- The Washington Times - Friday, February 27, 2015

With the start of the free agent signing period looming in two weeks, the Washington Redskins have begun making moves that will free up additional salary cap space.

The team released nose tackle Barry Cofield and defensive end Stephen Bowen on Friday, parting ways with the two defensive linemen they signed to remake their 3-4 defense prior to the 2011 season.

By doing so, the Redskins will save approximately $9.7 million against the salary cap. Cofield was scheduled to account for $7.678 million this coming season, and his dismissal will save the team $4.2 million. Bowen, meanwhile, was in the books for $8.02 million, and Washington will save $5.5 million by cutting him.

That would push the Redskins‘ projected available spending to the range of $23 million, which will allow it to continue to seek help on the defensive line but also address plenty of other areas of concern. Current estimates for the 2015 salary cap are at $143 million.

The decisions to release Bowen and Cofield were not entirely unexpected, as both players missed significant portions of last season because of injury.

Cofield played in eight games for the Redskins in 2014, marking only the second time in his nine-year career — and first time since 2008 — that the nose tackle did not start in every game. He missed half the season after sustaining a high right ankle sprain in the season-opening loss at Houston, then used the time away to undergo surgery on a groin muscle.

When he returned to the field Nov. 16 against Tampa Bay, Cofield was replaced by Chris Baker as the Redskins‘ top nose tackle. He drew the start in each of the next two games but played only 22.7 percent of all defensive snaps after returning.

Cofield, 30, spent his first five seasons with the New York Giants after being drafted in the fourth round out of Northwestern in 2006. He then signed a six-year, $36 million contract with the Redskins shortly before the start of the 2011 season to be the centerpiece of their 3-4 defensive front, hoping that he could make a successful conversion from defensive tackle to nose tackle.

He was productive in his first two seasons, especially as a run stopper, and managed a combined 5.5 sacks in 2011 and 2012. That contract, though, became a burden to the Redskins, and they frequently reworked his deal to save money against the salary cap — including just before the 2013 season, when he agreed to reduce his base salary from $4.5 million to the minimum of $840,000 and take the difference as a bonus that could be spread over the remaining three years of the deal.

Bowen, meanwhile, began the 2014 season on the physically-unable-to-perform list after undergoing microfracture surgery on his right knee the previous December. He played in eight games for the Redskins, starting three, and was inactive for two games after he made his return.

The injury had visibly sapped Bowen of much of his explosion, but even then, his productivity had tailed off since his first season with the Redskins. He had 41 tackles, including six sacks, in 2011, when he arrived after being a mere rotational player during his first five seasons with the Dallas Cowboys.

Projecting that he could be an impact player over a full game, Washington signed Bowen to a five-year, $27.5 million deal before training camp opened in 2011. He, too, had his contract restructured on several occasions as the team attempted to find additional salary cap space.

The Redskins‘ defensive line will look significantly different next season, with Bowen’s and Cofield’s departures and the contract of defensive end Jarvis Jenkins set to expire. Coach Jay Gruden and new defensive coordinator Joe Barry have each said they intend to stick with a 3-4 scheme, but that the players’ responsibilities within that scheme will be adjusted.

Washington also faces decisions on retaining another defensive end, Jason Hatcher, who is set to account for $5.25 million against the salary cap.

The Redskins also announced they have signed right tackle Tom Compton, a restricted free agent, to a new contract. Terms of Compton’s deal were not immediately available. Compton, entering his fourth season, played in all 16 games in 2014, starting the last nine at right tackle.


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