Redskins mailbag: Draft priorities, DeSean Jackson and salary cap talk

We’re back with another edition of the Redskins Mailbag.

This week, we take another look at the Redskins’ draft needs (a topic we’ll begin taking a closer position-by-position look at next week), further examine the signing of DeSean Jackson, and engage in some salary-cap talk.

With free agency additions coming to snail pace, what are the Redskins’ priorities for the draft? Tall wide receiver, right tackle, safety, tight end? I’m sure we will take the best-player-available approach, but which positions hold the higher priority? Also, any way the Redskins take a look at Sidney Rice?

– Devin Muhammad

A big-target wide receiver would be nice to add to the collection of pass-catchers that the Redskins have assembled. But I don’t think that’s the highest priority. Tight end Jordan Reed helps fill that need, and he has the versatility to either come off the line as a receiver, line up in the slot, or split out wide. Washington also still has Leonard Hankerson, although he faces uncertainty as he continues to rehab from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament. I do expect them to look for one in the draft, but they might not spend that 34th overall pick on that player.

Tyler Polumbus, Alfred Morris
Tyler Polumbus, left, blocking for Alfred Morris, is still penciled in as the right tackle. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Right tackle ranks high on the list of long-term needs. Tyler Polumbus returns and currently has the starting job, but this is the final year of his deal. The Redskins did seek to improve that position this offseason when they courted Donald Penn. So they’re not entirely satisfied there. A number of talented tackles should be available in the second round. Safety is another position of uncertainty, with Phillip Thomas coming off of injury and Bacarri Rambo having struggled mightily in his rookie season. I don’t think the Redskins are ready to close the book on either, however. They’ll look to continue to develop both, while Ryan Clark and Brandon Meriweather start at free and strong safety, respectively. Cornerback also ranks among the need positions. DeAngelo Hall and David Amerson would start if the season began today. But the Redskins know that Hall (now an 11th-year veteran) can’t play forever. So, they need someone they can groom to replace him down the road.

It’s possible the team could take a developmental tight end. Jordan Reed is extremely talented, and Logan Paulsen is reliable both as a pass-catcher and blocker. Niles Paul would seem likely make the team as the third tight end/special teams ace. But with a look to the future, another tight end does make the needs list. Inside linebacker is rather crowded. Perry Riley Jr. returns at one starting position, but it remains to be seen if Akeem Jordan, Adam Hayward or Keenan Robinson wins the other starting ILB spot. Jordan has a strong chance to start, but he signed only a one-year deal. Robinson has yet to prove he can remain healthy. Hayward seems most likely to serve as a backup and special teams contributor. So, you could make the argument that inside linebacker also carries a high priority. And, you can’t overlook outside linebacker. Washington improved the depth at that position by re-signing Rob Jackson. But he, the seldom-used Brandon Jenkins and starters Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo are the only players of note at their position on the roster. With Orakpo set to hit free agency again next offseason, the Redskins might look to add another pass-rusher of the future.

Lastly, no, I do not see them pursuing Sidney Rice. They don’t need him. They’ve got Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts as their primary threats, and Hankerson, Aldrick Robinson and Nick Williams remain as well.

Why do you think the Redskins coaches and management overlooked the fact that not one of DeSean Jackson’s former coaches wanted anything to do with him when he was released? He couldn’t get a former O.C., H.C. or even a former position coach to show even a hint of interest, and you didn’t even hear any of his teammates say a word to defend him.

– Kerry Triplett

I’m not sure what gives you the impression that no one with a history with Jackson expressed interest in him. Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid – the man that drafted Jackson and served as his head coach for the first five years of his career – did express interest in Jackson early in the process. But they had little salary cap space and opted not to engage in a bidding war. Over the weekend, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy defended his former teammate and said his departure will create a big void on the team. He also disagreed with the notion that Jackson didn’t connect well with teammates. The Redskins did their homework on Jackson and concluded that Jackson – a three-time Pro Bowl receiver under the age of 30 – was a worthy signing. We’ll never really know what went wrong with his relationship with Chip Kelly. But ultimately, it seems that he wasn’t a Kelly guy. Many will agree – and reporters in Philadelphia have said this – that had the Eagles owed Jackson a larger sum of guaranteed money, they would’ve found a way to make things work instead of releasing him.

How much cap space do the Redskins have projected for next year with all the additions they have made this offseason, and which key players for the Redskins are free agents next year?

– Timothy Oja

Giving up on this season and looking to the future already? I believe that the Redskins have roughly $118 million committed to salaries next season. That’s not counting the money that will go to draft picks or additional signings, obviously. The salary cap is projected at around $140 million, so that would give Washington somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million. They’ll have a couple of big names to take care of next offseason: outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. Defensive end Jarvis Jenkins, safeties Brandon Meriweather and Ryan Clark and current starting right tackle Tyler Polumbus also rank among players with expiring contracts. Left tackle Trent Williams, quarterback Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris all will enter the final year of their contracts in 2015.

We hear how cutting a player saves a team X amount of dollars under the salary cap. But in a different reporting, we hear about how the same team is carrying X amount of “dead” money from the player cut!  So, can you explain the confusion here?

– Olufemi Adepoju

It gets a little technical, but I’m going to do my best. Let’s use defensive Stephen Bowen for an example. This season his contract features a base salary of $4.4 million, and a $1.5 million installment of the $7.5 million signing bonus he received in 2011. His cap figure for this year is $7.02 million. If the Redskins were to cut him to save money, however, they couldn’t just get out from under all $7.02 million.  A remaining portion of guaranteed money would count against the cap for this year. In Bowen’s case, that’s a little more than $5 million. So, the team would only save about $2 million by releasing him.

Former sports agent Joel Corry, who now writes for National Football Post, breaks it down in greater detail. Here’s an excerpt of an article he wrote explaining this very topic.

“Dead money is a salary cap charge for a player that is no longer on a team’s roster. It is a byproduct of the various salary components of an NFL contract being accounted for differently under the salary cap. Base salaries and most roster bonuses count against the cap in the year that they are earned, while signing bonuses are prorated or spread out evenly over the life of a contract for a maximum of five years. Option bonuses and roster bonuses fully guaranteed at signing are the other most common salary components that are also treated like signing bonuses.

When a player is released or traded, the remaining proration of the salary components that are treated like a signing bonus immediately accelerate into his team’s current salary cap. For example, if a player signs a five-year contract with a $5 million signing bonus, $1 million of his signing bonus counts towards the salary cap for each year of his five-year contract. If he is released after the second year of his contract, the $2 million of signing bonus proration from the last two years of the contract automatically accelerates into the club’s current cap, creating $3 million of dead money.”

You can read the article in its entirety here.

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

More coverage from The Post:

Jackson reports to Redskins Park

Snider: Redskins should move up in draft to take a tackle

D.C. Sports Bog: Redskins’ roster among most stable More Bog

The Early Lead: Clowney won’t do any more workouts |

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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 · April 14

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