Redskins mailbag: Salary cap, Gruden’s hires and roster needs


Jay Gruden is close to completing his coaching staff. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Things continue to hum along for the Washington Redskins. Jay Gruden is putting the finishing touches on his coaching staff, and this week is devoting much of his efforts to installing the offense with coordinator Sean McVay. Meanwhile, general manager Bruce Allen and other team officials, and coaches Jim Haslett, Chris Foerster and Jacob Burney are in Mobile, Ala., scouting talent at the Senior Bowl.

In this week’s mailbag, we discuss coaching hires, potential offseason moves, expectations for this season, and Robert Griffin III’s improvement.

What is the Redskins cap situation for the upcoming season now that the penalties are gone?

 Tyler Rigolo

With 23 players coming off the books because of expiring contracts  that’s not counting any players they might cut to save even more money  the Redskins have roughly 91 million committed to salaries in 2014. The cap figure for the coming year hasn’t been set yet, but Washington is believed to have at least $20 million, and probably closer to $30 million in cap space. That’s not taking into account the money that will be allotted for rookie class signings, or the restricted free agents.

With significant money in cap space coming into the offseason, and another $8 million to $12 million potentially available by releasing some non-performing veterans (Bowen, Carriker, Meriweather, 4/5 of the offensive line) could a case be made to detonate the whole thing and build off your nucleus of RGIII, Trent Williams, Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon, Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo? 

  John A. Little

Brandon Meriweather’s contract expires this offseason, so he wouldn’t be among that group of players, but some of the others mentioned are possible. And yes, that nucleus of Griffin, Williams, Morris, Garcon, Jordan Reed (if he can stay healthy), and Kerrigan is something to build around. Orakpo has an expiring contract, so they need to work out a deal for him, and the same goes for Perry Riley Jr., another young player who coaches are high on. The 2014 free agent class does feature a significant amount of talent, so it’s possible for the Redskins to conduct their roster overhaul in a short amount of time. In 2012, after three offseasons of work, they had the roster in good enough shape for them to win the division. And that was with the salary-cap restrictions in place. How long will it take to turn this thing around this time? I don’t know if you can expect a dramatic turnaround in just one season. But it’ll be hard to do worse than this past season’s 3-13. With smart moves, and the development of Griffin, you’d have to think they could make some strides this season, and then continue to build next offseason.

What does a quality-control coach do?  Is it simply an assistant to the coordinator, or does it work with players? 

Pete Dickerson

A quality control assistant has a number of responsibilities, but some of them include preparing video clips for meetings, compiling tip sheets for the coaches and helping run the scout-team offense or defense.

The consistently good teams in the NFL (Pittsburgh and New England) save their draft picks and build from the inside out: offensive and defensive lines. Also remembering that the Redskins won three Super Bowls with “the Hogs,” will Jay Gruden and Bruce Allen return to this philosophy that has given the NFC East Division its “smash-mouth” football reputation on?

 Terry Burchick, Greenbelt, Md.

I don’t know that  Gruden will feature a smash-mouth offense. They do have a physical runner in Morris. But Gruden didn’t have a particularly run-heavy attack in Cincinnati. Some of that could’ve been related to the personnel he had to work with. But he did have bigger, more physical offensive linemen than we’ve seen in Washington. During our talk last week, offensive coordinator Sean McVay did say that he expected Gruden to tailor his style of offense to the type of players he had. So Morris will likely remain a workhorse back, and there will be a blending of last year’s playbook with Gruden’s. But there’s no indication just yet if the zone-blocking, which is better-suited for quicker, smaller linemen, will remain in place or not. The NFL as a whole is a pass-oriented league nowadays, however. So I don’t know that we’ll see a return to the 1980s brand of football that you’re referring to.

Looks like Jay Gruden is going about rebuilding his staff with quality assistants. I believe this will result in fewer losses in 2014 than this past season. What is your assessment so far? When can we expect a playoff berth?

  Mike Lawrence

It’s way too early to predict playoff appearances. Gruden is putting the finishing touches on his coaching staff, is working on putting together an offense, and then has to fill out a roster through free agency and the draft. Promoting McVay seems like a smart move. He’s a smart, hard-working young coach, who is respected by the players, and he will help Griffin transition to the new offense. Offensive line coach Chris Foerster is another well-respected coach with extensive experience. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of philosophical changes occur in the construction of the line and execution of the blocking schemes. The return of Ike Hilliard gives the receivers someone they are familiar with, and Gruden and McVay someone they trust. Tight ends coach Wes Phillips had success, working with Jason Witten in Dallas. Still awaiting word on the running backs coach. The retention of Haslett came as somewhat of a surprise to some. But he and Gruden have a strong relationship that features great trust, which couldn’t be said of the Shanahan era. Unlike those four years, Haslett now has had say over the hiring of his assistants. Both linebackers coaches hired last week, Brian Baker and Kirk Olivadotti, have worked with Haslett in the past, and he and Raheem Morris have a good relationship as well. It’s expected that Haslett will have more control over his defensive schemes as well, now that Mike Shanahan is gone. We’ll see what that, and an infusion of talent, can do for that unit.

What position do you feel is the biggest area of need on this team? Does Jay Gruden plan to hire a QB coach? Would he consider Terry Shea for the role? He has a history with RGIII. Thoughts?  

  Chris Shelton

Where to start? This team needs upgrades along the offensive line, more explosiveness at wide receiver opposite Pierre Garcon, a complementary back to Alfred Morris, help along the defensive line, and at inside linebacker, outside linebacker (which could come by re-signing Brian Orakpo), cornerback and safety. I guess you could say re-signing Orakpo is the top need. But replacing London Fletcher and fixing the secondary also rank very high on the list. I don’t see Terry Shea as a possibility. He is more like a private coach for quarterbacks during the offseasons. It’s possible that Gruden will not hire a quarterbacks coach, because he and Sean McVay will be working so closely with Griffin themselves.

Do you think Robert Griffin will still wear the cumbersome knee brace this coming 2014 season? No matter what people say, how light it is, how he wore it in practice, etc., the knee brace has to be restrictive. Or is it too soon to take it off and could he potentially risk further injury if he took it off?

 Sam Farnum

Griffin had said that he will wait and see how his knee felt and what the doctors recommended. He displayed improved elusiveness in the second half of the season, even with the brace on. In three of his last four games, we saw him average better than six yards a carry. The problem wasn’t the knee. It was a combination of things, including protection issues and Griffin’s own recognition and decision-making. He will gain more explosiveness this offseason because he is that much further removed from the surgery. But he should also make mental strides because he aims to work hard this offseason both on technique and understanding. I don’t know if it’s worth the risk of playing without a knee brace so you’re a tenth of a second or two faster and risk another knee injury. Griffin is still plenty fast and elusive. Improved recognition and decision-making will lead to him getting the ball out of his hands more quickly, so that will help protect him as well.

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesdays.

More from The Post:

At Senior Bowl, Wisconsin’s Borland feels prepared

D.C. Sports Bog: Gruden does Wall’s dance | Baker as a Terp | More Bog

Reid: Can boy wonder McVay reverse Griffin’s slump?

A super matchup in Denver vs. Seattle | QB Wilson ahead of the pack

The Early Lead: Cowboys keep coaching staff | Sherman apologizes | More

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Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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Mike Jones · January 21

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