Washington Redskins Contract Analysis

If the Washington Redskins have any sustainable competitive advantage over another NFL team, it is that they have consistently written team friendly contracts over the last two seasons.  Whether it is through their foresight to leverage the uncapped year to their advantage with deals for DeAngelo Hall and Albert Haynesworth, or their ability to spend a lot in free agency without committing to players long-term, the Redskins have an advantage compared to other teams when it comes to signing veterans.

General Manager Bruce Allen is always going to prefer deals with veterans over big-money extensions for existing Redskins that was his M.O. in Oakland, and later in Tampa Bay.  While every organzation prefers to use the draft to acquire talent because the draft is a vehicle to acquire cheaply that has a lot of upside, the draft is limited in the resources it can provide a team because the picks are finite.  For the Redskins to be a truly well run organization under Allen, they are always going to be a veteran team.  There’s just no way around that.  If the Redskins wanted to become a young, hungry team that uses only the draft and bargain basement signings to win games, they would have hired someone from Green Bay or Indianapolis to run their team.

Suffice it to say, no matter how well the Redskins continue to do in the draft, it will be the personnel moves that they make in free agency and via trades (as well as within their own roster) that will determine how successful they will be under this regime.  Unfortunately, they have not been all that successful thus far in building with veterans (they’ve actually been more sucessful in the draft under Shanahan), which is why we haven’t seen a meaningful turnaround just yet.

The Washington Redskins will return 37 players under contract next year (this does not include any players signed to futures contracts).  This article will analyze those contracts on the offensive side of the ball, identify those players, discuss potential candidates for release, and examine holes within the existing roster.

The Redskins ‘Under Contract’

Offensive Skill Talent (unrestricted free agency year): QB John Beck (2013), RB Darrel Young (2014), RB Roy Helu (2015), RB Evan Royster (2015), WR Santana Moss (2014), WR Jabar Gaffney (2013), WR Anthony Armstrong (2014), WR Brandon Banks (2014), WR Leonard Hankerson (2015), WR Niles Paul (2015), WR Aldrick Robinson (2016), TE Chris Cooley (2014), TE Mike Sellers (2015), TE Logan Paulsen (2014)

The biggest issue here is that Fred Davis is a free agent.  Santana Moss is also a very obvious candidate for release, while Mike Sellers’ retirement (forced or unforced) may well be a formality at this point.  Chris Cooley’s future is also worth discussing, those my expecation is that he will be back and more productive than last season, though Cooley now has two lost seasons in the last three years after making the pro bowl in consecutive years.

Santana Moss’ contract was clearly structured with the idea of him being on the team in 2012 and 2013, and holding essentially a team option for 2014.  If the Redskins release Moss this offseason, they can save $6.75 million of his $15.05 million contract, making the 2011 committment a one year/$8.3 million deal.  The franchise tender would have cost the Redskins more than that, but would have arguably allocated the cap better.  Again though, the expectation when the team signed the deal is that Moss would be back next season, and the only thing that will prevent that is if Moss is believed to be not worth his roster spot anymore.  If Moss is released, he will cost $4.33 million on the salary cap for 2013, which is more than he would cost on the cap if the Redskins kept him.  If he is released with a June 1st designation, Moss costs $2.17 on the salary cap this year (slightly less than he currently does), but will count another $2.17 million in 2013.  Either way, the Redskins still owe $4.33 million on the cap to Moss.  If the Redskins keep Moss for 2013, they still owe that cap money, but will also be on the hook for his salary (reported in two different places as $2.6 million or $3.1 million), which would raise their total committment in Moss to $11 million dollars for two seasons.  This was not a good contract for the Redskins.

Mike Sellers’ cap hit will be just $300,000 whenever he is released.  There is no reason to designate him with a June 1, but if they did, the Redskins would be on the hook for $200,000 in 2013 cap room.  Who cares?  Sellers is due to make $1.045 million next season, meaning the Redskins can save the cost of two late round draft choices or one vet minimum player if they move on without him.  With Sellers, this isn’t a money issue, it’s an issue with a roster spot.

Chris Cooley’s contract is a bit confusing. Cooley is owed just over $4.5 million in signing bonus money (which has already been paid to him, just not allocated on the cap) from his 2007 contract extension.  He also is owed a roster bonus of $100,000 each of his last two seasons which the Redskins can opt to pay if they release him.  Cooley is owed $7.65 million in salary ($7.85 including roster bonuses) over the last two years of the contract, spread pretty evenly.  The Redskins can save $1.7 on the cap by releasing Cooley, or they can release him with a June first designation, saving about $4 million, and then would be on the hook for the final $2.27 million or so next season.  The Cooley extension was not particularly well structured by Vinny Cerrato, and I think he’s likely to be back in 2012.

Offensive Line (unrestricted free agency year): OG Kory Lichtensteiger (2013), OT Trent Williams (2015), OT Jammal Brown (2016), OG Chris Chester (2016), OG Maurice Hurt (2015), OT Willie Smith (2015), Erik Cook (2015)

Left Guard Kory Lichtensteiger’s 2-yr contract with the Redskins that he signed in January 2010 has expired, but because Lichtensteiger was not on a team’s active roster in 2009, he can be retained by the Redskins as a restricted free agent, and furthermore, remains a rare candidate for a contract extension.  When you look at that offensive line situation, you can see that outside of Lichtensteiger, the Redskins have practically no contract issues on the front line.  Will Montgomery is an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career, having accrued a season with the Panthers, and now three with the Redskins.  He is likely to return.

The bigger issue on the offensive line is that Jammal Brown is an obvious candidate for release, and that it’s not inconcievable that the Redskins could look to upgrade Chris Chester if they can find the right opportunity at RG.  Chester will certainly be on the team (and probably in the starting lineup) next season, though he’s a bit out of place at RG.  Chester may end up being the long term solution at left guard if something happens to Lichtensteiger or the Redskins lose him in free agency after this year.  He is also a possibility to move to center.  Once Brown is gone (if he is gone) the Redskins will have just two OTs under contract: Williams and Smith, and they may have a crisis at the position if they do not already.

Brown will cost $2 million more on the salary cap to release than keep, or the Redskins could use their June 1st designation on him, saving them $2 million on the cap in 2012, but putting the Redskins on the hook for $3.9 million in cap space in 2013.  Neither option is particularly harmful if the Redskins decide Brown isn’t going to be a part of their future.  The Redskins can save $19.25 million on Jammal Brown’s $27.5 million contract by releasing him this offseason, which would essentally take his reported $5/27.5 deal and make it a one year/$8.25 million commitment.  That is a lot of money for Jammal Brown, sure, but it’s also a little less than the Redskins would have paid him if they had slapped the franchise tag on him last season.  That is money that a contract savvy team will save when writing deals, and the difference between a contract savvy team and a talent savvy team is that the contract savvy team will find a way to structure the contract so that the team saves money whether the player works out or not, and the talent savvy team will acquire a better starting RT than Jammal Brown.

To be continued tomorrow…the defensive contracts.