Monday mailbag: Your questions, our answers to all things Redskins

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Your questions came in all weekend, and continue to trickle in. And so I’ve gotten to as many as possible. We’ll do it again this week, so some that may not have been answered today will lead off next week.

A lot of you have questions about the salary cap situation both this year, and how it plays out in the future. Others have asked about injury updates, roster needs and depth chart battles. To avoid repetition, I’ve tried to whittle them down to one question/answer per topic, or close to it.

And without any further delay, here we go. Your questions and our best shot at answering them.

I am really confused about the cap situation.  For this year, are 30 of the 32 teams fitting in under a $123 million cap and the Redskins only have $105 million available?  And next year will we have an $18 million head start on the rest of the league because our penalties will be over?

 Mike R. in Orlando

You’re right, while the rest of the league’s teams (other than the Cowboys) are operating on a $123 million salary cap, the Redskins are not. One plus for them was that they were able to carry over $4.2 million from last year’s cap into this season, so their cap – $123 million, minus the $18 million penalty, plus the $4.2 million carry over – for this year is about $109.2 million.

Have you had a chance to look at what the Redskins cap situation may be in 2014? One would think that getting the $18 million back, plus the natural year to year increase would place us in a very flexible situation with plenty of space going forward. I know it remains to be seen if we restructure guys like Trent Williams, but with what you know today, how are things shaping up?

John
Fort Collins, CO

If my calculations are correct, the Redskins currently have about $85 million committed to 2014 salaries. The $36 million penalty ($18 million last year, $18 million this year) will have been completed, so if the cap remained the same, the team would have more than $35 million in cap space next season – not taking into account any additional free agent signings, draft pick signings and restructurings.

 How were we able to re-sign D-Hall and Rex Grossman, and sign Pat White, when we had little room under the cap?  As a fan, I am very curious how we manage our cap space.  … There must be a few players that we have agreed to restructure, as we need space.  … Garcon, Bowen and Cofield seem to be the most likely to restructure to me, as far as converting salary to bonus money.  Josh Wilson seems to be the most likely to take a pay cut or be released.

Rich Wickman

The one thing to remember is that during the offseason, only the top 51 salaries have to fit under the cap, so a signing such as Grossman’s, which wasn’t as lucrative, could have bumped another lower salary below the 51. White’s salary likely is well below top 51. As of last check, over the weekend and late last week, neither Garcon, Bowen, Cofield or Wilson had been approached about restructuring. Some moves must take place at some point this offseason, however, to make room for the signing of the players the Redskins take in the draft.

 Why is a change in the turf at FedEx not being considered? If we ever hope to bring a Super Bowl to Washington I would think artificial turf would be a must.

 R.N. Collins

Season ticket holder

Oakville, Conn.

 Despite all the attention and criticism the Redskins received at the end of the year because of the terrible condition of the field, they are adamant that they will not switch to field turf. Mike Shanahan has said repeatedly that he prefers natural grass, and he and Bruce Allen have both said this offseason that they will not consider an alternative. Allen says the team missed a window of opportunity to re-sod the field over the bye week, and their belief is that had they done that, the condition of the field wouldn’t have been a problem. For now, they will stick with grass and make sure they don’t make the same mistake again.

With there still being inside linebackers out there available at much lower prices, who are younger and more mobile than the aging London Fletcher, what do you see regarding the Skins making a move to release Fletcher and signing a younger, cheaper ILB? How much will Fletcher count against the cap next season if the Skins retain him? How much will Fletcher count against the cap if the Skins were to release him?

 Ivan Lambert

Winter Haven, Fla.

Formerly Berryville, Va.

The Redskins still highly value and respect Fletcher. So much so that Shanahan said that the team would not ask him to restructure his deal despite their salary-cap pickle. Fletcher will count against the cap for $6.2 million this season, and his dead cap figure is $2.8 million. His deal is structured so it voids five days after the Super Bowl. Despite his age, he remains extremely productive. Last season, he led the team both in tackles (139) and interceptions (five) and also recorded three sacks. Coaches also value him because of his knowledge and his ability to put teammates in the proper positions. They see him as an extension of defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.

You review Robert Griffin’s injury/recovery situation rather exclusively, but what’s the take on some of the team’s other recovering players like Brian Orakpo, Adam Carriker, Kenan Robinson, Jordan Bernstine, Roy Helu, and Pierre Garcon’s toe? 

Emmett Mosley
Riviera Beach, Fla.

The Redskins are encouraged by the recoveries of Orakpo, Robinson, Bernstine and Garcon. When the season ended, Orakpo was just about back to lifting weights as he had before the injury. Shanahan said last month that both Orakpo and Robinson, who also suffered a torn pectoral muscle, were both doing well, training together in Texas. Robinson is expected to be ready by OTAs in May. Bernstine (ACL) continues to make progress, and Garcon’s toe continues to heal to the point where he has opted not to have surgery and is expected to be healthy by training camp. Helu (foot/toe) is expected to be back to full speed by OTAs. Carriker (torn quadriceps) had a setback, Shanahan reported, and although he’s improving, the Redskins won’t know about his availability until late this summer. Someone else asked about these players, and also included Brandon Meriweather (ACL). He, too, is coming along in his recovery and working with the goal of being back on to 100 percent by training camp if not sooner.

