The Washington Redskins must decide not only which free agents they want to retain, but which players they might want to cut to free up money. As of now, the Redskins have approximately $10 million in available cap space, though that number could change after all the earned incentives from 2015 are factored in. But they can free up more money rather easily by releasing a handful of players. No player can be cut until Feb. 8, the day after the Super Bowl.
Over the next week or so, I'll take a look at players the Redskins might cut over the next few months. Not all will happen, of course, but these will be ones where they have possible replacements and represent a substantial saving.
Player: Perry Riley Jr.
Contract status: Signed through 2016
2016 cap hit: $5.05 million
Potential savings: $4 million
Why they might cut him: The Redskins have a potentially cheaper alternative at inside linebacker in Mason Foster. He’s an unrestricted free agent, but he absolutely wants to return and did well enough in his five starts that the organization feels he can compete for the job. Foster would not be expensive -- he could be had for half the cap hit of Riley -- and would give the Redskins a steady downhill player who also helps on special teams. Still, the Redskins definitely will look to upgrade at the position, though that could mean bumping Will Compton back to a reserve role instead of Foster. Riley hasn’t progressed enough inside to warrant holding down this spot for another season, after which he’d be likely to go anyway. Riley’s coverage skills have never been a strength; while fine in man coverage, he struggled in zone. The Redskins also have Martrell Spaight, who missed most of his rookie year because of a concussion. There’s no way he could be counted on to start, but he’s someone they can perhaps groom (though coverage skills are not a strength at all).
Why they might not: Because when he was paired next to Compton, Riley played much better than when he was alongside Keenan Robinson. At his best, Riley comes downhill well and could be a solid two-down backer if nothing else, although that would likely still mean a pay cut. There are a couple standout free-agent inside linebackers in Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall, both from Denver, but they would be expensive. After that, there are some 30-year-old types who might fit what Washington needs, but the Redskins are reluctant to sign such players. The draft has some solid prospects inside, but there’s no guarantee they’d get one they like. Therefore, they might have to hang onto Riley as insurance in case they don’t find someone better. Also, Riley is only 27, so it’s not as if he’s past his prime.