The Washington Redskins, once again, face a critical offseason -- but aren't yet in the best salary-cap situation to help themselves improve via free agency. That is, if they wanted to go that route. But they can create more cap room with a handful of cuts.
The Redskins have about $17 million in available cap space. They can save money through a restructure or two or even a possible trade. They can recoup perhaps as much as $5 million in cap space by signing guard Brandon Scherff to an extension, which they want to do (there have been talks already).
But the quickest route would be to make cuts. Here's a look at some veterans and the cap implications if they're cut (all savings are with a pre-June 1 release):
Corner Josh Norman ($8.5 million savings): The savings become $11.5 million after June 1 when the team can spread the dead cap money over two years. He's on this list because of the number, but as of now the Redskins' plans include Norman for 2019. They don't have a lot of proven corner depth, and with fellow starter Quinton Dunbar coming off a nerve issue with his leg, the Redskins would be reluctant to create another hole. Norman's cap hit goes down this year, though it'll still be $14.5 million (sixth biggest among corners). It's not about whether Norman can play; any talk of his getting cut stemmed from getting a return equal to the investment.
Tight end Jordan Reed ($6 million): The savings jump to $7.8 million if he's released after June 1. If the Redskins wanted to go young or simply rebuild, he would be a good trade possibility to accrue more draft picks. He has value. But if the Redskins believe they must win now -- in order for many in the organization to keep their jobs they should think that way -- there would be great reluctance to part ways with Reed. Cutting him would not be a good option; the team would save money but create an immediate hole that would be difficult to fill.
Linebacker Zach Brown ($5.75 million): After June 1, the savings jump to $7.25 million. This one likely will occur in a matter of time. There's little reason to keep Brown around considering he was benched by season's end and is expensive. The Redskins cut a player who was more helpful to them (safety D.J. Swearinger) for speaking out too many times; it's hard to imagine Brown sticking around. Real hard. The tough part here is that Washington can't yet trust Reuben Foster, the player who would replace Brown. Foster might be suspended by the NFL and, even if he isn't, Foster has missed 16 games in his two years because of injuries and off-field issues. So the Redskins would need a little more insurance behind Foster.
Tight end Vernon Davis ($4.9 million): His cap hit of $6.3 million is 14th among all tight ends; that's too much considering he ranked 32nd in targets and 33rd in receptions at this position. But Davis, 35, hasn't lost his main asset: speed. He had some key drops this season, but that's been a negative throughout his career and isn't related to age. That's why the Redskins would like to keep him around; he can still help as a secondary downfield target. But with a base salary of $4.75 million he's expensive, so the options would be to cut him (doubtful; unless they have a replacement on board, likely via the draft) or ask him to take a pay cut. It is considered a good draft for tight ends. With a number of other needs, though, the Redskins won't rush to create more.
Linebacker Mason Foster ($4 million): He's a two-down linebacker who angered many, including some in the building, because of comments made on social media (many of which he later said were made by a cousin). Foster was a defensive leader who called the signals. The Redskins could replace him with Shaun Dion Hamilton, but it's just as likely they could sign a low-end veteran -- perhaps someone who could play either spot.
Defensive end Stacy McGee ($2.275 million): The savings increase to $3.8 million after June 1. As with Brown, cutting McGee makes sense -- but for a very different reason. The Redskins simply have better players ahead of him and they like how Caleb Brantley came along as well. That means their line rotation would consist of Matt Ioannidis, Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne with Tim Settle and possibly Brantley in reserve. There's no room for an expensive backup such as McGee. It would be good for them to have another veteran leader in the room, but not one who counts $4.675 million against the cap.