but his first visit was to Miami, where he went to college, and I saw something about his brother works for the Dolphins. The Redskins still aren't out of it. This signing would make great sense for them. On Landry, from what i gather, the team would rather sit back and see what interest he generates and then decide whether to jump in or not, but in their minds, they are fine if he goes elsewhere because when you think about it, he hasn't been healthy since Week 7 or 8 of the 2010 season. It would be bad business to make a significant investment when there are so many questions.

Did the 'Skins end up getting any draft picks for trading Haynesworth and McNabb? I thought we got a 5th rounder for each, but since they were cut by the teams we traded them to, does that mean we do not get the draft picks?

I know they got a sixth-rounder this year for McNabb. That's why they still have a sixth-rounder. (The other, they sent to Arizona for Hightower). I think the Patriots' pick isn't until next year.

I think that just about everyone who is a Redskins fan, is psyched about the Redskins trading up to get a new star QB, but what is he lacking that he might have to learn quickly so that he could become an elite QB in the NFL?

The biggest thing will be decision-making and learning to read defenses. There also is an adjustment to the speed of the game. Griffin is as fast as they come, but everyone around him will be moving faster than what they did in college.

Seems like a few WRs might be on their way out. Who do you expect might get the axe? Any other cuts you see coming soon? Brown? Cooley?

It actually helps the Redskins more to wait until later this summer to cut Jammal Brown. The bulk of the salary cap hit would be deferred to next year. They're still working with him, though, to try to see how healthy he can get. Cooley and the Redskins both hope he can fully regain his health and remain in the mix this year.

Is it your opinion that Garcon (and Morgan and maybe Royal) was the Redskins preferred WR target all along or was it Plan B in the wake of the salary cap penalty?

I know that the Redskins had Garcon circled as a target all the way back in January. They believed he could be a legit No.1, and they have paid him like it. The salary cap penalty didn't have anything to do with that.

Can you help me understand the pay cap issue? What does it mean when a team front-loads it's contracts?

I'll try my best haha. Basically, a guy can sign a contract that says five years, 26 million. BUT, that doesn't mean every year he will make an equal total. Take Atogwe last year. His deal was for about that five year, $26 million, but he made a total of $8 million last year, would've made around $4 million this, $4 million next, almost $5 million after that, and almost $5.5 the next year. They worked it so he got the most of his contract in the first year (front loaded), and then made it easy to get out of the contract in year 2 (which they did). Get it? Hope that makes sense.

Why are the redskins only going after the small and fast WRs and not going for some of the taller WRs?

They have a big target in Hankerson (6-2-1/2, 220), and Garcon is around 6-1 I believe. Don't rule out the draft, where there are several big target WRs expected to be around in the 3rd and 4th rounds.

Do you think Chris Cooley will be on the Redskins roster in September?

If he's healthy, then definitely. Fred Davis is said to have learned his lesson, but it's still a shaky situation, so if Cooley is healthy, then definitely. And, the Redskins really liked using both of them together.

Will Skins release Grossman and keep Beck?

Grossman is a free agent. He signed a one-year deal to keep his options open last season. Just losing out on Kyle Orton, who just signed with Dallas, could put Rex back in play for the Skins. Beck and Jonathan Crompton (who spent all of last year on the practice squad) are the only QBs under contract.

Who's going to win the battle for #85, Hankerson or Garcon?

Considering Hankerson is already here, I think he'd probably hang onto it. But, you never know, if he wants to make a little cash, maybe he works out a deal with Garcon for #85 haha

Could the Redskins use the franchise-tagged Fred Davis as a tool to get additional pics, and then come back to relying on Cooley?

I don't see another team wanting to give up TWO first round picks to get Davis. And the Redskins view him as their top playmaker, so they don't want to part with him. Cooley has to get healthy. If he can, then the team will use him along with Davis often.

Whats your opinion of the Garcon signing? I feel they could have gotten away with just Royal and Morgan considering the have Moss, Gaffney, and Hankerson already there. Garcon seems to be the first big marquee signing of this administration.

