- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 15, 2020

The NFL labor agreement is good news for teams like the Washington Redskins. With the players union and owners agreeing to a deal that runs through 2030, players and clubs can now negotiate long-term contracts without the uncertain backdrop of a strike or lockout looming.

In other words: Get ready to see a flurry of action.

Starting Monday, teams can negotiate with other teams’ free agents when the NFL’s legal tampering window opens. In a memo sent to teams Sunday, the NFL announced its salary cap at $198.2 million, slightly lower than what insiders projected.

That leaves the Redskins with $59.2 million in cap room — ninth-most league-wide, according to Over The Cap. Here’s what the Redskins‘ week could look like:

Big-name hunting

When Ron Rivera met with reporters at the NFL scouting combine, the Redskins coach praised the overall strength of this year’s free agency class. Coming off a 3-13 season, Washington has plenty of needs to address and will look to free agency to address some of them.

Rivera said the Redskins have to be careful not to sign players just fo fill needs.

“You’ve got to make sure you’re filling them with quality, and that’s one of the things that we talked about as far as the free agency is right now,” Rivera said.

Two of the Redskins‘ biggest priorities figure to be at tight end and cornerback. Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper has been a popular name linked to Washington, though he is expected to have competition for his services as teams like the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears desperately need to add at the position. Hooper, who had a career-high 75 catches for 787 yards in 2019, is expected to command top money.

For corners, the Redskins have naturally been linked to James Bradberry, given he played under Rivera for four seasons with the Carolina Panthers. But The Athletic reported last week that Washington “might not be invested in him as many originally believed.” Bradberry, who turns 27 in August, could command as much as $15 million per year — potentially making him the highest-paid corner in the game.

“Looking where we are, I feel now is the opportunity to play a lot of young players,” Rivera said of the cornerback position.

The Scherff situation

On Saturday, the Redskins gave the nonexclusive franchise tag to right guard Brandon Scherff, a one-year deal worth a projected $14 million. If Scherff wasn’t tagged, the Redskins would have risked losing him in free agency for nothing.

Now Scherff can negotiate with another team — but it will cost that squad two first-round picks to sign him. The Redskins also have the right to match any offer.

The franchise tag gives Washington leverage while the two sides have until July 15 to reach a long-term agreement. Otherwise, Scherff’s contract will be just for one year.

Washington doesn’t have to sign Scherff this week, but his future contract will likely be factored in with how the team goes about free agency.

Keeping track of their own guys

Even with Scherff given the franchise tag, the Redskins are set to have 12 players hit unrestricted free agency. Among those, linebacker Jon Bostic and guard Ereck Flowers appear to be the ones the Redskins are most interested in having return.

The Athletic reported Bostic, a 28-year-old journeyman, and the Redskins have had preliminary negotiations about a new deal. A middle linebacker, Bostic often called out plays and helped relay pre-snap adjustments. He also racked up a career-high 105 tackles in 2019.

Flowers, meanwhile, turned out to be a pleasant surprise for the Redskins last year. Signed last March, the move was universally panned given Washington gave $4 million to a former first-round bust. But the Redskins switched Flowers from tackle to guard, a move that paid off. According to Pro Football Focus, Flowers only gave up two sacks, two hits and 24 hurries as a guard — all career lows.

Rivera told Redskins Nation earlier this month that the team would like to re-sign “both guards” (Scherff and Flowers).

As for Washington’s other free agents, it will be interesting to see what type of market exists for quarterback Case Keenum and running back Chris Thomspon. Keenum said after the season he would like to go to a team that could provide him an opportunity.

It’s also easy to wonder if the Jacksonville Jaguars will have interest in Thompson as former Redskins coach Jay Gruden was hired as the team’s offensive coordinator this offseason.

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