Washington Redskins Contract Analysis Part 2: Defense

At the beginning of this week, I looked at the salaries of the Redskins offensive players and went in-depth to look at some potential candidates for release.  This takes a similar look at the defensive side of the ball.

Defensive Front Seven (unrestricted free agency year): NT Barry Cofield (2017), DT Stephen Bowen (2016), DT Jarvis Jenkins (2015), NT Chris Neild (2015), LB Ryan Kerrigan (2016), LB Markus White (2015), LB Brian Orakpo (2014), LB Perry Riley (2014) LB Lorenzo Alexander (2013), LB Rob Jackson (2013)

This is a remarkably efficient group of contracts, making the defensive front seven the strength of the Washington Redskins organization in more ways than one.  Now, quite obviously, this group is missing it’s leader in the middle of the defense: that’s free agent stalwart London Fletcher.  And the Redskins have to find a way to get consistently stronger and deeper in the front three.  So this is not an area of the team that is without it’s needs.  But it’s already a strength of the team and has the potential to get even stronger.

Because there are no termination risks in this group with regards to the 2012 season (a remarkable state really for a sizable portion of the roster), I’ll instead look at two potential scenarios that won’t be relevant until a year from now (at least): if the Redskins need to get away from either the Barry Cofield contract or the Stephen Bowen contract after the 2012 season.

The release (cap) fee for Barry Cofield will always be equal to $2.284 million times the amount of years left on the contract.  There would be four years remaining on the contract after 2012 (=$9.136 million).  As always, the Redskins can choose to take that all in the current year, or to take $2.284 million in the current year (in this example, 2013) and take the remaining $6.85 million on the cap in year N+1 (in this example, 2014).  Cofield’s base salaries (plus roster bonuses) in those two seasons are equal to $6.55 million (2013), and $4.55 million (2014).  There’s a complication with that roster bonus in 2013, as it was clearly designed in the contract to prevent the team for exercising all of it’s cap flexibility with regards to the non-guaranteed portion of the contract.  The Redskins can avoid paying Cofield the roster bonus, but doing so would force them to eat $9 million on the 2013 cap to not have Cofield, which essentially functions to guarantee the third year of the contract (and the roster bonus).

The Bowen contract is much simpler.  The amortized cap bonus per year for Stephen Bowen is $1.5 million.  There will be three years remaining on the contract after 2012, meaning that the total remaining cap hit is $4.5 million.  The Redskins would have the option to take a $4.5 million cap hit in 2013, or take a $1.5 million cap hit in 2013 and a $3 million cap hit in 2014.  Bowen’s salaries in those two seasons are $3.9 million and $4.4 million, meaning that the Redskins can opt to save cap money both years, or wipe the committment from the books in 2013 (with a net cap cost of $600k).  The bottom line is that the Bowen contract is much more team-friendly to the Redskins than the Cofield contract.

Hopefully, Cofield and Bowen are dominant enough to represent the Redskins in Honolulu in 2012, and none of this is even remotely an issue next year.

Secondary (unresticted free agency year): O.J. Atogwe (2016), DeJon Gomes (2015), DeAngelo Hall (2014), Josh Wilson (2014), Reed Doughty (2014), Byron Westbrook (2013), Kevin Barnes (2013)

Doughty, Westbrook, and Barnes all enter 2012 in a fight to keep their roster spots.  The cap ramifications of parting with any of those guys is not significant.  Josh Wilson will be back next year and looks like a virtual lock to play out his three year contract with the Redskins.  This analysis will focus on two of the other guys on this list who did not perform well in 2011.

O.J. Atogwe’s contract was essentially structured as a glorified one year guaranteed contract, and with the way he played in 2011 (up and down, always injured), it’s really difficult to see him being back next year.  He’s not particularly expensive on the cap if the Redskins decide to keep him around for 2012 with a reasonable $3.4 million salary, but the Redskins can probably do better for that money.  Atogwe’s remaing cap cost is $1.6 million, meaning the Redskins can actually save some cap dollars by releasing him just one year into a five year deal, which is practically unheard of.  Atogwe’s agent knew that the terms of this deal paid the safety handsomely in 2011 (just under $10 million dollars for one year of work), but that the Redskins essentially now hold four one-year team options on the veteran safety.  This WASN’T a good contract for the Redskins, but now that the expensive first year is history, it has become an asset of sorts.

Back in 2010, the Redskins leveraged the uncapped season to make a guaranteed money dump for DeAngelo Hall and for Albert Haynesworth, driving the cap dollars up (and screwing with the franchise tag process!) through the roof, and making the contract very manageable for the rest of the time he is under team control.  In doing so, the Redskins opted to move a ton of extra (unlikey to ever be paid) money into the last year of the contract, making the sixth year of Hall’s deal (2014) pretty much a dummy year (cap value = $24 million).  More relevant to the current discusion, the Redskins will need to make a decision on Hall for 2012.  Hall’s salaries these next two years are $6.8 million and $8.3 million.  His remaining release fee is an astonishly low $600k, due only to the $1.5 million signing bonus he got on the day he signed the contract in 2009.  The Redskins can save $6 million in 2012 by parting ways with Hall.  In other words, if you keep him at that cap value, he needs to be playing every defensive snap.  If he isn’t valuable to you in that way, now is a good time to get rid of him, re: cap concerns.

The bigger concern on the defensive side of the ball is getting new contracts for players like LaRon Landry, London Fletcher, and Adam Carriker.  Contractually, there are a couple of straight forward decisions to be made on existing contracts such as Atogwe and Hall, but the Redskins aren’t hurting for the immediate cap dollars, and rest assured that no matter how the team chooses to spin it, a release of either of those two players will be a “football decision.”

Next week, I will look at the impending Redskins free agents, as well as the available cap space, with some guesses on how much space and how much activity we are in for as we head into Offseason 2012.