I think it was a good signing. One thing the Redskins really lacked on offense was a big YAC (yards after the catch) guy. Receivers would catch the ball, and go down shortly after, and some times immediately. That's why only twice all year did a pass-catcher grab the ball, and run downfield for a touchdown. That's pretty bad. Garcon averaged 5.1 yards after the catch last year. He's got great speed, and that will help take the lid off of the defense for guys like Hankerson, Gaffney and Moss to work underneath. Only thing I didn't get was why Anthony Armstrong wasn't used more. Yes, he struggled to beat press coverage at times, but given that there was no other speedster on the unit, you'd think he should've gotten more playing time.

Hi Mike,  thanks for doing the chat at what must be a pretty busy time for you. My question is about the strange world of player preparation...  All the recent Laron Landry stuff has me wondering if is it totally up to the players themselves to prepare (and repair) themselves in the offseason and in between games? Can the team help, or is that against the rules?

 

It just seems so strange to me to see these players and teams do such a horrible job of taking care a of such a huge investment. For example, Landry can't run and is seemingly being foolish in not getting surgery and is instead weightlifting like he's a body builder. 

 

Are teams and players still acting like it's the dark ages of sports nutrition/physiology/training?

The team CAN help a player, but he has to want the team to help him. Take Leonard Hankerson. He had the hip injury, and has spent all of the offseason rehabbing at Redskins Park. Jammal Brown is another example. Mike Shanahan said, 'You've got to get healthy, or you won't be on this team. So work with our staff this offseason' So Brown has been doing that. The Redskins doctors (as well as the top foot specialist, who doesn't work for the team) thought Landry should've had foot surgery. But, he didn't like the idea of getting cut open, having his Achilles' tendon cut, and repaired, and then going through a full year of rehab. So he tried alternative medicine (away from the team) because he wanted to go a different route. We'll see if it pays off.

If a RT is not brought in and Willie Smith moves to RT replacing J Brown, is there any thought to getting a backup for T Williams since he is one stupid action away from a yearlong suspension?

Willie Smith is an option if Jammal Brown can't recover fully. But I think the Redskins would like to get a veteran in place as well.

RG3 is the future but he need a QBs to groom the rookie. who can the redskins sign that fits in their system?

The Redskins had hoped for Kyle Orton, but he signed with Dallas. The pickings seem rather thin as far as quality QBs. Rex Grossman might be the best bet believe it or not.

The Skins seem to be constructing a passing attack similar to that of the 49ers this past year. An interchangeable trio of receivers with a tight end in Fred Davis who does the heavily lifting. Does this comparison work?

That could be a good comparison, although Garcon is probably the lead guy on the edges, and Fred will be used in a variety of ways.

Counting the McNabb debacle, Shanahan has now invested 6 draft picks into the QB position. And it doesn't even matter if RG III is the truth -- 4 wasted years and 6 lost draft picks aren't made up in one great player (even at QB). That's Vinny-like in its ineptitude. (Add in the sins of Vinny in the uncapped year and they don't even have the free agent money to make up for their lack of draft picks. Sure, the Skins played by the rules and had every contract blessed by the commissioner, so maybe they are getting hosed on the cap. But the simple fact remains that winning teams don't operate this way.) Snyder created a poisonous "start" culture where the team was always just one big move away from being winners. Shanahan talked like he was going to be different -- that he would build a team of workers, not "stars", through the draft -- but then we get another Vinny-like move anyway. Why should we believe this is going to turn out any differently than the last 20 times the Skins made a big splash offseason move?

I think the RGIII trade will be different than McNabb for the fact that he's young, full of potential and the Redskins are working to put the right parts around him. With McNabb, they basically took a has-been and tried to put him right in, and he really had nothing left. Now that the Redskins are adding playmakers, and Griffin, maybe we can see what Kyle Shanahan really has. This offense needs a couple more moves the bulk up the offensive line, and then could be good to go and grow together.

Alright, I'd really like to thank everyone for taking part. Good talk. It'll be interesting to see how everything plays out from here on!

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Mike Jones
Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post.
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