Here’s a look at five Redskins roster questions as the offseason heats up:
Will Ryan Kerrigan be back?
Norman and Richardson had been identified as potential salary cap casualties, so it wasn’t surprising that the Redskins announced their departures. But it was notable that Kerrigan didn’t join them.
Kerrigan is a longtime face of the franchise as a productive and reliable outside linebacker, but he struggled in 2019, posting a career-low 5.5 sacks and landing on injured reserve for the first time with a calf injury. He is entering the final year of his deal and will be 32 in August; the team would save $11.7 million by cutting him. Additionally, the Redskins used a first-round draft pick last year on fellow edge rusher Montez Sweat, and it could use the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft on another edge rusher, Ohio State’s Chase Young.
But Kerrigan plays an important position and could be the type of player Rivera wants around as he tries to reset the franchise’s culture. Kerrigan’s representatives and team officials are not scheduled to meet before next week’s combine.
Will the Redskins use their salary cap space to make a splash in free agency?
The Redskins have more than $60 million in cap space, which ranks 10th in the league, according to salary tracking website Over the Cap. That should give the organization plenty of room to spend aggressively in free agency, either by targeting a big-money acquisition or spreading things out across several signings.
But Rivera and Co. could decide on a more deliberate rebuild and hang on to their cap space for the future. For example, at a position such as wide receiver, instead of going after a high-priced option to play opposite breakout rookie Terry McLaurin, they could opt to hunt for a free agent bargain while also targeting a wideout in the draft, which is considered deep at the position.
What happens next for Brandon Scherff and Trent Williams?
Scherff, a three-time Pro Bowl guard, is the most important of Washington’s unrestricted free agents. The fifth pick of the 2015 draft is in line to garner one of the highest salaries at the position in the league, either from the Redskins or another team, and he is a prime candidate to receive Washington’s franchise tag.
“I haven’t heard anything about [the contract],” Scherff said at the end of the season. “ … This is where I’ve been for five years. I’d love to finish my career out here."
Scherff may not have a problem with receiving the franchise tag, which would amount to a one-year contract with a sizable salary, given that the salary cap is expected to increase significantly when a new collective bargaining agreement goes into effect in 2021.
Rivera has been in contact with Williams in hopes of getting the star left tackle to rejoin the team after his season-long absence. Whether Williams returns figures to have a significant impact on Rivera’s approach to free agency and the draft. The Redskins also need to decide on unrestricted free agents Donald Penn and Ereck Flowers, last season’s starters at left tackle and left guard.
What are the roster’s biggest areas of need?
Basically every position on the roster could use some improvement, but the most glaring positional needs are at pass-catcher and in the defensive backfield.
With Reed likely gone and Vernon Davis retired, the team needs to add a starter-quality tight end, if not two. The Redskins’ young wide receivers showed promise in 2019, but they probably need at least one more major contributor at that spot.
The secondary is in need of at least one new starter, and it could be two if cornerback Quinton Dunbar remains firm in his trade request. Rivera may also want to find a new starter at safety opposite Landon Collins, given the inconsistent start to Montae Nicholson’s career.
Of Washington’s other free agents, who will return?
Chris Thompson was a favorite of former coach Jay Gruden and remains the top third-down back on the roster, and he has said he wants to stay in Washington. But the new regime may not value the 5-foot-8, 195-pounder, who hasn’t played more than 11 games in a season since 2016.
Quarterback Colt McCoy, another Gruden favorite, is probably gone, and it’s unclear whether the team might consider retaining Case Keenum as a backup to likely starter Dwayne Haskins. Alex Smith remains on the roster and is attempting a comeback from the devastating leg injury he suffered in November 2018.
On defense, inside linebacker Jon Bostic is the lone starter set to hit free agency. He signed a one-year deal after Reuben Foster blew out his knee and went on to start every game and rank second on the team with a career-high 105 tackles. But it is unknown what role, if any, new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio sees for the 28-year-old in his 4-3 scheme.
Les Carpenter contributed to this report.