Should the redskins put Kirk Cousins out there for a possible trade to get a second or third round pick to better their secondary?

Kristine Gardinier

At this point, no. With Griffin coming back from his second torn ACL since 2009, the Redskins need a quality backup to plug in if Griffin suffers a setback in his rehab, or if he gets hurt again.

The Skins use Santana Moss mostly as slot receiver and DeAngelo Hall to cover opposing slot receivers. Other than where he lines up, how does a slot receiver differ from a wide receiver? And how does coverage against one differ? Also, what is the advantage of offensive line “zone blocking” versus a man-blocking scheme?

Kevin Fitzpatrick

The slot receiver differs from the wide receiver because of where he lines up, as you mentioned (between the end of the offensive line and the receiver that is split out wide), and the routes he runs. Typically, a slot receiver works the middle of the field, but there are times when he is still used as a deep threat and not just a mid-range target. When it comes to playing nickel corner (defensive back covering the slot), Hall has described it as, “there’s a whole lot more space you’ve got to worry about.” He doesn’t have the sideline to help him in coverages, and he also has to be ready to make more plays against the run, and is also used on blitzes at times. As far as the zone-blocking scheme, generally the linemen are smaller and quicker because they’re asked to stretch the field horizontally, stringing a defense out and creating cut-back lanes for the running backs. By forcing defenders to do more running from sideline to sideline, the offense is able to wear its opponents down.

What do you think you are the chances of the Redskins spending pick 51 on Terron Armstead?  He is fast and smart – right in the Shanahan mold.  With Armstead as a right tackle, Shanahan would’ve done everything humanly possible to maximize protection for Griffin.

Don Crehan

Darnestown, Md.

With the Redskins having re-signed last year’s starting right tackle, Tyler Polumbus, and having also brought in Jeremy Trueblood and Tony Pashos to compete at that spot, I’d be surprised if they took a right tackle in the second round. It’s always possible. But it seems like free safety or cornerback are more pressing needs considering how poorly Washington did against the pass last season. At free safety, the team hasn’t made an effort to re-sign last year’s starter, Madieu Williams, and uncertainty remains regarding the availability of Tanard Jackson. At cornerback, DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson return, but the team still needs additional help with Richard Crawford being unproven. They signed E.J. Biggers, but he hasn’t been a full-time starter for much of his career. Washington needs to decide if Hall will remain the guy they use to cover slot receivers in those nickel packages, and if they draft or promote Crawford or use Biggers on the outside, or if they should draft someone to cover slot receivers and use Hall on the outside. The need to shore up the cornerback position is a reason why Washington remains in pursuit of Antoine Winfield despite bringing Hall back.

What should Redskin fans expect from Chase Minnifield next season?  Is he or is he not a legitimate answer to our cornerback shortage?

Jon Larkin

Minnifield is a talented player, as we were able to see during his time at UVA, but the problem is his health. He’s coming off of multiple knee surgeries, so it’s hard at this point for the Redskins to know for sure what to expect out of him. Minnifield’s recovery is going well, however, and the hope is that he is back on the field for some of the offseason program. The Redskins are optimistic that by the time training camp rolls around, he is competing with Crawford and Biggers for a key spot in the rotation.

How do you see the Redskins utilizing Roy Helu and are they considering him to kickoff return? 

Phil Reichers

If healthy, Helu – who missed all but three games last season with Achilles’ tendon and toe injuries – can give the Redskins a spark in the form of a speedy receiver out of the backfield. Remember, as a rookie, he recorded 49 catches for 379 yards. That pass-catching ability can help on third downs where Washington ranked among the worst in the league. A change of pace back also help lighten the load of Alfred Morris. Helu didn’t handle any kickoff or punt return duties as a rookie. Niles Paul did well as a kick returner in the second half of last season.

Just curious about the ‘Skins stance, considering the cap situation, regarding Chris Cooley. Are they going to do like last year, and see who gets hurt or something and then bring him back, or are they intending on having him for camp?

Robert McTurnal

Woodbridge, Va.

As of now, they have not made an effort to bring Cooley back. Having re-signed Fred Davis and Logan Paulsen, and with the belief that Paul will improve in his second season at tight end, Washington’s coaches like what they have. I still wouldn’t be surprised to see them draft a tight end, or add another by signing an undrafted rookie. But it doesn’t sound as if Cooley is in the plans.

 Who is the one starter that the Redskins lost to free agency. I was reading that they kept 21 out of 22 starters.

Timothy Oja

Free safety Madieu Williams is the only starter that the team hasn’t made an effort to re-sign.

I would like to know more about how an NFL player’s salary is affected if he gets injured? For example, how is his salary affected when he is put on Injured Reserve? How is it affected when he’s injured and expected to be lost for only a game or so? Is there an NFL standardized set of rules governing contracts if a player gets injured?

James R. Seeley
Churchville, Va.

A player receives his full salary whether he is lost for the year and placed on injured reserve, or lost for a game or two because he was injured while on the active roster.

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