The Washington Redskins enter the fourth quarter of the regular season with their playoff hopes dashed after losing three of their past four games. Following their latest defeat Thursday night at the Dallas Cowboys, the likelihood of the Redskins making the playoffs is less than 1 percent, according to multiple handicappers.
This season won’t end with an NFC East title and, barring a miracle, a wild-card berth will also elude the team. But while the Redskins will fall short of their postseason goal, the players still have plenty on the line with four games remaining.
“It’s crazy if you think there’s nothing to play for,” said outside linebacker Junior Galette, one of 20 Redskins players who will become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. “This is how I feed my family.”
Washington could have an entirely different team next year given the number of players on expiring contracts, and the players understand the importance of finishing the season strong to give themselves more leverage, or simply opportunities, in free agency.
While quarterback Kirk Cousins is the most prominent player on the roster with a one-year deal, receiving $23.9 million for playing on the franchise tag for the second consecutive season, Washington inked a few more one-year deals in the offseason. That list includes Galette, who reworked a one-year deal from 2016 after missing his second straight season because of an Achilles’ injury; linebacker Zach Brown, who leads the league with 117 tackles; and wide receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr., who was placed on injured reserve two weeks ago because of a lingering foot injury.
“We got to go out there and make sure we put out some good film, especially in my situation getting limited time already as it is,” said Galette, who has had two sacks as a rotational pass rusher averaging 22 snaps per game. “I got to go out there. Every snap counts for me.”
There is also an opportunity for the organization to consider signing key players to contract extensions before the season ends. The Philadelphia Eagles signed wide receiver Alshon Jeffery to a one-year “prove it” deal and rewarded his play with a four-year extension Saturday. The Redskins could elect to do the same with Brown, who has proved to be a bargain with a $2.3 million salary-cap hit and the opportunity to receive an additional $2.3 million in incentives.
When asked whether the organization has had conversations about extending players on expiring contracts, Coach Jay Gruden responded, “I think [senior vice president of football operations] Eric Schaffer is working on that as we speak. Hopefully we will get some of them done. If not, we will have to wait and try to get them.”
Along with Brown, cornerback Bashaud Breeland has had a bounce-back season on the final year of his rookie contract. Gruden said last week that Breeland’s in “a good position to get a nice contract” with 13 passes defended in 11 games. He’ll have four more games to prove his worth.
“It can do a lot,” Breeland said. “As long as I got four more games, I’ve still got room to improve my stock. That’s all I’m trying to do: help the Redskins win any way I can. These next four games can get us to a winning season, and that’s what we’re pulling for.”
Then there are journeymen who have been down this road before. Outside linebacker Chris Carter has spent seven seasons with five different teams. The 28-year-old signed a one-year deal to join the Redskins and has been active every game as a specialist and a reserve pass rusher.
Carter, a 2011 fifth-round pick, quickly learned the significance of good film and how that can lead to other opportunities in the offseason.
“The older you get, the more you realize that every game counts, man, and every film is gold in terms of your career,” Carter said. “That’s your résumé. Whether postseason is in the running or not, each play you’re showing other coaches and other organizations why they should pick you up or maybe this organization on why they should renew your contract.
“You don’t want to make this month long in terms of long and dreadful. You just want to go out there and finish with your best foot forward and go out on top as much as you possibly can.”