- The Washington Times - Monday, March 7, 2016

Scot McCloughan has until Wednesday at 4 p.m., the start of the new league year, to make the moves necessary to get his team under the salary cap for the 2016 season, but the Washington Redskins‘ general manager did not waste any time in doing so.

The Redskins made a series of cuts on Monday, clearing nearly $30 million in salary cap space for the upcoming season. It was long expected that the Redskins were going to release quarterback Robert Griffin III, who was due $16.2 million after the team picked up his fifth-year option last summer, and they finally did so on Monday morning.

A flurry of moves followed. Washington also released veteran defensive end Jason Hatcher, free safety Dashon Goldson and strong safety Jeron Johnson. The Redskins also informed nose tackle Terrance Knighton and fullback Darrel Young that they would be moving on from the two players, each of who mare set to become unrestricted free agents on Wednesday.

While some of these moves were anticipated — most notably the release of Griffin — it was still surprising to see some of the moves, according to outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan.

“Even though you hear it’s coming and you see the writing on the wall, it’s a weird day, really,” Kerrigan said by telephone. “Not only [Griffin], but a guy like D.Y., I played with my whole career here. Jason Hatcher, I only played two years with him, but I’ve developed a great relationship with him. This time of the year is always tough because you know there are going to be cuts and guys are going to be moving on based on a number of reasons, whether it’s salary or whatever it is, but this year more than any, it’s weird. It really is weird.”

Running back Alfred Morris is also an impending free agent and will test the market. At the NFL combine in Indianapolis, coach Jay Gruden did not rule out Morris’ return, though it seems unlikely at this point. On Sunday, Morris posted a picture on his Instagram account with a lengthy caption, thanking the organization for the last four years, from team owner Dan Snyder to B.J. Blanchard, who works the front desk at Redskins Park.

With Griffin already gone and Morris’ future uncertain, there’s hardly a trace of the 2012 team that took the league by storm, won the NFC East and gave Redskins fans a glimmer of hope for the future.

“It really is crazy because they weren’t just the two spark plugs for the offense, they were the spark plugs for the entire team,” Kerrigan said. “The city, Washington loved Alfred and Robert. Everyone loved them. They were great teammates, great players. It’s hard to imagine at that time that one won’t be here next year and the other might not be either.”

Hatcher mulled retirement in the offseason and was set to return, but the Redskins decided to cut the veteran defensive end. Hatcher, who had two years remaining on his contract, was scheduled to make $8.7 million in 2016. The Redskins saved $4.3 million by cutting the 33-year-old before his 11th season. In 15 games last season, Hatcher had 16 tackles and two sacks.

The only game Hatcher missed in 2015 was the team’s regular-season finale against the Dallas Cowboys, when the Redskins rested their starters before the playoffs. However, Hatcher played the final three games with a pinched nerve in his neck that was weakening his left shoulder. He also had Wednesday practices off for the majority of the season to rest his knees.

The Redskins signed Hatcher to a four-year, $27.5 million contract in 2014 after he played eight seasons for the Cowboys. Hatcher has been incredibly reliable throughout his career and has not played in less than 13 regular-season games in any one season, however his production dipped in 2015. His two sacks were the fewest since 2010.

Knighton wrote on his Twitter account that he has been “told to move on,” from the Redskins. Knighton signed a one-year, $4.45 million contract with the Redskins in 2015 after spending the last two years with the Denver Broncos. The veteran nose tackle recorded 29 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 15 games with Washington.

The Redskins‘ fullback also tweeted his goodbye, writing, “Thank you Redskins for the past seven years. Fans, teammates, coaches. It was a blast!” Young was with the Redskins for seven seasons after signing as an undrafted free agent in 2009. A linebacker at Villanova, Young converted to fullback during the 2010 season.

Young played in 90 games with the Redskins and rushed for 185 yards and seven touchdowns. He also caught 45 passes for 432 yards and six touchdowns. Young’s playing time dipped significantly last season and he was only on the field for 10.1 percent of the Redskins‘ offensive snaps. However, he continued to play a prominent role on special teams. In 2013, the Redskins signed Young to a three-year, $3.97 million contract.

The Redskins acquired Goldson for a sixth-round pick last season from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The veteran safety signed a five-year, $41 million contract with the Buccaneers in 2013, but his two-year tenure did not go well. As part of the trade, Tampa Bay paid $4 million of Goldson’s salary in 2015.

Goldson was scheduled to make $8 million in 2016 and the team was hoping to restructure his contract, according to a person familiar with the situation. The Redskins save all of the $8 million by cutting the hard-hitting safety, though it’s possible he will return on a new deal.

Perhaps the most surprising part of most of these moves is that Knighton, Hatcher and Goldson all played critical roles in changing the culture around Redskins Park this season. Young was also a prominent leader in the locker room.

Following two seasons in which the team won just seven games total in 2013 and 2014, it was obvious that the Redskins wanted to go in a different direction in 2015. They did that by going 9-7 and winning the NFC East. Though some of the players McCloughan brought in to change that culture are gone, Kerrigan is confident the team will continue moving in the right direction.

“It’s the individuals that have to embrace the change,” Kerrigan said. “I feel like it was an organizational change and it’s just a different mindset now. We expect to do well and we know we can be a good team so that’s where we’re at with that.

“Coming off the 2012 season, we kind of assumed we were going to be good because of how we finished. The feeling I get right now is guys feel we’ve got to work for it. It’s not given to us. We got a taste of it last year, but you can sense it, guys are hungry and want to go even further next year.”

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