- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 16, 2020

Friday’s roster moves for the Washington Redskins were more of a formality than any type of statement by coach Ron Rivera. By releasing cornerback Josh Norman and receiver Paul Richardson, the Redskins cleared $15 million off the books for next season.

Those transactions were expected, but still important — given Washington now has a projected $52.9 million in cap space, ninth most in the NFL, according to Over The Cap.

With an abundance of needs this offseason, the Redskins have plenty of options on how to use that freed-up cash:

Extend others on the roster

One of the biggest questions facing the Redskins this spring is what they plan to do with right guard Brandon Scherff. The three-time Pro Bowler is set to be a free agent in March, and Washington can negotiate a new deal with him at any time. Once free agency begins March 18, other teams will be free to talk to Scherff.

If the Redskins want to retain Scherff, the assumption is they will have to pay him a premium. Using the franchise tag on Scherff would cost $15 million for one year, and that would make Scherff the highest-paid guard in the league in terms of per-year salary. Pro Bowl-tier guards have also gotten paid handsomely in recent memory, with Philadelphia’s Brandon Brooks signing a four-year, $56 million extension in November and Andrew Norwell inking a five-year, $66 million deal in 2018 with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Redskins, though, will have to factor Scherff’s health into the equation. The 27-year-old has ended the last two seasons on injured reserve, undergoing shoulder surgery in December to repair a torn labrum. Scherff told reporters after the season he faced a five-month rehab.

“This is where I’ve been for five years,” Scherff said in late December. “I’d love to finish my career out here.”

If the Redskins don’t use their new-found cap space to retain Scherff, they may look to extend players entering the last year of their deals, such as cornerback Quinton Dunbar, tackle Trent Williams and linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. The team’s previous front office had already discussed an extension for Dunbar, but the cornerback requested a trade after talks went cold with Rivera.

Spend big on a free agent

Think of this as the Landon Collins model. Last year, the Redskins made Collins one of the highest-paid safeties in the league — giving him a six-year, $84 million deal. Under former team president Bruce Allen, the Redskins tended to avoid splurging in free agency, a departure from Dan Snyder’s first few years as owner. But the franshise saw Collins, the team’s first marquee free agent signing since Norman, as worth the outlay.

With the cap room to make a move, the Redskins could look again to add an impact player this year. Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper doesn’t have the name recognition Collins did, but as an athletic tight end who can make a difference in the passing game, he would fill a major need. Hooper caught a career-high 75 catches for 787 yards, and is expected to earn top money for his position.

Washington also needs cornerback help after releasing Norman, and this year’s free-agent class includes some intriguing names. Two — Carolina’s James Bradberry, Denver’s Chris Harris — have experience playing under Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, respectively.

There are always risks with this approach as the Redskins haven’t had a strong track record of successful signings. Norman didn’t live up to superstar-level expectations and Richardson couldn’t stay healthy.

Absorb a large salary in a trade

Earlier this month, Doug Williams told reporters that Dwayne Haskins “is the starting quarterback here” before adding the 2019 first-rounder could lose the job by giving the coaches a reason to take it away. Haskins, Williams said, would have to be at the facility until the coaches “run him out of the building.”

The Redskins haven’t fully committed to Haskins, creating speculation over whether another passer will be brought in to compete for the job. It seems unlikely the Redskins would chase a well-established quarterback like Cam Newton — but they now have the cap space to do it.

Newton carries a $21.6 million cap hit for the Carolina Panthers in 2020, and the team would save $19.1 million by moving on. The Cincinnati Bengals are also reportedly looking to trade veteran Andy Dalton ($17.7 million), given the team will likely take quarterback Joe Burrow first overall. The Oakland Raiders could look to move Derek Carr if they land Tom Brady.

Plenty of quarterbacks figure to be on the move this offseason, and if the Redskins wanted to bring in someone to challenge — or even start over — Haskins, they will have options.


• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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