Perry Riley Jr. led the Redskins in tackles this past season. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Much of the speculation so far for Washington in free agency has centered around the desire to retain four priority free agents on defense, OLB Brian Orakpo, ILB Perry Riley Jr., DL Chris Baker and CB DeAngelo Hall. Those four players were identified by defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, so the speculation makes sense.

The latest ballpark estimate for cap space for the Redskins, from, is $24.1 million. (Spotrac estimates considerably less) Sounds like a lot, until you consider how much of it might be eaten up by trying to bring back those four players.

We’ve had two discussions on what kind of contract Orakpo might command. But let’s stick a loose number on it and say $8 million a season.

Football Outsiders’ similarity scores for Riley show a handful of linebackers with large contracts: DeMeco Ryans, David Harris, Stephen Tulloch, Chad Greenway, Paul Posluszny and NaVorro Bowman. That’s not good news for those who hope Riley will return on the cheap — all of those players have average yearly salaries between $7.5 and 9.05 million a year, except for Tulloch, who averages $5.1 million. (Yes, I realize that averages are not the end-all of salaries, but bear with).

Mike Jones wrote the other day that two league insiders predict Riley’s agent will try for a contract like that of Miami’s Dannell Ellerbe, who averages $7 million a season.

For argument’s sake, if we split the difference between Ellerbe and Tulloch and say $6 million a season for Riley, and we stay with our low-end estimate for Orakpo of $8 million a season, there’s 14 of your $24 million right there, on two players.

Baker played last season on a one-year, $1.3 million deal and Hall had a one-year, $1 million deal. Factor in modest raises for each player, and you’re talking at least $4 million a season between them. That’s $18 of $24 million, or three-quarters of the available cap.

Don’t take any of the above numbers as gospel; they’re just for argument’s sake, or to illustrate that what sounds like a potential free-agent bonanza won’t be one unless the Redskins cut other players to free up cap room, or let some of the players they would like to have back walk.

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

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